Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Dear Abby

This has been on my mind lately so I thought I'd share it here and hope someone has some insight for me.

I have not spoken to my Dad since Sam died in August 2006- that was five and a half years ago. He lives over 9 hours away, though it's still in Texas and is self employed. I'm mentioning that now because it's crucial to the rest of the story. When Sam died, I called him and invited him to the funeral. Does one really need an invite to a funeral??? Anyway, I needed my Dad to be there for me. I had just lost my baby and was at the darkest moment in my life.

I've never had a close relationship to my Dad. My parents divorced when I was very young, not even sure how old I was. I never lived with him. My mom left us with my grandparents to live and while we lived in the same town as my Dad I just saw him on the weekends. My mom lived in another city. So basically my grandparents were our guardians and our parents. But my Dad paid child support, on occasion, when he felt like it.

Things were better between us as I got older because I didn't need him to take care of me. I didn't need him to pay for anything for me. I was independent and did things on my own. I moved away to a larger city in Texas to live with my mom. We spoke on the phone, we saw eachother when we returned to visit my grandparents. He and my mom both walked me down the aisle when Mr. H and I married 7 years ago. Heck he even came and spent Thanksgiving at our new house in 2005. We had a decent relationship, though we never really had that typical father-daughter type of relationship.

Okay back to when Sam died. I assumed he would be coming to the funeral. I never asked him to, but we spoke on the phone about it, and I gave him all the funeral arrangement information he would need. As soon as my aunt and grandparents found out that I had lost the baby, they drove all night to come be with us. They all live in the same town. I didn't necessarily expect him to do the same, but I thought with a few days notice he could arrange to be there to see his grandson before we buried him. Instead he called me and said they weren't coming because he had to work. Remember, I mentioned that he's self employed and my step mom works for a church. I'm pretty sure they could have arranged something if they wanted to. Money is not an issue so it wasn't because they couldn't have afforded the trip. He said they would come a few days later and we could "go shopping" to take my mind off of things. I was heartbroken, first by the lost of my son then because of my Dad.

After thinking about this for 5 1/2 years, I have come to see things a little differently. His words hurt me then, but I now understand (or I think I do) that he was probably just uncomfortable with the situation and he didn't know what to do, so coming for a social visit was easier. I now know that he didn't intend to hurt me by his actions and words. What I don't understand though is that my Dad is highly religious. They are a huge part of the church and attend 3 days a week, and both services on Sunday. My step mom works there during the week as a secretary and he is an usher. They preach the Bible, pray like it's going out of style and are quick to point fingers at people and other family members who "aren't good people". How hypocritical can one be? He claims to be a "man of God" but doesn't live by what the Bible says,.Though if you were to ask him he would say differently. My Grandma summed it up by saying "he has religion, not God".

Let me back up about 35 years. My mom and my Dad lost their first child together. It was a girl and she was born several weeks early and didn't survive. No one talks about her. I don't even know much about her other than her name, her birthday and that she was premature. So given this information, I expected him to be more sympathetic towards me and my situation. Perhaps my loss just brought back so many memories of his loss that he just couldn't deal with it??? Maybe so, but he had to have felt some kind of connection to what I was feeling. Was he not devastated or sad, or hurting, or disappointed like I was? It was almost as if he was completely disconnected.

I conveyed my disappointment towards my Dad to my mom. I was completely hurt. I needed my Dad more than ever and once again he was not there for me. If there was ever a time to step up, that was it. He didn't. My mom called him and left him a nasty voice mail, only I didn't know about it until after the fact. Well apparently he saved it and still has it and assumed that everything my mother said to him about me hating him and never wanting to see him again was exactly how I felt. He assumed because she said it, that it was directly from me. He, to this day, thinks that I was sitting right there next to my mom feeding her info so she could leave it on his answering machine. I did not. Am I mad at my mom for leaving that message? No because she was hurt because I was hurting and she spoke from her heart, even if it was out of anger. She did what she thought was best and was sticking up for me. Sure she said some not nice things to him but it's not her fault that we are on the situation we are in. He's been a disappointment all my life, this just sealed the deal.

In October of 2006, I sent my Dad a picture of baby Sam, a packet of Forget-Me-Not flower seeds, a blue remembrance ribbon and the funeral pamphlet with all the burial info on it. That was my way of making an effort to include him. At that point it had been two months without speaking to him and I never heard from him as to whether or not he even received the package. He said and did nothing to acknowledge me or his grandson. To this day, he still hasn't. I'm not even sure that he knew that I was pregnant Jack and lost him too. I wasn't even sure that he knew that I was pregnant with Hayden either.

