Last week was Father’s Day and it really had me thinking about what my daughter means to me. On the flip side of that, I started to think about my father as well. After all, I’m not just a father, but a son. There’s a lot to the story between my father and I and I’m happy to share it for any viewers who may have grown up fatherless or have more distance in their relationship than they care for.
My parents owned a house together in New York City, which to be completely honest, I can’t remember much about because they divorced when I was just four years old. After they got a divorce, my dad got a place in the Bronx and my mom, brother and I bounced around from apartment to apartment mostly in Queens. We would stay with my dad on weekends. Any children of divorce knows how strenuous this back and forth visitation thing can really get, especially when both parents aren’t getting along.
My father was, and still is a very loving person however I know he had his own fair share or problems. He dealt with a bad drinking habit. He would get physical with my two older siblings, who were from my mother’s first marriage. I heard the stories from other family members, but I was too young to really remember that part of who my father used to be. I’m not saying this to slander my father’s name because he truly is a great guy, I just didn’t always think that about him.
My views about who he was changed when the weekend visits turned into just one day out of the week, which turned into once a month, then birthdays and holidays and then poof! My dad disappeared and vanished out of my life, leaving me confused for a while and all of that confusion transformed into anger.
Like most kids who grew up without one or both parents in their life, I tried to figure out what I did wrong or why I wasn’t good enough. If I’m being completely honest, I grew up with a lot of hatred for my father. When I was a teenager I had enough of that anger that resided within me and I found out my father’s phone number and built up the guts to give him a call after many years of not talking to him. What I should’ve done was ask him straight up, man to man, what was going on with him. I wasn’t in a good mindset though, so instead of doing that I started the conversation by using profanity with his wife saying it was her fault my dad wasn’t in my life anymore. When my dad got on the phone I said some really nasty and foul things no father should ever hear, especially from his own son. I cussed him out and just really put him down with my words. I even told him that when I grew up I wanted to be nothing like him and that he wasn’t a real father or even a real man at that.
I’ve mentioned in a past blog entry how sometimes we say things out of anger that we end up regretting. Here I am more than a decade later, those words I said to my father are still floating around in my head and it makes me feel terrible because what I said couldn’t be any further from the truth. My dad is a great guy and I would be lucky to be half the man he is one day.
The problem is that I listened to the stories about who he was rather than making my own judgement. I never put myself in his shoes. When I was younger, my mother must’ve moved us well over a dozen times, including moving out of state to Connecticut where I reside now. I’m not giving my dad excuses, but I know my mom didn’t exactly make it easy to keep track of me and my brother’s whereabouts to stay in our lives. He also had his own battle with prostate cancer and was trying to beat a drinking problem. I’m proud to say that he ended up quitting alcohol and it has been for the better. The older I get, the more I see that my dad was never this mean guy who never cared about me.
For anyone without a father in their life or for any absent father that wants to be part of their child’s life, I want you to know that it’s never too late to start that relationship. Our lives crossed paths again just a few years ago, and I could tell that he never stopped thinking about me and my brother. He still lives in the city, so there’s still a little distance between us, but we get together for holidays and special occasions. I’ve caught a couple Mets games with him and I’ve got to know the rest of my family on his side. They came to me and my wife’s wedding and visited us in the hospital when our daughter was born.
I think my dad came into my life when he did for a reason. I needed a father more than ever at that time. I was freshly single from a four year relationship and developed quite a drug problem that progressed rapidly. My mom backed out of my life because of differences between us. Learning that my dad quit drinking alcohol always stuck in the back of my head, eventually helping me quit drugs and alcohol. All in all, I’m happy that my father is who he is. The more stories he shares with me, the more I see how alike we really are. I forgave him for the years of absence and we got to start fresh because I learned to let go of that anger. That was one of the best decisions of my life.
Sometimes forgiveness, especially with family members who have hurt you in the past, can be such a tough thing. Living with hate in your heart, however, can be like a cancer. It can grow slowly or rapidly. Once it grows, it gets a hold of you and can get the best of you emotionally or even physically sometimes.
The story of my father reminds me to live a life of forgiveness. True, you don’t need to get taken advantage of because of your kindness. Try to see when people truly change for the better because us humans have an incredible ability to change. Don’t let past mistakes or grudges keep you from having healthy, meaningful and loving relationships. Think about how many mistakes you’ve made in your life. We all have. Nobody is perfect. Everybody deserves a second chance. If it still doesn’t work, at least you did your part by putting in your efforts and you can move on with your life. Try writing a letter or giving the person a call if they are absent from your life and you don’t want them to be anymore. You never know what can happen from that one act of forgiveness. Take that chance and odds are you won’t regret it.