Editorís Note: This column was originally published on June 25, 2017, in the Lovely County Citizen. It is the story of my dadís redemption, and I hope it inspires love and forgiveness.
Growing up, I knew my dad was an alcoholic. I knew that from an early age. My mom raised me on her own and didnít try to keep things from me, including the reason why my dad wasnít around very much. I still saw him on holidays or when Iíd visit my grandparents, but he certainly wasnít a regular fixture in my life.
As you can imagine, that fostered an awful lot of bitterness inside me. I remember spending the night at my friend Doraís house and feeling so angry after her dad stopped in to say goodnight. My dad never told me goodnight. Doraís dad told us to say our prayers and go to sleep, but I didnít pray. I couldnít do anything but think of my dad and wonder why he didnít spend time with me. Even then, I knew his alcoholism was the root of the problem. But I was 10 years old, and I didnít know what it meant to be an alcoholic.
For me, it was just a way to describe my dad. It was a way to explain why he didnít do all the things Doraís dad did. I spent many years pinning all our problems on my dadís alcoholism, seeing it as the barrier between us. If only heíd stop drinking, I thought, maybe heíd talk to me more or ask me to come visit. All the while, I didnít take any initiative to reach out to him. Our relationship was so fractured, and I was so resentful toward him.
When we did spend time together, I loved being around him. Itís kind of funny how similar we are considering how little we interacted over the years. We have the same dry sense of humor, and we both have strong emotions. We also share social anxiety. Being the center of attention is tough for us. Today, I know thatís a big reason why my dad has had such a problem with alcohol. When he drinks, he feels more comfortable in social situations. Thatís one of the reasons why I donít drink very much.
Our relationship remained strained when I was in college and for my first couple of years in Eureka Springs. I didnít call him, and I got mad when he didnít call me. When Gideon proposed to me, I told my dad I didnít want him to walk me down the aisle. He took it in stride, but I could tell he was hurt. A few months before the wedding, I changed my mind. I asked him if heíd want to walk me with my mom, and he said he would. Still, I felt bitterness in my heart. I couldnít shake it. It had been part of me for as long as I could remember. While I wanted to do something to fix our relationship, I felt he should reach out first. I was scared of what heíd say if I told him how heíd hurt me over the years. I didnít want him to reject me.
On the day of my wedding, I had a brief moment of clarity. What if something happened to my dad before we fixed things? What if he never knew how I felt? What if we didnít have any closure? In an even briefer moment of bravery, I went to his hotel and told him all the things Iíd wanted to say for years. I wanted to have a good relationship, I told him, but I needed him to apologize to me for how heíd hurt me.
And he did. He apologized. He even admitted he had a problem with alcohol in the past, which is something Iíd never heard him say so openly. He told me he had been sober for quite some time, and I said Iíd be in his corner no matter what. I meant that.
I was so impressed by my dadís humility and honesty. I still am. For the first time in my life, I feel good about our relationship. Fatherís Day is this Sunday, and I plan to call my dad to let him know how grateful I am to know him.
Weíll never have the same relationship many fathers and daughters do, but I wouldnít trade my dad for anything. The moment I let myself see the good parts of him, I realized just how wonderful he is. Heís so smart and funny. He loves to read more than most people I know.
Heís my dad, and I love him.