“Walk A Little Straighter”

I was sitting at my computer this afternoon…a lovely glass of Malbec beside me, tunes playing while I worked on my “writing project”.  As I sat, tap tap taping away on my keyboard, my cell phone went off.  Mildly irritated at the interruption I looked down to see who would dare interrupt my solitude.  It was my dad.

I looked at that phone for several moments, an internal debate warring inside me.  Do I pick it up again?  Do I send it to voicemail?  Do I sit there trading niceties when all I feel is nothing or do I just let it go.  I decided to send the call to voicemail.  I know.  Nice, sweet spoken me?  Sent someone to voicemail?  Hell yeah!  For my peace of mind.

Parent/child relationships can be complicated.  Heaven only knows my relationship with my mom is crazy…but at the end of the day, we know we love and support each other.  Honestly, with her strength, she’s my hero.  But my dad?  Well, that’s complicated.

You know all those amazing father/child songs…I love them!  Absoultely adore them.  Mostly because I hear them and think “Yeah, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.  That’s what I want any future children I may have to experience.”  And I get choked up.

But there are a couple songs that just slay me…because I can relate so well!  The first one is this one…

My dad was more or less a present father…for the first 10 years of my life.  Granted he did stupid things like cheat on my mom and party way too much during the last couple of years, but he was still a presence in our lives.  And then my youngest brother died.  At that time my mom decided life was way too short to put up with being humiliated while my dad caroused and decided to move back to the States and divorce him.  I couldn’t blame her.  She was pretty much a saint to last as long as she did!  No, she didn’t bad mouth him.  That was never her style.  As far as she was concerned, he was still our father and deserved our respect.

But the thing was…things changed anyway.  After my brother died we’d get cards from him on our birthdays and Christmas with a little money in them, but that was pretty much the only time we heard from him.  He chose to stay in the Philippines.  (By the way, my dad is the caucasian in my family tree).  No, staying in the Philippines was not the reason we started having distance.  The distance happened because he couldn’t handle the pain of losing a son and it was easier to pretend his other three children didn’t exist.  In fact, when he remarried, we found out in a Christmas card signed “Love your dad & new step mother”.

Fast Forward 4 years.  His second son passed away.  We let him know what happened.  He was a day late for the funeral.  And still I tried to build a bridge.  Afterall, he’s my dad, right?  I kept reaching out.  When he told me that my sister had always been his favorite because she’d always needed him it hurt.  But I still kept reaching.  When at my grandmother’s death bed he told my grandmother in front of my sister that my half sister was his only real child because she was the only one he raised.  I let it go and kept reaching.  My sister was angry.  We both knew it was his choice…and for him to act otherwise really brought out her rage.  I can’t blame her.

Over the years I’ve gotten good at “letting things go”.  In fact, when he told me that he wasn’t going to make my wedding because he was waiting to hear about a job, I wasn’t even surprised!  In fact, I was relieved.  I wouldn’t have to worry about my mom getting stressed out or my stepdad meeting my dad for the first time.  Plus, why should my wedding be any different than my brother’s funeral, my graduation or my sister’s?  But two years ago, my sister decided to say “I do” to a wonderful man.  She sent him an invite out of courtesy.  Much to both our shocks…he RSVP’d yes.

She called me to tell me, shell shocked.  Now most of the time I’m stoic.  I’m teflon.  But not that day.  I tried to mask my hurt, but my sister and I are very close both in age and by heart.  She knew I was hurt.  She wasn’t used to seeing me that way.  Like I said, a long time ago my dad said that I never seemed to need anybody.  He had it wrong.  I just rolled with things well.  I’d learned to accept the things I couldn’t change and moved on.  No sense in wasting tears over spilt milk, right?  But not this time.

A couple days later my sister called me again and asked me what she should do.  I tried to be brave and tell her everything would be ok.  But she knew me well and said this, “If you were just mad, it would be fine!  We could be mad together.  But you’re not mad, you’re hurt.  And you’re never hurt.  And I don’t know how to fix this for you.  You matter more to me than an accident of biology.  So I’m leaving it to you.  Do what you have to do.  I promise, I’ll be ok with whatever you choose.  I’ve told dad that he needs to talk to you before he’s allowed to come to my wedding. He needs to make things right with you. You’re the one who has always tried and made an effort.  I stopped caring a long time ago.  I love you.  You’re my matron of honor.  This time is about us and our relationship.”

So, for the first time, I talked to my dad.  And I told him how I felt.  He said all the typical things.  I love you.  I’m sorry you’re hurt.  And then I laid it out there.  Actions speak louder than words.  His actions told a very different story.  When he finally asked me what he could do to make it right…I told him.  “For once, pick me.  Don’t come.  Actions have consequences, and I’m sorry, but I need you not to be there.  That day my focus should be solely on my sister.  Unfortunately, if you’re there, it won’t.  And I am hurt.  Sorry.”

He respected my wishes for once and didn’t come.  My brother-in-law called to thank me.  He didn’t want him there because of the damage my dad’s done to us all over the years.

So the above song is pretty much how I’ve felt the last few years.  I’m getting back to that place where I can let go of my anger, but I don’t think I’ll ever want him to be a regular part of my life.  Too many broken bridges over the years.

