Daughter to Dad: Be There and Be Accountable

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 A daughter reflects on her father’s absence in her childhood, and offers a plea for him to be present for his grandchildren.

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Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of letters excerpted from Shoebox Letters—Daughters to Dads, a collection of over 30 letters from daughters to their dads about the role that their dad has played in their life. Heartfelt storytelling told through the unique letter format, the book provides readers a rare, personal glimpse into the life between the writer and the father.

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Dear Dad,

Growing up, I idolized you. You were so different than other dads—you were young, fun, and so funny. I craved your attention. I would do everything that you would do, including wearing Carhartt and watching NASCAR (and thinking it was a real sport). We shared a love of cats and Dirty Harry movies. I embraced our Georgia roots. I would make the 12 hour car ride with you to visit Granny even when mom and Jess wouldn’t. I always wanted your approval.

Even though we had fun when I was growing up, we weren’t close. I didn’t go to you for advice. That was mom’s job. This was exacerbated by the fact that you weren’t home enough. When you took the sales job that required you to travel all over the Midwest, you were only home on the weekends. And when you were home, you would sleep. All day. I understand now that you were clinically depressed and you and mom were in a bad marriage, but you hid that from us. All I knew was that my dad wasn’t really around.

When I was a senior and Jess was a sophomore in college, you moved out and to a sketchy part of town near the airport. That’s when the verbal assault on mom began. You blamed her for EVERYTHING that had gone wrong in your life and in our lives. You cried to me on the phone. I got ulcers worrying about you, when I was supposed to be working on my senior design project. Mom was not blameless in the situation, but she never badmouthed you. Eight months later, you moved 1,000 miles away, on a whim. You said it was because the rent was the lowest in the country, but we all knew better; you moved there for a woman. Turns out she’s a nice woman and she loves you, but what kind of woman gets into a relationship with a married man and convinces him to move 1,000 miles away from his children? I lost a lot of respect for you then.

Since you moved away, I have seen you once a year. You act as if you know me, but you don’t. Our conversations are relegated to the weather. And your job. You don’t ask me about my job or my life or what my dreams are or fears are. You keep a distance. I don’t know if you see too much of mom in me or if you never wanted children in the first place. I feel indifferent about you. I love you because you’re my dad, but we don’t have much in common, and I don’t want to waste my energy trying to establish a real relationship with you. After the divorce, I used to defend you to Jess. I blamed your abusive upbringing. But there comes a point when you have to take accountability for your actions. I no longer defend you; I say you are who you are and you probably won’t change.

Shoebox-Letters1To this day, you can’t let anything go. You still blame mom for pushing you away. But you have NEVER taken responsibility for being an absent parent. You should have some respect for the mother of your children, but you do not. Even though you are happily married to someone else and have been divorced for 8 years, you can’t let go. You aren’t man enough to be a good father; you are too selfish. The first male relationship that a woman has is with her father. This relationship will stay with her throughout her life and will affect all future relationships she has with men. I have achieved a great relationship in spite of you. The man I chose to be my husband will be an excellent father. He is all the things that you are not: engaged, caring, devoted, loving, and honest. He isn’t perfect, but he’s willing to admit when he’s wrong and when he doesn’t know what to do. I think we’ll be a good team.

Dad, I miss the carefree days of my early childhood, when you loved mom and before the lying and cheating started. I wish that you could make it up to Jess and me somehow. I wish you wanted to make it up to us. I look forward to the future with my family, and I hope you’ll make an effort to be part of it.

 

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From more on the Shoebox Letters and series editor Clay Brizendine, check out the foreword excerpted from the book and a Q&A here.

The first three letters of the series can be found here:

Daughter Praises Dad for Unconditional Love

Daughter to Dad: You are the Standard for the Men in My Life

Dear Dad, Thanks For Teaching Me How to Bait a Hook and Wear Dresses

 

 Image credit:  MissMayoi/Flickr

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About Clay Brizendine

Clay Brizendine is the father of two beautiful girls and author of Shoebox Letters - Daughters to Dads. He holds Executive Director positions at Go Vibrant and Total Health Organization, and is also a personal trainer and speaker. Contact him @ClayBrizendine or clay@totalhealthorganization.com

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