My brother has a "relationship" with him. My brother says it works between them because my brother doesn't expect anything from him. "If you don't expect anything, you can't be disappointed" he says. Well if you ask me, that's bullshit. How can one call that a relationship? Especially when it's with a parent. I'm sorry, but I need more than that. I expect more than that from my friends and neighbors, much less my father! Isn't that what a relationship is? It's about give and take, it's about respect and courtesy towards eachother. Am I wrong? My Dad treats my brother like crap and my brother keeps going back and calling him and fixing things because he longs for that relationship too. Clearly my brother is the better man.

Anyway, about 3 years ago, my brother told me that my dad was asking about me and was wondering how I was doing. I told my brother that if he wanted to know about me all he had to do was ask. My brother then said that my dad was not going to call or reach out to me because I was "the one with the problem". That sent me over the top! Especially since he was the one inquiring about me, not the other way around.

Fast forward to now. My brother is in town visiting. He lives with my grandparents in the same town as my Dad. He and my Dad see and speak to eachother pretty regularly. My Dad told my brother that he had been having dreams about me and was concerned about me and was hoping that I was okay. He told my brother to really talk to me to and establish how I was doing. My brother told him to call me and ask and he replied that he was not going to call because I needed to do that. He told my brother that he just didn't know when I was going "to come around". I don't get it?! It's not as if he's ever reached out to me to make amends. EVER. Maybe he thinks he has because he's been trying to work things out between us using my brother as a middle man. That's not fair to my brother. And my brother has such a big heart and really wants us to work things out that he tries so hard to convince us both to be the better person and to make the first move. But here's where the problem lies. I'm not sure I care to have a relationship with him anymore and that's sad.

I think in a perfect world, we would have a relationship. We would spend holidays together and he would call me on my birthday. He hasn't done that in forever! But things are not perfect and I've spent way too much of my time hoping for him to change and become a father. Now I do believe people can change and he has definitely turned his life around from where he used to be, but still our relationship is not a priority. As I said earlier, my Dad broke my heart. I still love him and I think of him from time to time, but I am no longer holding my breath waiting for him to come around. I have found fatherly roles in other people around me because he wasn't there. After 5 1/2 years I have accepted that things are the way the are. I have accepted that we may not ever have a relationship and I'm finally okay with that. Thinking about him no longer makes me angry (until now!).

But since Hayden has been born, things have changed. He wants a picture of Hayden. He got his feelings hurt because I didn't send him a birth announcement or a Christmas card with Hayden's picture on it. Why would I? I haven't sent him one in the years past so it's not like I just decided to exclude him this year. But every year I send one to his mother (my fraternal grandmother) and he saw it. I'd be more than happy to send him a picture of Hayden if he called and asked for one, but I'm not sending one if he's asking through my brother. I'm not trying to be stubborn here, I just think I deserve more than that.

There was a point where I had so much to say to him and a wise friend of mine told me that he wasn't worth my time and energy. That being upset and holding a grudge only upset me, it only affected me, not him. And that's when I finally understood that she was right. It's like that whole forgiveness thing. You forgive people to set yourself free not to let the people who've wronged you off the hook. I can't say for sure that I have forgiven him, but I've accepted the way things are and I've moved on with my life.

I guess what upsets me now is that my Dad is bringing up the voice mail that my mom left. And saying that because she said I hated him, that I must. I don't hate him. I've told my brother that and he's told my Dad that but he doesn't believe him. He's even spoken to my mom on multiple occasions and he's never once brought it up to her. He wants me to call and tell him that I don't hate him. My Dad says I shouldn't hold on to the past because "the past will kill you" but that's exactly what he's doing. He's a hypocrite. I've moved on and he's dragging me back to that dark place that I don't want to be. I've asked my brother to stop relaying his messages to me and he's asked my Dad the same thing but they just keep on coming. I keep replaying these conversations in my head and it just angers and frustrates me. My brother thinks it's his fault and it's not.

I'm not sure what to do with all of this. I don't feel that it's necessary for me to call. I'm not the one that has anything to say to him. I've made my peace within myself. I've beaten myself up over this for far too long and I'm done. I have my own family that fulfills me and he's not part of it- that was his choice. I think he wants to be a part of Hayden's life though and I'm just not okay with that. He can't have a relationship with my son without having one with me. I'd rather Hayden not know about his grandfather than to ever be disappointed by him like I have been all my life. I don't ever want Hayden to feel unloved or hurt by that man. And I surely don't think it's my responsibility to introduce Hayden into his life just because they're related. If he wants to know Hayden, isn't that his responsibility to make an effort?

