A Letter to an Absentee Father

Let me be perfectly clear. This is NOT about my own father nor about my immediate family. Anybody who knows me knows that I damn-near idolize my father (most of the time, heh!). This is a collection of observations and thoughts regarding a general problem that I’ve been in close proximity to with some notable frequency and duration.

This shouldn’t be all depressing, though. June is, after all, the month of Father’s Day. So if you’re reading this and you think, “Hmm, I haven’t talked to my Dad in a while. Maybe I should try to talk it out, try to forgive him a little, and see if we can still make things work.” — DO IT. Life’s too short.

Or, if you’re like me and you love your dad, TELL HIM. Tell him why; why you admire him and respect him, why you wanted to be like him when you grew up. He loves to hear that sort of thing; it makes his heart swell with pride and joy.

Love and peace, friends.

N.

I can’t do this anymore. I can’t continue to be the peace-maker, the bridge-repairer, the message-passer. You need to make an effort. A true, unabashed effort. Make it personal. You say you’ve called? Call more. You say you’ve left messages? Leave more. Leave them until their voice-mail is full. And then text. EVERY. SINGLE. WEEK. Hell, maybe more. Don’t just say “Hey it’s Dad, call me.” You’re gonna need to apologize. You’re gonna need to grovel, even. You’re not going to like it. It’s going to be hard work, difficult and painful. And I can’t say the words for you. But try starting with something like this.

“I love you, son/daughter. I’m so sorry for everything. I want to try to be a part of your life again. And your kids’ lives — my grandkids. It hurts me to know that they’re growing up without knowing who I am. I know that I messed up. I know that you don’t want to give me another chance. I know that it’s not my right to ask you to. But I’m begging you. Please let me try to repair things. Let us try. Please.”

Do you understand why it’s come to this? Do you really get it? You weren’t there. You ignored them in their times of greatest need, and would not celebrate with them in their achievements. You abandoned your family because you could not work out your relationship with your wife. You refused to believe that she had their best interests at heart, or that you still could try, despite your newfound contempt for their mother. Which, by the way, was largely baseless. Sure, nobody’s perfect, but you made no effort to be the bigger person, to apologize with grace and to carry on with dignity. To remain the best father you could be to your kids, even when you were no longer a husband.

And now you want to make amends. NOW you want to set things right. Most of them have written you off. Most of them call you a lost cause. I’ve seen both sides. I’ve heard your hurt, and I’ve seen their struggles. But I’m not them. I’m merely an outside observer, a desperately-attempting-to-be-neutral party. I’m not the one who needs to hear your side. THEY are. HE is. SHE is.

That’s why this is going to be so difficult. That’s why this is going to be so painful. They’re not going to build you half a bridge as you build yours. You need to build THE ENTIRE THING. The whole bridge, down to the very last stone if you must. Maybe you’ll get lucky. Maybe once they see how far you’re willing to go, how much toil and sweat and tears you’re willing to expend, they’ll be ready to lay down a few bricks too. MAYBE.

But if they don’t? You better keep going. You better not give up. You better wipe that sweat off your crackled brow, dry those tears from your tired eyes, hoist that depressingly heavy hammer, and keep on layin’ that brick. Because if they see you give up now, they truly WILL be done with you. You WILL be that lost cause. And you won’t see those grandkids. And you won’t have anywhere to go, or anyone to come and see you, when you’re old and gray, and needing that little sparkle of joy once in a while just to keep you from collapsing in your retirement-home rocking chair and never getting up again.

And I’m sorry it’s come to this. I really am. I wish that I could help you more. I wish that I could build that bridge for you, even just a little. I wish that I could be that peace-maker, that man who stands in the middle of the great divide and says “Come, let us sit and take fellowship together, and let our past transgressions be forgiven, as difficult as that may be. Let us break bread and drink, and become family once more as we were, while we — while you, specifically — have what little time may yet be given us.”

But I can’t. I’m not. And I won’t. This is on you. As awful and terrifying and cosmic as that may sound. It’s ALL on you.

The choice is yours. Make it right.

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