How to Deal with an Estranged Father.
I don’t remember the last time I saw my father but I think it was around the time I was twelve. For some reason the last memory I have of him is us together on a ferris wheel somewhere. I have no idea why this is my last memory or even if it was real or if I just made it up.
When I was 23 my sister found him, I had pneumonia and was in finals at Northeastern at the time. I was too young to know how I felt, but old enough to know I was mad that it had been a decade since he’d even acted like I was alive. We exchange a couple of tense emails, I didn’t care for his attitude or his characterization of my mother so I never read his last reply and I told him not to contact me again.
Lately, I’ve been trying hard to be a better person. I want to go back to yoga but I’m finding it hard. I started taking anti depressants and they’ve really helped but its all a process. I’m in my 30s now and at least I can finally begin to begin to do these things without first having to have a complete breakdown.
I felt like part of this process was forgiving my father. I don’t want to talk about what there is to forgive him for but theres a lot. But a few years ago when I heard he was sick I had pledged I would forgive him because all that not forgiving him did was leave me with an open wound of anger.
That was three years ago.
So last week as part of this “being a better person” process I decided to email him. Included in the email were the sadnesses I used to blame him for and my work portfolio.( It is not lost on me how weird it is to include one’s resume when talking to your estranged father but there’s also no fucking guidebook on how to forgive a father you haven’t seen in twenty years who lives in Africa and may or may not understand your english). At the end I told him that I don’t want anything from him other to say I turned out good and that theres no ill will there.
I didn’t expect a return letter. I’d also like to say at this point that I neither want nor need a relationship with him. I know that closure is a fucking fantasy and as much as I would love to think that having a relationship with him would lead to me finding out it was all miscommunication and that he loved me I also know that’s a fantasy. My mother once told me that my father did love me the best way he knew how, but that I deserved better. I have found a lot of solace in that over the years. All I wanted was to fulfill a selfish desire to not have my father die without saying I forgive you. Because forgiving him is like forgiving myself.
He did write back, what he said didn’t matter. I took it really hard and dealing with it has been really hard and I don’t know where to go from here.
The reason why I’m writing this is because there is no wiki how entitled “three easy steps to engaging in conversation with an estranged father.” There is no guidebook, there is no right or wrong thing to do. And I wanted to share this so maybe someday if someone else googles (as I did) just that, that maybe they will stumble upon this.
Here’s my how to so far:
1. write a letter saying you forgive him when you’re tipsy. Include a resume and then put it in a folder in your inbox marked “don’t read.”
2. make your boyfriend dance with you in your apartment.
3. wake up and try not to check your email.
4a. If there is no email CONGRATULATIONS!You have successfully said your piece of forgiveness with no repercussions. Nothing has changed because you don’t talk anyway. You should pat yourself on the back for being super evolved and emotionally mature and then probably spend this day doing even more nice stuff so you get to pat yourself on the back more.
4b. If there is an email. FREAK OUT. SERIOUSLY, GO AHEAD AND FREAK THE FUCK OUT. SOB HYSTERICALLY IN BED AND TELL THEM YOU’LL BE FIFTEEN MINUTES LATE FOR WORK. WAKE YOUR BOYFRIEND UP AND SOB SOME MORE. GO TO WORK. FREAK OUT SOME MORE BUT OVERCOMPENSATE BY LAUGHING TOO MUCH AND BEING OVERLY NICE TO PEOPLE
5. GET DRUNK. Be even funnier. Laugh even louder. Ask people about themselves. deflect. deflect. deflect.
6. Go home. Read your boyfriend a sad story you wrote while he cooks stir fry. FREAK OUT AND CRY AGAIN.
7. Continue to overcompensate. Be the funniest. Laugh the loudest. Ask even more people about themselves. Tell a few you trust you’re freaking out, just in case you lose it and someone needs to explain why you’re crying in the street.
8. Fight with your boyfriend because he’s the only one you can lash out at.
9. Call your friend crying about your boyfriend.
10. Text your old boss about it a cynical satirical way, tell him you sent your resume.
11. Make up with your boyfriend, since you are not drunk you can finally talk about what you are feeling.
12. WAKE UP THE NEXT DAY AND FREAK OUT.
13. Wake up the day after and don’t, stay in bed and watch Nashville, think about becoming a country music star.
14. That weekend, spend 90 dollars at a metaphysical supply shop. Buy: One pendulum, two magical incenses, sage, and a tarot deck. Listen to the proprietor of said Metaphysical supply shop do a tarot reading for a stripper. Feel better because magic.
15. Take a walk in the sun, hold hands with your kind boyfriend, go to a bar with a back porch full of hippies. Invite your friend to meet you, she should give you a t-shirt with your face on it or she isn’t doing it right. Do tarot readings for the hippies, have your boyfriend commandeer a guitar. Sing El Scorch0. Have a 22 year old girl there tell you she’s “for sure pregnant and not sure whether or not to get an abortion” as she smokes and drinks more than you. She will show you a naked picture of herself and say she used to be 40 pounds lighter and wants to be a pornstar. Do not judge her, for she has a warm heart. Read her cards but do not let her kiss you on the mouth no matter how many times she tries. Look at a man named Obadiah’s crystals, show him your incense.
16. Hug your friend goodbye and go eat pizza at home and watch bloodsport but fall asleep before it is over.
17. Sleep the rest of the weekend away because home is safe and you have magic incense now and Nashville has four seasons and you have a ukulele so why not be a country music superstar.
18. Repeat steps 1–17 or just one of them or any other steps that come up because THERE ARE NO RULES ON EMOTIONAL ROLLERCOASTERS.
Or at least thats what I did.
I am fine, I’m not ready to talk about this, really. I’m coping and processing and that’s going to be long and drawn out and in order to function I’ll have to compartmentalize a little. I accept that there is no guidance here for a reason. Because what could be more personal or individual than this? The people in my life I have shared with have strong shoulders and I have plenty to lean on. I’ll be ok but I just don’t want to talk about it.
I just want to write about it on the internet because I’m super well adjusted like that:)