I gave up on Father’s Day a long time ago. After years of broken promises and unanswered phone calls, it just didn’t make sense celebrating a man I didn’t know. That’s not to say my father was completely absent from my life growing up, but his globetrotting with the military didn’t leave room for much father-son bonding.
When I was about eight, my parents divorced. I stayed in New York with my mother, while my father remained in San Francisco where he was stationed at the time. Since my father was never around anyway, I’ve always told myself the 2,500 miles separating us didn’t matter. I realize now that was just a lie I used to cope with the situation. Truthfully, I felt abandoned.
All any little boy wants is the love of his father. Someone to show you how to tie a tie, treat a girl on a date and just be a man. My father didn’t seem interested. He only visited a handful of times that I can remember. I had to make due with the occasional phone call and my mother’s version of events to get a sense of who this man was.
None of my father’s promises came to fruition. The checks that were “in the mail” never arrived. I grew to resent him. By time I was 21, I convinced myself I was too old for a father. Anytime we spoke on the phone I was cold and distant, and I’d fill with an anger that I never voiced. All my protests were silent. I’d wait for Father’s Day or his birthday to roll around just so I could ignore it. I imagined him sitting around waiting for a call from me that would never come. He’d reach out later to inform me I’d missed his special day and I’d feel vindicated in saying, “Yeah, I know. I was busy.”
I was perfectly fine with this passive aggressive approach to dealing with my daddy issues. Well, I was until I realized it was affecting my romantic relationships. The walls I put up to keep my father out were also preventing me from letting anyone love me. I noticed a troubling pattern of pushing away good women whenever they got too close. Rather then have them walk out like my father, I took control by leaving first.
Unfortunately, what I thought was control was really a vicious cycle. After years of avoiding the root of the problem, I finally called to confront my father on my 30th birthday. I had to know why he wasn’t an active part of my life. I had to tell him how much he hurt me by not being there. It was something I had to do for my own sanity and any future relationships.
Surprisingly, the conversation went well. My father acknowledged his faults and took accountability for his lack of presence in my life. Hearing him admit that lifted a weight off my shoulders. For the first time in a long time I wasn’t angry at him. We spent the next hour crying together, catching up on extended family and just talking like men. I won’t lie and say that my father and I became best friends overnight, but we’ve been on a slow but steady path to mending those wounds. So at 32 and after years of silent rage, it means a lot that I can pick up the phone this Sunday to wish him a happy Father’s Day. Wish us luck.
Anslem Samuel is a veteran New York-based writer who offers an insightful take on life and relationships through his daily blog, NakedWithSocksOn.com.