My dad drives me crazy. Not in an endearing, “Oh, Daaaad” TV-sitcom kind of way. More like a he-makes-me-want-to-punch-a-hole-in-a-wall feeling.
Every year, I dread Father’s Day. Friends post sweet photos and memories on Facebook of their fathers. They talk about the lessons their dads have taught them, how their dads inspire them, and how their dads are their best friends.
I have nothing like that to share. And it hurts.
I have no memories of my dad ever playing with me or my older brother. I do recall that he took me to the park once. While I pumped my legs to go higher and higher on a swing, he stood nearby glowering and smoking a cigarette.
We have spent most of my life battling and arguing about pretty much everything—my appearance, who I wanted to date, where I was going to go to college, political ideologies, and so on. We once went an entire year with no contact. I only re-established our relationship at the request of my mom and my husband.
My dad is in an irascible, bossy loudmouth. He’s incredibly nosy, always in everyone’s business, and has an opinion about everything.
You could say that we’re a lot alike.
Maybe that’s where my anger and frustration truly lie—that my father’s worst traits are part of my personality too.
For years, I’ve tried to stamp out everything in me that would connect me to my dad. I’ve always wanted to be able to scream triumphantly, “I am NOTHING like you!”
But for better or worse, I am my father’s daughter.
My dad is a generous and fiercely loyal friend, he loves to dance, and he is passionate about cooking and eating,
I share those traits with him too.
Over the years, my dad has shown glimmers of self-awareness that he could have been a better father. And as I’ve grown older, I’ve worked to view my dad as a complex person wrestling with his own issues and not just a difficult and disappointing father.
For Father’s Day this year, I took my dad out to lunch. Towards the end of our meal, he told me that he was proud of me. It may have been the first time he’s ever said that to me.
The greatest gift I can give my dad—and myself—is forgiveness. Not absolution. Reconciliation—a way to move forward that’s independent of the past.
Happy Father’s Day to my dad, Ernesto.