Bitter Sweet Father’s Day

The Bitter

About five years ago, after over a decade of total estrangement, I began allowing my father in, just a tiny bit. Having a little boy gave me empathy about what it must have been like to be “little” him, in the volatile environment he was born into. As I’ve worked on healing myself, my anger toward him has receded. Our relationship was far from close, but he was sending gift cards for birthdays and Christmas, and maybe once a year or so we’d talk on the phone and maybe once a year or so, I’d see him at a family function and I was okay with it. During the time of our estrangement, I could not tolerate being in the same room with him, so this was improvement and I felt comfortable with it. I heard he’d been reading my blog, and though it made me a bit uneasy at first, I got used to it. After all, the blog is public. Anyone can read it.

Last week, my father made a request I did not feel comfortable honoring. My immediate reaction was NO. I sat with it overnight, and still felt like it would not be in my best interest, so instead of leaving it hanging there, I wrote him and told him why I was choosing not to honor it. I told him what was true for me, in as kind a way as I possibly could.

He responded, telling me there is something wrong with me, and I should just consider him dead to me, because he can’t take it anymore, and that obviously nothing has changed. He vowed not to visit my blog anymore and said I wouldn’t be hearing from him.

That night, I curled up in the arms of my husband and cried. Not for me, but for him. I have a photo of my father when he was tiny, maybe three or four years old. I pictured him that age, and cried because he was hurting. My denial of his request hurt him, and that little boy just wanted to be included, and I felt so sad I couldn’t honor it without forsaking myself. I’ve worked long and hard to cultivate my inner guidance, and I know not to ignore it, but I don’t enjoy hurting anyone. Ever. It pains me.


The whole thing brought up the notion of forgiveness. Did setting a boundary mean I had not forgiven? I had to look at that. I believe I have forgiven. Actually, I believe you can’t ever accurately judge someone and be in a position to “forgive” them, because you have not ever walked in their shoes. That doesn’t mean I forsake my own intuition to please someone with active and severe and never addressed addiction.

Anyway…it’s a sad situation. And as sad as it is, there is a sense of relief.  And I know his little written explosion was a gift.

He said nothing had changed, and while that may be true on his end, I can look at that statement and know for certain, it isn’t true of me. On this Father’s Day, I feel no anger toward him. That is a big change. I wish him peace.

The Sweet

So today is Father’s Day.

Todd and I were friends for about six months before we ever started dating and I liked him. I remember thinking, “I want someone like that for my kids.” Not him, of course. Why, that’d be crazy! We were both dating other people, though not seriously. He was just a pal.

What did I see? What was that fatherly quality? He had a certain steadiness about him. We worked together, and if he was the pharmacist on duty that night, I felt somehow protected. Like, it was going to be a good night, because Todd was working, and he could handle any situation the hospital threw at us. He was unflappable. Capable. Reliable. And funny!

Oh, the funny.

At first, when you meet him, he’s quiet. But once you get to know him, the one liners come sailing out. His comedic timing is spot on. He’d create catch phrases, and soon the whole department would be saying them, and people wouldn’t realize he was the one who initiated them, because he was so quiet. He didn’t need a whole bunch of glory.

He had this cute face, with a great smile, perfect teeth, dark expressive eyebrows that said so much with just a fraction of movement. After a while I started liking him, liking him. A lot.

Anyway….here we are 16 years later and man, was my intuition about him right. He has proven to be such a good daddy. Nothing has been off limits. Poop. Throw up. Wait…I take it back. Nail trimming is off limits. He refuses. Eleven years into parenting and he’s still afraid he’ll nick their little fingers and toes.

He loves our kids fiercely. He honors their mother. He’s held me up so many times over the years, and has taken good care of me, so I can take care of them. His passion is this family. He works for us. He lives for us. He always puts us first. He never lets us down.

All that comes naturally to him, but he’s also really worked to be a good dad. We had a kid who could not be parented the “typical” way…and it wasn’t easy to switch from traditional society’s “I say jump, you say how high” but he sure did it, because it was what his child needed.

I adore Todd. There is no one I’d rather spend time with. No one else can make me laugh like him. There is no one I trust more. There is no one else I’d ever want to be with on this parenting trip.

