I celebrated my birthday on yesterday, October 15th. My Facebook notifications began chiming as early as 12 a.m. Text messages a few hours later. Birthday wishes from my husband, son, daughter, other family, and closest friends. A beautiful brunch of fine dining with my husband at a historic mansion in our city of Detroit. A gorgeous bouquet of fall flowers and a scrumptious cupcake from my daughter added to the festivities. It was a wonderful day. I couldn’t have asked for a better day.
Why, then, on the morning after such a wonderful day was my heart saddened that my own father didn’t call or text, at the very least, to wish me a happy birthday? Though I’m not surprised, my feelings are still hurt. Hurt that my father willfully didn’t acknowledge my birthday. Who does that to their daughter who has only shown him love, kindness, forgiveness, and respect?
I wouldn’t be surprised if he was waiting for me to call him for a personal invitation to tell me happy birthday. Honestly, I considered it, then decided not to. I’m in the midst of raising a 13-year old soon-to-be young man, caring for and dealing with the often bad attitude of a chronically ill spouse. There is no time in my schedule to hold the hand of the man who should be the strong shoulder for me to lean on.
According to him, he lost me and my two siblings in his divorce from my mother 5 years ago. Five years ago, meaning all of us are good and grown. He didn’t lose anyone. Instead, he cast us away in the guilt that he feels for intentionally losing our family home to foreclosure so that mother wouldn’t get it; the guilt he feels for turning his back on the daughter he had with another woman at the onset of his marriage to my mother; guilt and shame that he can no longer declare himself to be one of the last good men around as we know much of his dirty deeds.
Rather than admit that he can’t handle being around us in his unveiled, flawed state, he projects onto us, claiming we have deserted him. In the case of my brother and sister, they haven’t deserted him, but stopped chasing behind someone who will keep running away and blaming them for the distance.
The sympathizer amongst us, I hadn’t gotten to that point…yet. I loved my dad so much and I know that the messages that he hears in head are from the pit of hell, designed to keep him alone, angry, bitter, and filled with resentment and un-forgiveness. I had made it my mission to be there for him no matter what.
“I’ll never let you push me away Dad,” I declared to him a few years ago.
Fast forward to the present, that declaration is slipping from my heart like a freshly peeled mango slipping from my hands. Worrying about whether or not my father will accept my love and my willingness to have a relationship with him is as emotionally taxing as trying to get my husband to stop saying, “This could be my last Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthday, etc.”
Last week I purchased a book: Letting Go: Rugged Love for Wayward Souls. Interestingly, I bought it for spiritual guidance for loving but letting go of some of my husband’s wayward ways. Hadn’t considered that I’d need it for letting go of my father’s waywardness, too.
By the completion of the book and steadfast prayer, I hope to have the following questions answered:
Am I wrong if I don’t call my father again?
Am I acting out of hurt and frustration?
Am I contributing to the problem by letting go?
Will my father ever understand the effects of his behavior on his love ones?
Do I continue to pray for him while keeping my physical distance? Or is it time to trust God to answer the prayers I’ve already prayed?