Needing a Dad or Wanting a Dad?

When I was growing up I always needed a dad, even if I didn’t want one. As I grew older, I wanted a dad, but didn’t need one. Either way, he was never there.  It was the growing up without one that started the hardening of my heart, and I didn’t even know it. It didn’t happen in a day, not in a week, not even in a year. But after five decades, as he lay on his deathbed, I began to realize the depth of my heartlessness and how he might have figured into that blackness of my soul. In the end, I found I didn’t hate him. I just didn’t care about him. It was a lot easier and a lot less painful. The unending disappointments as a kid hurt. If you trained yourself, trained your mind, trained your heart that it didn’t matter, after awhile it didn’t hurt.  Or at least you could pretend it didn’t.   By the time he died, there were no tears. No concerns. No pain. I simply didn’t care.   When he lay on his deathbed in a hospital whispering into the phone thousands of miles away how wrong he was, how he wished things had been different, how he should have spent more time with his children, I thought to myself these words come 50 years too late.  You were an adult who decided to have five children, and it didn’t mean a thing to you until now?.  Now as you see you have just moments more to live, is it my forgiveness you need?  Because it sure isn’t my time you want.  Or giving me that father’s guidance every young girl needs.  He wanted my forgiveness, which I simply didn’t have.  Now that he’s dead, it becomes about forgiving myself.  I can’t even do that. Of the 50 years I spent with him on this earth, he never told me he loved me. Not once.  He did hug me one time and I remember that hug as if it happened yesterday because I knew he meant it then.  One time he read me a bedtime story on his lap.  I was two years old, but I remember it.  I have a few memories with him that I will share with you in these posts, not because of the personal stories, but because of the impact they had on my psyche.  What I have come to learn is that I live on that hurt that I have buried.  It is from which I derive my strength.  It makes me feel I am stronger than the next person because I can withstand anything when you can withstand decades of rejection from the very person whose purpose in life is to build you up and accept you for who you are.  It wasn’t even like what I did was enough to try to gain his love and attention.  It was like I didn’t exist.   If I forgive him, will it make me weaker?  How will I withstand life’s challenges without that heartlessness to get me through? As a teenager, I cried every day, locked in a room asking God why He did this to me.  Why did you give every other person I knew a dad and why didn’t I get one?  The hardest part was that he wasn’t dead.  Imagine if you had a dad who loved you and he died.  You could cling to that love your whole life.  But instead try to imagine a dad who is alive and just doesn’t care.  He doesn’t know your birthday.  He doesn’t know what grade you are in.  He doesn’t know your favorite color or anything that is going on in your life.   He simply doesn’t ask because he doesn’t care.  Then on his deathbed, when he is 80 and I am 50, he whispered in a phone thousands of miles away how sorry he was.  How he wished he had spent more time with his children.  How he wanted to do it all over again.  Was he looking for my forgiveness? I simply couldn’t give it. Perhaps it was more about forgiving myself. I still haven’t been able to do that.  You live on that rejection to make you stronger. If you take that away, how will I get through life’s trials and tribulations?  That’s what happens with a divorce and your dad marries a woman who hates children and he sides with her. Every time.