Please set me straight here. If I'm wrong, tell me. Is there something I'm not seeing here? Can some of you relate to his side of the story? I need enlightenment. I don't want to deprive Hayden of a relationship with my Dad, but he's just not a good father and I want to protect him from all the hurt he's caused me over my lifetime. Then I start second guessing myself and think that just because he was a crappy father to me doesn't mean he'll be that way with Hayden. But how do I know? It's just too risky.


Anonymous said...

First of all, I wish I could give you a giant hug. No child should have to go through all of that from a parent. I totally agree with everything you said. Everything. I think it has to be your decision regarding Hayden being in his life. If your gut tells you that Hayden will end up hurt, you have to go with your gut. You know the feeling first hand and want to protect your son. That is the mother in us. I'm sure your heart wants to have that father-daughter relationship that you should have had. It doesn't sound like he is capable of that. He has shown you time and again that he just can't for whatever reason. I would be so hurt and angry as well. Your feelings are totally normal. It seems that you have been hurt enough by him. I think it is great that you are able to move on and really enjoy your life and family despite of him. Have you considered sending him what you wrote here? It may really hit him that he has hurt you so much. Seeing it all written out like this may make him realize what your feeling and why. I wish I had an easy answer for you. It is a hard situation for sure. You have a wonderful husband and precious boys. I think in the end though you have to protect Hayden from any hurt and disappointment. So sorry that you are having to go through this at all. Your a beautiful person and it is so sad that he hasn't been able to realize this all along. Keep your head up:)


From the Kitchen said...

Going to church does not make one a christian. Having a child does not make one a parent. That said, I'd crawl through fire to get to my children when they need me. Their pain is my pain. I can see how much hurt your father has caused you. I cannot think of any excuse that would have kept him away from you when you lost your precious sons. I cannot think of any excuse that would be keeping him away from you and sweet Hayden. Do you owe your father an apology? For what? In the end, you need to do what you feel is right for you and your family and I wish you wisdom to make the right choice.


Sophie said...

I'm so sorry you're having to deal with this. It is so hard to deal with parental hurts. I've dealt with similar feelings toward my own dad. Except, he has a severe mental illness and a past drug/alcohol addiction, so that makes it easier to understand. Still, I think parents need to realize the responsibility they have as soon as they bring a child in the world. Not just to be providers, but to provide unconditional love. The irony is that christianity is based on unconditional love, so I think your grandma is right when she says that he is all religion but doesn't really understand or know God. I think that your father definitely should be the one to step up, I would feel the same exact way in this situation. I also feel he is the one who made the mistake. I think the decision is truly up to you what you decide to do. If you decide to contact him, it's probably best to do it knowing that you're going to have to be more of the parent in that relationship that he could ever be. That's not easy. I don't like playing that role. But if one day you decide you REALLY want Hayden to meet him, then that's the only way to prepare yourself for any potential hurts. However, I totally understand, especially now being a parent, that you might not want to introduce Hayden to someone like that. And there are so many wonderful people out there who would love to be grandparents! :)
Some people are also really uncomfortable with dealing with their feelings, and it sounds like he may be that kind of person. Maybe he is totally oblivious to how you may be feeling? That's giving him the benefit of the doubt, but in that case, a letter might be the right approach (I also like what the first commenter suggested).
It definitely isn't an easy situation. In some relationships, even though I've been hurt over and over, I find that I'm the one apologizing...but that's because it's so hard for me to let go of relationships. That's not necessarily a good thing :P. I'd definitely think about it a little more. Sending a hug your way.

sapphireblue said...

I'm sorry you are going through this. I'm afraid I don't have advice since my mother and I didn't have a relationship before she died. I will read comments to see what others think.

I remember when my little one passed, my step-mother would say, "Well, you know so-and-so had a miscarriage, and so-and-so had a miscarriage..." Like it wasn't a big deal that I had a stillborn, because other people had pregnancy losses. I did let it go, because she's an idiot!!

Reese said...

Your father sounds emotionally in line with my father. I lived with my dad from age 12-18, but he was a financial provider for me. Always had a place to live, clothes on my back, but he never really offered advice, counsel, etc. Never told me he loved me.

