Emotional Work

Day 535 and Daddy’s Girl

I hate Father’s Day. I find myself debating if I can get away with a text or an email marking the occasion. I do this as I’d like to make it through the day without crying. I almost never can. Sometimes I just ignore it entirely.

I’ll reach out to my brother and ask how he is doing. He’s the only one that seems to have a better grip on the “our father” feelings. They are complex for me and untangling them is always painful.

I am a Daddy’s Girl. Everything that’s good (and some of what is bad) about me is a refraction of my father’s ambitions, interests, desires and personality.

I got my love of technology from him. I got my career in startups from him. I learned to socialize and leave a good impression from him. I got my optimism from him. I also got my need for distance from him. My preference for keeping my loved ones a little further away is from him. My struggles with intimacy and emotional availability are his too. I am my father’s daughter. I suspect I’ve also acted as a proxy for what he wanted in a son as well.

Even after years of therapy, unpacking how I feel about my father has not made the tender feelings any less acute when I touch them. I merely understand that my trauma is my father’s trauma and his trauma is his father’s and so on stretching back to who knows when. We carry our heritage.

I tell my father I’ve forgiven him for his mistakes. That I understand he did his best. I don’t think he believes me. I hope he does one day. He done what he could.

I am the absolute best of my father’s good traits. I am also the absolute worst of them too. Most of the good I have is because of him and most of the bad too.

Which makes me so angry. The steam rising up that my mother did all of the emotional work, gave me all of the love, and yet here I am a reflection of him and not her.

I’ll never understand how divorced parents can live with that kind of betrayal. To have done all the emotional work of parenting and yet see their child as a reflection of the other one. Anger is usually just hurt. And I do hurt. Not on my mother’s behalf. She is fine. I hurt because I wanted my father to be there too.

My father tried so hard to be a good father. My dad paid the bills. My dad was funny and well liked by everyone but his immediate family. My brother and I love him, but for a long time I don’t think we liked him. Maybe I’m wrong as my brother has been working through his feelings longer than me. Maybe he always liked him. I know we always loved him. I still love him.

I like my dad now. I can see him as a human as I get more distance from my childhood. He can be an old man now and not the father figure that let me down. Which is a relief when I can hold that thought. I see all his good and how he passed it on to me. And I can see how even the bad, perhaps especially the bad, what made me into the woman I am.

He is smart and loves technology. He has never missed a Comdex or eventually a CES. He always has the newest gadgets. His enthusiasm for new things has never waned.

Like other Boomers, his belief in the future and in youth, let him retain a kind of enthusiasm for what’s next even in hard times. And that inspired my entire life’s trajectory.

There will never be a time in my life when I don’t seek his approval. He loves the future and I want to create the future for him. The new and the next will always be for him as much as it is for me.

Which is impressive as the “new” hasn’t always been kind to him. He suffered for his optimism. I have no fear going into this recession because I saw him be broken by one and come out the other side. He is still the same enthusiast he was before the markets crashed and bankruptcy hollowed out his American dream. He got it all back and more. And that belief that we can build back always stuck with me. I’ve never been afraid of hard times because of him.

I’m moving to Montana soon. He moved there first. He’s like that. Always seeing one step ahead. I fought against the idea of Montana for a bit as I wasn’t sure I could make the same decisions he did. Even though I often do.

But I do believe he is right about the last best place on earth. And true to our preferences for distance he will be a comfortable five or six hour drive away. Neighbors in the end but with plenty of space.

Fathers and daughters have it tough these days. Sexism and expectations for how to live are in flux. My father did his absolute best to never let me see myself as anything less than equal. Which isn’t always an unqualified good but I’m still grateful for all of it.

If you’ve ever felt let down by your father even as you know he’s buoyed you up your entire life, then this post might make perfect sense. If not then it may seem offensive to codify the complexities of a familial relationship in public. How could she write something like this? To which I say sometimes the only way to love someone is to say your truth out loud.

Happy Father’s Day Dad. I love you. And I know that to be true because love is having someone betray you, utterly let you down, or even do the unforgivable, and yet you still love them all the same. I forgive you. I am still Daddy’s Girl.

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