I wish I felt different on Father's Day.
I wish I longed for the close relationship I had with my dad until he died, but our relationship wasn't close — it was nonexistent. I wish I'd wanted to model much of my life on his example, but his actions, more often than not, emphasized what not to do rather than what to do. I wish I could feel in my heart the love I was certain he must have felt for me, but all I feel, and all I've ever felt, is an unknowing — a deep uncertainty about whether he cared for me much at all. I wish I missed him more than anything, but I barely knew him, and much of what I did know about him I don't miss at all.
I wish I felt different.
All I feel is longing, not for the relationship we had but for the one we didn't. Longing for the father he never figured out how to be, and for the son he never gave me a chance to be. Longing for a dad, but not for my dad.
I know I'm not alone.
There are many of you out there for whom today is more painful than celebratory. Each with your own reasons. Each with your own wounds. Know that you're not alone, either.
When I think about the more painful relationships in my life — the one with my dad topping the list — I also consider the gifts that have come from them. It's no joy for anyone to feel unloved, as I felt when my dad was alive, but I am more empathetic and more compassionate because of it. Because I know what it's like to feel unseen, I do my best to make others feel seen, and worthy, and loved. This is a gift.
I believe my dad was a good man. He was also a terrible father — at least to me. I've found much peace over the years reminding myself that he was just a human being, like me, doing his best to navigate a crazy world. He made a lot of bad decisions, but he wasn't a bad person. This truth does help me feel better about him, but it doesn't take away my longing for a loving, engaged, reliable father. I wish I were missing him today, instead of missing what could have been.
To all of you loving, engaged and reliable fathers out there, Happy Father's Day, and please keep doing what you're doing. You're making a profound difference.
To all of you shitty fathers out there, Happy Father's Day, and please start showing up for your family differently. It's not too late to serve up the love they deserve.
To everyone feeling this day today — whether happy or sad or grateful or wistful — I wish you nothing but peace and so much love. Always.