I went to the card shop the other day to pick out a card for my father for Father’s Day. I did the same thing on Mother’s Day, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to do it again.
After a few minutes of reading the fronts of several cards, I picked up one that instantly made me cry. There were so many people around and I couldn’t stop crying, so I bolted out of the store empty-handed.
I sat with my thoughts outside for a bit, gathered up my strength, and went back into the store to buy that card.
Over the next two days, I wrote everything I had wanted to say to my father in that card. It was more difficult writing to him than it was to my mother. With my mother, I have consistently held the same feelings towards her for a long time. It’s been different for my father. For a long time, I held on to hope that he was better, and only recently did I lose that in him.
As I was writing, I went from feeling confusion, to sadness, to anger. I filled up the card until there was no space left to write. I didn’t read it over again; I was afraid of being emotionally overwhelmed. So I put the card back in its envelope and it sat in my backpack until therapy this morning.
I told my therapist about the card. She asked if it would be helpful to talk about it. I didn’t want to at first, because I didn’t want to go through the emotions again. I didn’t want to cry. But my therapist reassured me that crying was okay, and that crying can be helpful.
My therapist asked if there was a reason I chose that particular card. I read what it said on the cover: No matter how small you were – when Dad said, “I love you, kid,” you’d feel bigger than the sky. I started crying as I read it. They were tears of grief, the loss of something I never had. I never had that experience of feeling bigger than the sky. I never had that experience of a loving father. I wanted it so desperately; I wanted to be the kid on the cover of this card.
I don’t know where I went wrong. I don’t know what I ever did for you not to love me. You never once said those words to me. You never once showed that you cared about me. I should have been daddy’s little girl, and instead I was your big mistake.
Why didn’t you protect me? Fathers are supposed to protect their children, and keep them from harm. But you didn’t. You threw me right into the fire, and left me to burn.
You knew what mom was doing and you did nothing to stop it. I understand that she is your wife, but I was your child. I didn’t have a say. I couldn’t stop her. But you could have, so many times you could have. You didn’t. You let her destroy my childhood, you let her hurt me day in and day out. And you helped her do it.
I grew up thinking that all feathers hit their children, that was just normal. I held on to hope that you were just doing what fathers do. Then I realized that’s not what being a father is, that’s not what loving your child is. Were you ever a father?
I know you worked hard, and maybe you didn’t know what she was doing while you were gone. But that’s just the lie that I told myself because I wanted to believe you had a shred of decency inside you somewhere. I think you knew everything. You knew all along. But I guess you just didn’t care about me enough for it to matter.
I can forgive you for hurting me with your fists. I can forgive you horrible things you told me my whole life. I can’t forgive you for not protecting me from my mother.
I was relieved when you got sick. As horrible as that sounds, you lost your strength to hurt me. I watched you slowly lose your strength, your heart, and your will to live. You wanted to give up because you couldn’t tolerate being in pain. Yet you made me live in pain every day of my life. You appeared strong all that time, but you were always weak. You preyed on your own children because they were the only ones weaker than you.
I watched you wither away. I stood aside as your wife abandoned you, as she put her own son in your place. You were no longer of use to her, so she put you off to the side and treated you like garbage…treated you the same way you both treated me. I thought for once you would see how it felt to be unwanted, to be told you were a burden, to be treated like you were worthless. But it didn’t seem to affect you at all.
Unlike my mother, I cared for you. I made sure you had what you needed. I made sure you had money because your wife continued to take everything from you and you were too weak to stand against her. I watched as she hit you in her fits of rage, exactly like you used to do to me. And you sat there and took it without fighting back. You always let her win.
I felt horrible leaving you behind. I didn’t know what was going to happen to you. And then I found out that you didn’t even care that I left. Your only concern was moving all of my stuff out so you could have my room. You replaced me, without a thought, you replaced me. I was just there taking up space, and now you had your space back. My existence didn’t matter to you. Now you don’t even speak of me. You go about your last days of life as if you didn’t have a daughter. You erased me.
But you know what? I can’t erase you. I can’t erase the shit you did to me. I can’t erase the memories. I can’t erase the fear you instilled in me. I can’t erase the feel of my head hitting the wall that night you broke me forever. The bruises are gone, but the marks you’ve left behind on my heart and mind will never fade away. I can’t erase any of that. I have to live with it all, every hour of every day.
You’re lucky you get to die soon. Your pain will end. You get it easy. I’m here, left on earth, to pick up the pieces of the shattered mess you and your wife left behind.
You were never a father. Fathers don’t do what you’ve done. You’re a weak man, and a pitiful excuse for a human being. I can’t love you anymore.
I had to stop twice while reading to wipe away the tears. By the time I finished reading, I completely broke down. It was the first time I had processed everything I was feeling all at once. And I just let it all out.
My father will never read my card, because I will never send it. My words will never matter to him; they never did before. But I will hold on to this, just as I have held on to the card I wrote to my mother last month. They are reminders of where I came from, and where I’ve ended up.