In the Tolstoyan sense that “happy families are all alike”, I want to hate you for this, but I can’t. Suffice it to say, at the ages you write of for yourself here, there was a house that was never my home, and one I couldn’t wait to get away from, and the only time ever that I was lonely was when I was in it. As for missing anyone, well, this was a long time ago now but at that point missing one another wasn’t something we did in my family.
I seem to come from a long tradition of family misery, and a belief that familial happiness or continuity is just something that happens to other people. You’d be surprised how deep that runs among the folks I come from. For a long time I thought any other reality was just people deceiving themselves. It literally is the way I was raised.
It’s taken me a long, long time, and growing up was back in the JFK-to-Reagan era in my case, for me not to feel wounded by the mere fact that not everyone looks back on that time of young adulthood with the kind of cynicism that I do. It took me a long time to enjoy forms of happiness and closeness within families going on all around me that I know full well I will never know firsthand, without wanting to wish it away in others if I couldn’t have it myself.
That was a decision: to no longer measure the worth or validity of others’ feelings and experiences against whether I could have them myself. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s contentment.
Your dad says, make good decisions. God forbid you should ever have to decide not to wallow in envy of what you cannot have. It seems you have what I never will, in good measure, and I pray you never lose it.
But if you ever do: find it again, or it will be lost for generations. Somehow my ancestors forgot that family was all that mattered long ago, maybe even starting with one person’s decisions that something else did. Don’t be that person. Your dad was right.