I love you so much Mister.

Happy Father’s Day.

I thank God for you.

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9 Responses to Bitter Sweet Father’s Day

  1. Heidi says:

    Michelle, Thanks. I’m experiencing a similar loss with my own dad. And I love my cute bald guy a whole lot-the one that I raise my kids with. Thanks Neighbor Friend.

  2. KFuller says:

    Reminding myself today that not everyone picked a partner that could handle it when the child has such extreme needs. I am one of the lucky ones as well. My husband Bill switched gears right along with me. We had 2 older kids before the 3rd regressed into autism. He was up to the challenge. Nick is 18 and 15 years ago when we began this fight for him, Bill has been right there, never missing a meeting with the school system, or any important medical appt. God Bless the Mom’s who have to play both roles.
    As for your Dad, you must go with your gut. So painful, but you must remain whole. Forgive and forget, does not mean opening ourselves up for more pain from that person.

  3. Tanya Savko says:

    Just stopping by to wish Todd a very Happy Father’s Day! This is such a touching post – you are in my thoughts. Love.

  4. Chris V. says:

    This is amazing.. I was looking forward to your Father’s Day post. I tried to write about my dad and my brother and the opening line was.. Father’s Day is bitter sweet..(didn’t finish it.) You say everything so well…. what a wonderful tribute to HT… !!!

  5. Niksmom says:

    I’m sorry for the bitter and for the pain your father is feeling. But I so respect and honor your ability to listen to your inner truth and follow it so fiercely; it is a gift which has led you down an amazing path and served your family so well.

    Happy, happy Father’s Day to your HAWT Toddy! You know, he actually makes the chrome look pretty sexy (Niksdad keeps threatening and I tell him he doesn’t have the head for it. LOL!). I love how the two of you fit so well together. I know it’s not always easy sailing…what marriage ever is? But the love and commitment is so clear, so solid, so centering that even I can feel it when you write about your relationship together.

  6. danielle says:

    Thank you for this. I wish I’d stumbled on it earlier today when I was having a mental tug of war over whether or not to call my dad; I have all these “I should be grateful my dad is still alive, what about all those folks whose fathers have crossed over…” thoughts spurring some stupid guilt. In the end I decided not to. I’m really trying to stop doing things out of obligation and be true to myself. I can’t escape the guilt though, and I have not forgiven him. I’m working on that (among many other things). The act of forgiving him (and my step-mother) seems so gigantic. At the moment, I’m just avoiding.

  7. Amanda says:

    Well I thought of my Dad yesterday and I thought of two close friends who lost their dads, how they would do anything to have a day with them again, and I was sad becuase there is nothing I would want less than to spend a day with mine. I don’t feel guilty about it, I bear him no malice nor vengence, I just don’t want that kind of person in my life. It’s taken such a long time to get to a place of eveness but from here I can give him the freedom to be the person he is determined to be without trying to be something I’m not and that includes a target.

    Now – I think of men like your HT and my Hot Hubs and I glow with happiness. Men like them should be celebrated and loved as they love us, absolutely and unconditionaly. That’s what a Dad is, and not everyone can do it.

  8. kario says:

    Wow. So glad I waited to read this until I had a few quiet moments to reflect.

    I am in awe of your clarity when looking at the situation with your dad. Honoring yourself and your boundaries is so important and so difficult and you have done it so well. I am sorry that your father is in pain, but your decision was made out of love and respect. What a tremendously hard thing to do. I’m not sure I could do it, but the next time I’m faced with the option, I will take your experience as an example.

    I hope that HT had a lovely Father’s Day. This family you all have built is something to behold!

  9. amber says:

    I like to think of the good husbands as our “life buddy”. You know how when little kids cross the street, we tell them to hold hands with their “crossing buddy”? I like that you have such a great Life Buddy. Someone to hold your hand, all the time. Someone who helps you look out for the potholes, and points out the sunshine. Happy Day Todd!

    As for your dad… You know I know.
    ‘nuf said.
    You are wise, and you are loving. You don’t have to make him okay. He is already okay, he just can’t see it. You can’t make him see it. As you said…”it is okay to love from afar.”
    It is okay.

    love you sister! 🙂

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