So for you guys that have had amazing dads or are fathers who put your children first…  Know that even more than any celebrity or athlete or musician…I admire you.  You guys are the heroes in my eyes!  Tough job, but you stuck it out!  I picked out my husband knowing that he had that quality…and staying power to be the type of parent any future child I may have will deserve.  They’ll get to hear those father/daughter songs and get nostalgic…

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21 thoughts on ““Walk A Little Straighter”

  1. L.J. Kentowski says:

    Awww. That sucks you had to deal with all of that! But it sounds like you’ve shown yourself as a woman who is both sensitive and strong when she needs to be. My father wasn’t the kind that really dug into my life, but that was just him. He was there if I needed him and I knew that, which means a lot. My husband is one of the most wonderful fathers I’ve ever seen. Both with my stepdaughter and my son. I’m really lucky to have him, but most importantly, they are.

    I hope everything works out with your family, regardless of if he’s in your life or not. In just the little time I’ve known you, you seem to know what’s more important in life. Love that about ya!

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      Thanks, LJ. My family will be a-ok. I’m blessed with a very nice step-dad who supports me, an awesome father-in-law who treats me like another daughter…and my sister and I both married men who value family. 🙂 Honestly, dealing with all that has made me stronger…and taught me about who I want to be and what is important in life.

  2. yepirategunn says:

    Such a powerful story. As a father of 3 wonderful princesses I just felt such heaviness it is hard to type. Will surely expand the comment later, but your post was so powerful, maybe still need a moment to reflect. Thank you very much. I am so sorry you went through that feeling of hurt and rejection. It upsets me, very much, as a father.

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      Your daughters are lucky to have you. One of the best gifts a person can give to the world is good parenting. The results are long lasting and far reaching. :-). Fortunately I have a very strong mother who, even as a single parent, managed to hold our family together and make every event and performance growing up. Looking back, I know it couldn’t have been easy, but being a good parent and a strong example is a job she takes very seriously. And she made sure her girls grew up strong. 🙂

  3. Emma says:

    Thanks for sharing Kitt. It sounds like you and your sister have a great relationship though. It’s good to have someone who will always have your back. I know how lucky I am that my Dad has always been there for me.
    Another father-child song that gets me very time is Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapin.

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      Yup! Cat’s In The Cradle is another one about missed opportunities and relationships. And yes, my sister and I are lucky to have each other! She was the first person, after I lost my job who said…I always thought you should be writing. And she was right. And to make sure I followed my dreams…she bought me a membership to the Florida Writer’s Association. Guess that was her way of pushing me while telling me she believes in me. 🙂 She’s pretty amazing.

  4. Sara says:

    I’m sorry you had to go through all of that. I had a similar situation with my father who pretty much stopped being a father once my parents separated. I’m actually going to have to be in the same church with him this weekend when my sister gets married after not seeing him for 17 years and I’m not looking forward to it. Now that I’m a parent, I can’t understand the ones who voluntarily walk away from their children when they are needed the most.

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      I’m sorry to hear that, Sara. I know that can’t be easy for you. I’ll keep you in my thoughts. You know…I’m not a parent and I still can’t understand the ones who voluntarily walk away. Once I’d become an adult my grandmother told me that she’d actually got down on her knees and begged him not to go back to the Philippines because he had 3 perfectly good kids here in the states that shouldn’t be thrown away. He went anyway. I think there are just some people who were never meant to be fathers. I look at how unprepared for life my half sister is (she’s about 24) and I thank God every day I was raised by my mom. And I worry about her. Her parent’s aren’t spring chickens (my mom is 7 years younger than my dad).

  5. Mae Clair says:

    I always feel sad when I hear tales like this. Although I lost my father to cancer when I was a kid, he was an amazing, loving, wonderful man and parent. I couldn’t ask for a better father/daughter relationship.

    I’m glad you have other supportive members of your family to rely on, Kitt.

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      I’m so glad you did! Children shouldn’t have to go through those feelings. The up side is that we all have choices. We can allow those actions to make us victims or make us strong. I chose strong. But ever once in a while, something will happen…and for a minute I grieve for what could have been. Then it’s time again to dust myself off and move forward. Too much time looking back causes you to miss the great things that happen to you every day. Unfortunately, my tale isn’t all that unique, either. Too many kids out there that feel unloved or thrown away. I really think that’s the biggest reason self esteem in women is such a big deal to me…because I also know that because of all these obstacles, I’ve been able to pick myself up and dust myself off…nothing will keep me down for long. Not everyone has that kind of confidence in themselves or in life in general.

  6. ADetailedHouse says:

    I can’t imagine. Having to swallow the pain over and over..of SO many things, not only your father, but also the deaths of your brothers. This is beautifully written and so poignant. I’m glad you finally stuck up for you and didn’t let it slide again. Realize that it is him, and NOT you, that has the issues.

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      Thank you. I do know that it is him…and his loss. I think he’s just now experiencing those “Cat’s In The Cradle” moments where he wants to connect and spend time. The unfortunate reality is that I have a family of my own now who loves me, needs me, and counts on me…and I just don’t have much more to give him. Plus, who wants to put themselves through sitting and wondering when the next big disappointment is going to come? Now he’s the one who gets cards on his birthday and Christmas and not much more. I need my energy for the important things in my life…like my husband and my writing.

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