Fast forward to adulthood. He doesn't really call me, I call him. When we used to visit him when I lived in Michigan, and he was in TX, he would spend a few hours then go busy himself on a project in the garage. Drove my husband crazy. When Ronan died, my dad did engage a little bit more, but he reverted back to old ways. When my daughter was born, he only made the 2 hour trip to see us like 4x that first year. He was always too busy. He gets mad if I go too long without sending a text update/pic, even if I mention he could be the first one to initiate.

I have discovered from years of interacting with him that he does care. He does love me and the kids....he just royally sucks at showing it. He does not have that life skill. And I am not about to teach him or call him out on it. It's a pointless conversation. Instead, I am pleasant. I send pics and notes about the kids often. I don't invest a lot of time in that relationship, the time I consider normal. The time I do invest, which pales in comparison to all others in my life, seems to be enough for him. It's a happy compromise.

You sound like you would like to have your dad in your life. It doesn't sound conducive to your heart to invest a great deal of time in a man who will not change. Perhaps an olive branch of pictures and texts will avoid a long and useless (by your description) conversation about how he was wrong? And maybe with time, after he feels involved in your life again, you will get the chance to really talk.

I wish both our dads were stronger people who could handle emotion. And fundamentally, it is totally up to you to decide how much he should be around considering the history. If you do want him around, keep your expectations low, and assume he is like a distant relative you talk to on occasion, and are friendly with. Someone told me once I could never change my dad, just the way I handled being around him, and it was a great epiphany for me.

Hennifer said...

I wish I had advice, I don't really. Thankfully I have a good relationship with both my parents.
This is the kind of thing I wish we could chat about over coffee.

The one bit of advice I will offer is in regards to your brother and it was something similiar I offered to my sister when her MIL insisted on trying to talk to her about her ex even though they were separated...

When your dad brings you up to your brother I recommend he say "Dad, I'm visiting/calling/whatever so you and I can catch up/visit/etc. I'm not here to talk about Monica." Your dad may be rude, etc but over time if your brother just repeats the same line he'll get the point or your brother will decide to stop trying.

I recommend you use the same line on your brother if he tries to bring up messages from your dad.

It requires detachment which is weird at first but in the end offers relief.

My ex has no real relationship with his dad but he always accepts the small tokens, his sister on the other hand calls him a sperm donor. I'm not sure that either way is right or wrong. You have to go with your heart.

cybil said...

I'm sure you'll make a good decision when you listen to your heart and when you speak things through with your husband.
Sorry to hear this sad story!
I think you did a wonderful job dealing with all of this!!!
And yes, don't let your image of church and Christians be ruined by this. God is a good God and he loves you! All the best, Sibylle

emily said...

For many years, I thought that my dad didn't like me....I knew her loved me, but like...that was another thing entirely. So much criticism, and so little praise...

Then about 10 years ago, I overheard him telling someone I worked with how proud he was of me. I just didn't believe it....made no sense.

But the thing about my dad is that he thikns that by criticizing, he is showing love...twisted logic on his part. When I realized that it was his way, as messed up as it was, it allowed me to let go of the sadness, and anger, and STRESS that I felt.

Our relationship now is good....and he still criticizes....I have just learned to ignore it and recognize it for what it is....

Perhaps, you can redefine your relationship with him...on your terms....perhaps you really don't want to....but I would say that you need to figure out some way to keep your big hearted brother out of the middle....

And, as for your gorgeous son, you will never be able to keep him from hurt, as much as you might try, but you can give him the skills to deal with life's inevitable disappointments...and that will be one of greatest things that you can do for him....


RealExams said...

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The Captain's Daughter said...

Your friend is absolutely right... The only person hurting in this situation is you. And you are the last one that deserves to be hurt (any further.)

Since you asked for it, I will offer this piece of advice. Pick up the phone today - call your father and say these words to him, "Dad/ddy, I apologize for the past and how you feel about the voicemail. I did not have anything to do with the voicemail and it does not speak for me - not then, not now, not ever. If you wish to have a relationship with me and my family, I would welcome it with all my heart. Let's leave the past behind us and build a future together now."

All your father can do is either accept or decline your offer. If he accepts and disappoints you in the future, it will sadly be par for the course... If he accepts and your relationship is everything you deserve, you will be thrilled always with the decision you made to call. If, however, your father rejects your offer then he is truly not worthy of your love or your effort to include him.

You are the happiest you have ever been. You have the son you have longed to raise - your are happy in your marriage and have other relationships that are contributing to your overall happiness. Fix this with your dad or don't... You are blessed either way!

Much love,