A Tale of Two Fathers

As we celebrate Fathers and all the Dads (both with us and who’ve left us way too soon, leaving a giant hole where they used to be), reflection is natural.

In real life, my bio-dad wasn’t much there for me, but my step-dad who came into my life when I was nearly out of the house has been there for pretty much every milestone and hard time I’ve come across, and I’m grateful.

It also got me thinking about the awesome new release by the awesome author S.H. Timmins. This is a New Adult coming of age book with an awesome cast of characters to fall in love with and villains to seriously hate. Why am I mentioning this book on Father’s Day?

Well, imagine you’re a youngster from the wrong side of the tracks and your grandmother passed away leaving you and your single mother pretty much homeless. Shortly after the funeral, a wealthy man pulls up, talks to your mom, and before you know it you’re living a new life in a new home on the right side of the tracks. Turns out the guy was her mom’s boss and he offered to “rescue” them if her mother would be his wife, become mother to his son (the same age as the young girl), and never look back at her past.

Doesn’t sound too horrible so far, right? I mean, he took the little girl, Jolene, in and put her in all the best schools. How very altruistic, right? But things aren’t all that they seem. Especially after her mother dies, leaving her alone and in this man’s care.

Of course, there’s another dad in this story. He was the man Jolene’s mom had been dating before her grandmother died. His son, Cruz, was Jolene’s best friend in the whole world, and they both adored her.

Turns out that Cruz’s dad and Jo’s mom had been high school sweethearts, they’d broken up and he married Cruz’s mother because she needed his help. She found herself dumped by her college boyfriend and pregnant with a family who kicked her out. He stepped up. Even knowing Cruz wasn’t his, he married the friend in need which cost him his chance with Jo’s mom.

And yet he never looked back. Until his wife passed away from a terrible accident and they reconnected through their kids. Sounds like a good man, too. Right?

And yet one is an amazing person and one is a monster. The type of villain you can’t forgive or forget with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. In Echoes of Us, Timmins wrote the characters so well that I felt actual hate for a fictional character. I cheered for goodness to win. Nearly died in anticipation of comeuppance and justice for the wronged. And the romance? Ooh la la! Yummy!

Curious? Don’t believe me? Check the book out. I dare ya! I guarantee you’ll love all the twists and turns and you’ll become a huge fan of hers. Just. Like. Me.

A Father’s Love

As easy as Mother’s Day is for me to celebrate…such strong feelings of love and laughter…the opposite is true for me with Father’s Day. There are some who might say I have “Daddy Issues”. Not in the sense of being sexually drawn to men to fulfill a father type role in my life, but in that complicated, unsettled way. He wasn’t there as a parent both physically and emotionally. His choice. Thankfully, my mom was.

With Dad Me, my little sis and my bio dad

What does that mean?

Although my parents divorced when I was 10, my dad had been slowly becoming a nonentity in our household much further back. In fact, this picture taken in Germany was probably one of the last times we were really just being close and hanging out… Once we moved back to the Philippines he got caught up in wanting to go out and party with his friends and would forget to come home except every once in a while…and usually just to sleep.

When my youngest brother died, it was the last straw, both for my parents’ marriage and my father’s coping abilities. I suspect that it was easier for him to pretend we didn’t exist than to be there for us. If it weren’t for my grandparents and the rest of his family, I suspect we would have lost contact completely.

For a long time I was hurt, angry….yes, even a bit bitter. It made me careful in my own relationships. I didn’t want to take the chance of bringing a child into this world and making him feel the way I did. I didn’t want them to cry with bittersweet disappointment over songs written about Fathers and their kids…knowing that they’d been robbed of such a special, unique bond. That hurt…Jimmy Wayne get’s it right in his song…along with a sense of hope once you finally let go of your anger and hurt (one of the hardest parts).

I doubt my relationship with my biological father will ever be easy or simple. Too much water under that bridge. But I’m not angry anymore. The better word to describe my emotions? Wistful. There’s a part of me that understands that there’s a bond most fathers have with their children, not just their daughters. I’ll always feel a tug at my heart when I hear one of those awesome songs that describes what a loving father/child relationship can be like.

But you know what? I did the next best thing. I found a person to share my life who values family. Believe me, I tested him. There’s a reason it took 16 years before we finally decided to get married. Thank goodness for patience (his, that is). Any children I may have will never wonder if they mattered. That won’t be a question in their vocabulary.

As for my father? Over the years of trials and heartaches I’ve remembered I have a Father who’s loved me all along. Like Amy Grant sings… When the world looks at me, I want them to say I have my Father’s Eyes. There’s a peace in realizing he’s loved, protected me and accepted me unconditionally all along.

Having said all this…Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there who take the time to be parents to their children. For me, there’s not much cooler than a man who absolutely adores his kids.

“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…