How My Estranged Father Watched Me Grow Up Online
The Internet is a deep, enigmatic, and beautiful place. You could know so much about a person without knowing anything about their lives, their feelings. This was the case with the relationship with my father and I. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I realized my father, who hasn’t been an active person in my life, could have been watching me go through life’s motions without even getting to talk to me.
Like so many people out there, I too struggle with daddy issues. Growing up I remember looking up to my father as this hero because that’s what you do when you’re a kid. You think your parents are amazing and there’s no one better. Then you start to think, question, to have opinions. Around age 11 or 12, I started forming my own thoughts and opinions and I realized how different my parents were from me.
I realized we valued different things, we argued more. Despite the uncanny physical resemblance my father and I share, we couldn’t be more different. The older I got, the more I pictured how strained our relationship may become because of our differing views and his trouble with accepting and loving me unconditionally.
As time went on, my parents’ marriage deteriorated and by 2006, my father left home and thus started my physically estranged relationship with him. With already bad feelings with my coming out, and the emotional distance I had already felt, this made us even more distant. I rarely saw him, and on the occasions I did, I could feel our relationship becoming more and more unfamiliar, as if we knew each other less and less. He would drop by my house without warning and it was a lot to take on because I wasn’t sure what to think or feel because of all that’s happened. One day that always stick out to me was my 17th birthday. He appeared randomly, tears in his eyes because he missed me when he asked, “how old are you again?”
I’ll never forget that. Remembering that I probably wouldn’t or couldn’t be remembered. Remembering that he probably doesn’t know me as the person I am now and won’t be able to see the growth, the change into the man I would eventually become.
I first activated my Facebook account back in Fall of 2007. Going through the motions of graduating high school, going to college, I was unaware that my father may or may not have been watching what I was posting. With the unofficial rules of Facebook not in place (i.e. keep it positive!), combined with the lack of filter and willing vulnerability from a teen like myself, I put it all out there: When I didn’t feel good, when I felt great, when I won an award, when I got accepted to colleges, when I committed to one, and when I graduated high school. He could’ve been watching that for all I know and yet I continued to feel incredibly distant from him.
My earliest memory of my father reaching out to me was my junior year of high school. He messaged me on Facebook which basically read, “I hope you’re doing well, your dad loves you.” but in a way that wasn’t adult. There were times when I felt like I had to be the adult in every situation. I learned to grow up very quickly. I resented him for that as well. I resent him for a lot but I want to release that resentment so badly.
Every year on my birthday he would send me messages on Facebook with the same sentiment. Most of the time I wouldn’t answer but when I did, it was brief. Typically with “thank you. I hope things are well with you.” Part of me didn’t know how to react, part of me always feared him appearing at my doorstep because I’m not sure if I should cry or be angry. The complicated emotions that came with wanting to blame my father for all the wrong doings, the emotional damage I was left with, and because I missed having a father figure in my life.
I discovered that my dad joined Twitter my senior year of college when he followed me and my college boyfriend at the time. My ex was into YouTube and occasionally posted vlogs of what we were doing, where we went, etc. Finding out that there was a definite possibility my dad was watching what was going on and watching his own son through a digital lens was a little frightening. Like a big brother’s always watching kind of feeling. He could know me without getting to know me and the thought of that was scary. Naturally with the knowledge and experience I gained while growing up, I learned how to keep personal matters discrete so all my dad ever knows is the superficial part of me. That keeps me at peace and angry at the same time. I’m in a safe zone where I’m unable to get hurt but in this safe zone, I’m unable to find closure.
On my 22nd and 23rd birthday he sent me tweets and DM’s and I stare at them sometimes.
The last time I saw him, I was 17. It’s been about six years since I’ve seen him and had a face to face interaction. Part of me really wants to reconnect with him. To at least try to find out what’s going on in his life not as my dad, but as a human who has made mistakes. I want to try to at least build our relationship into something that makes my heart feel content.
I fear that if I don’t rebuild my relationship with my father that he’ll be on his deathbed one day and I’ll still be in a place where I’m angry and upset and I’m not sure whether to cry or yell. I’ll be angry that I never got answers to questions I had circulating for years.
I hope to reconcile my relationship with my father because I want to be able to just talk. To get to know each other as we are. I hope that he might be able to be happy for me if I get married, I hope he’d meet my child if I had one, but I’ll never know. I don’t want him to know the superficial me that I show online. That stuff’s fun but it’s not all me.
I know I’m not the first nor the last person to have daddy and abandonment issues, but hopefully people understand the place where I’m coming from and my hopes to move forward. I’m incredibly scared where that change, vulnerability, and the overflow of emotions will take me.
I don’t know where my father lives or how I can reach him but I hope this makes its way to my fathers eyes on the internet.
If you’re reading this, I miss you. I’m mad at you and there’s so much I want to ask and say to you. But I know I would regret the rest of my life if I at least didn’t try to build something. So here it is, my hand is reaching out. I hope you grab it with compassion and empathy. I love you, I hope you’re well, I hope you’re with people who make you happy, I hope you’re better. I hope you’re taking care of yourself. I think about you and I love you.