~Thursday, May 10, 2007


"It's been a long, hard road without you by my side
Why weren't you there all the nights that we cried
You broke my mother's heart
You broke your children for life
It's not okay, but we're all right"
-- Good Charlotte, "Emotionless"

Sitting at a picnic table in front of the baseball field, my father slid two cards across the splintered wood towards me. "Happy birthday, honey bun," he said.

I smiled and picked up the blue envelope. Then I grabbed the yellow envelope and laughed when Lassie began to bark as I flipped the card open. "I have no idea what Lassie is trying to say, but Happy Birthday!" it read. The card was signed by my father.

Confused, I picked up the other card and read it again, not remembering who it was from. I assumed a sibling tossed it in the pile when my father and step-mother came to meet me. But the first card was signed by my step-mother and she signed for my father too—the way it's always been.

That meant my father picked out the Lassie card for me.

My father has never given me a card before.

Christmas, my father disappeared into his room and returned with a small wrapped package. "This is from me," he said. "Your step-mom thought it was stupid but I thought of you when I saw it." The contents was a Pimp My Cubicle kit including a disco ball and animal-print paper.

My father had never picked out a gift for me before.

At 26, I'm experiencing these things for the very first time, and honestly, it's confusing. It's difficult to let go of the anger I've held on to for so long. I became comfortable with the anger I've harbored towards my father. He went and got himself a new family and I tried hard to fit in: I gave up my horseback riding lessons—something I loved—to join the softball team because his new children played sports. I took an interest in acting because of the night he introduced me to them. But it was apparent where his loyalties lied, and it wasn't with me.

I could trust the anger.

To harbor resentment without knowing how, or why, or when it started... after a while it just becomes something that you do, becomes ingrained into the very fiber of your being. My name is Sarah, I love dogs, I write for a living, and I'm angry at my father for leaving me. It's a part of my identity.

And now the anger is dissipating and I'm uncertain with what to do. I should trust my father. But it's frightening: letting go. I don't think my relationship with him will backtrack, but I feel that I'm losing a part of my identity by just not being angry anymore. I feel like I'm walking on a broken foundation and I wonder what else about me will stop being.

Lately late at night I'll walk into the kitchen where my birthday cards are displayed adjacent to a vase of decaying sunflowers and I'll pick up the Lassie card and open it to hear the dog barking. I feel silly standing there barefoot in the dark clutching a $2.99 card, but it's the closest proof of love I have.

And it's terrifying realizing how much I wanted it.


SuvvyGirl said...

I'm sure the feelings are confusing for you. I'm just getting to know my father too, but in a different way. Me and Dad were very close while I was growing up but when I was 15 mom had an affair and they got divorced and it tore my Dad apart. He turned into someone completely different that I didn't know and didn't really like. Since then I know he still loves me but his anger and bitterness over everything changed him so much I wasn't sure when it was okay to trust him. Now finally some of that old Dad has been shining through and while it's nice it's still confusing.

I think the Lassie card sounds cute. :) Happy Birthday by the way!

Lil Bit said...

Ahhh yes, the father-daughter issue. Do all of us gals have those, in our lil special way?
My father left me, too, girl... and when I was only 7. And for real. And forever. Never to be seen again.

So, even though the emotions are confusing and scary as you grow out of the "comfort box" you've known for so long, you're actually blessed. I hope everything works out for you and him, in time.

*big hugs*

Indiana said...

The need to belong and to feel loved and wanted, especially by our parents is the most basic need, I think, that we all have...

...and whether you can ever let go of the anger and hurt only time will tell...but it sounds like he is trying.

dont eat token said...


Time has shown your dad what he did was wrong and probably out of fear (how he acted in the past).

It's okay if you don't trust him yet, but it's even okay-ier if you forgive him.

My dad has been buying his own cards for me lately too, it really makes me feel special.

PS I'm jealous of your "pimp my cubicle" kit.

M-Joy said...

I have the exact opposite going on right now. New anger, new resentment, new confusion, new abandonment.

I'm sure whoever said divorce is hard on the children never even thought to realize it's even harder when the divorce occurs after the kids are all grown up.

me said...

at first it's a huge relief to let go of the anger. it feels so good to just feel loved. the long term adjustment is harder, but i think it'll be worth it. even if it feels like it changes your identity, even if it means you have less to say.

you were you before the anger, and you will be you after.

Peach said...

hard when you let anger go, who are we then? hopefully it's like shedding skin, with a new cool you underneath, waiting for the brilliant stuff to begin.. (that (nearly) rhymes!)

londongirl said...

Crikey. It sounds so hard to learn to trust after what must have felt like a betrayal and rejection.

But he sounds to be makign the right steps and really trying to relate to you. Baby steps i suppose - you'll get there.

And happy belated birthday.

Drama Queen said...

I haven't spoken to my father for 13 years. Recently an email arrived for me. I didn't reply. Too little too late. I am glad your father might have got there in time.


general_boy said...

My better half is working through it right now. He never left... they all left him when living with him became intolerable. I have no time for the prick.

I am glad that maybe your dad is having a few moments of reflection... and you can achieve some sort of reconcilliation. Best of luck. :)

Diane Mandy said...

Excellent pst, Sarah. Thanks for sharing it (again) for us new readers.

AmyD said...

This is heartbreaking...as a child of divorce, I can feel your pain in ways some might not. We are who we are because of choices our parents made; I like to think it was a gift, despite all the sorrow and pain it caused us. You are fantastic, and I'm glad your dad is putting forth an effort (hopefully he's kept it up?...)! :o)

Enny said...

I really like the honesty in this post.


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