I think one of the worst possible feelings is the notion that we are incapable of being loved. For many years I unfortunately felt the weight of this realization weigh heavy on my heart, and I would use this feeling to judge the majority of my adult romantic relationships.
When I was 12 years old, my father passed away. The loss to our family was so sudden and devastating that we were left reeling in our new reality, forced to create a new family unit from the remains of our old one. My mother and I navigated the years of my childhood together, and she became a father in addition to a mother to me. She was an incredible parent, and she taught me many invaluable qualities that I am still thankful for, including undeniable strength. However, the loss of my father was a very real void that would determine not only my feelings regarding love, but also would affect my ability to trust for many years thereafter.
My father didn’t pass away in the traditional sense. I am 28 years old and he is still very much alive. He passed away in the sense that he died as my father.
He determined that rather than stay married and be a part of a family, he would choose to pursue a relationship with a woman who had no children. On a day in which I was confined to bed with an awful case of the stomach flu, he walked out on me, never to return as the man who I grew up with.
As a child, I idolized my father. He was my best friend, and I would follow him everywhere, mirroring his actions. I would stand in our kitchen on a stool next to him at the counter, watching as he prepared sandwiches, and would prepare mine in exactly the same manner, squishing the two slices of bread together to make sure that all of the contents were safely confined in to the sandwich. I would speak exactly as he did. He was my hero, and when I grew older, I wanted to be like him. I truly thought he was perfect.
And then, in an instant, he was gone. After he and my mother divorced, he would flutter in to my life for the next few years occasionally, missing pivotal events as he briefly checked in, always raising my hopes for a better father/daughter relationship, before disappearing yet again. As I grew, I would judge every man I met based on the standards that he had created, choosing questionable romantic partners in the process. I never did anything questionable, but I found that I would always choose men who were similar to him, and always found myself disappointed.
Years later, I met the man who would become my husband. He loved me for who I was, a flawed and broken shell of a person, hardened by life experience and unable to trust men. He opened my eyes to the fact that I was not only capable of but deserving of love. He was truly my saving grace, and I will never be able to repay him for the way in which he changed my life, allowing me to trust others after many years of casting doubt on them.
For years prior, I thought growing up without a father figure in my life was a negative and that I would suffer from not being raised by two parents. However, I honestly have to say that the “death” of my father was a blessing in disguise. Through the loss of a person who had once been so important in my life, I not only gained the ability to realize the depth of my strength, but I was able to witness what an incredible role model and person my mother was. If it were not for my father’s passing, I would never have chosen the path that led me to the man who would repair my heart.
My father and I do not speak. We have not seen one another in several years and have not spoken since my wedding, an event he attended briefly, before leaving yet again.
If I could say any thing to him, I would thank him. I would thank him, not as his daughter, but as a woman raised without a father. I would thank him for everything that the experience has taught me, and I honestly would not change the situation I grew up in for a different childhood. To my father, thank you.
I wouldn’t have been able to do it with you.