I should want a father. I really should. How many people get a second chance with a new father? Well, probably a lot, with all of the blended families and whatnot, but not too many get the opportunity that I have.
I have a brand-new father who wants a relationship with me. He’s my birth father, and he’s great. He’s kind and caring, upbeat and sweet, and he’s wanted to know me since I was conceived. He calls me from time to time, and when I pick up the phone, we talk for hours, but when he misses me, I don’t call back. I tell myself I’m going to call back, but I never do.
I tell myself I don’t call because I don’t like talking on the phone, but if that’s true, why do I feel the need to call my birth mother at least once a week? We talk for a while, and that doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, I enjoy it. So what is going on?
My husband cracked it the other day. He said that since I never really had a good relationship with my father, that I’ve trained myself to have no use for fathers. I think he’s right. For a long time, I didn’t believe men in general were capable of love. That changed when I met my husband, thank God, but I guess I never really shook the feeling that men had nothing to give.
I guess I should explain about my dad. My dad, who with my mother, adopted me as a baby, didn’t seem to have much to give. When I was little, I remember taking walks with my dad, and sitting on his lap as he read me the comics, but as I grew, I became less and less what he wanted, and we spent less and less time together. By the time I was twelve, all we did was fight. That lasted until I was 30, and my mom started her slow decline into Alzheimer’s. My dad and I started to talk civilly about my mother then. She was the glue that held us together. But she died two years ago.
My dad was an engineer. In some circles, that speaks for itself, but let me explain. As long as I’ve known him, he’s never had more than three friends. He’s not interested in people. In fact, he’s so self-absorbed that he has no conscience about lying to or cheating others. When we sold my first car, on the day that the buyer was picking it up, I caught him removing the stereo. The buyer test-drove it with the stereo, I argued, and he expected it to be there. I did convince my dad to put it back. And honestly, he would never have installed that stereo in another car. He would have put it in his basement along with the blender motor he couldn’t bear to part with and it would sit there, collecting dust forever.
My dad never looks anyone in the eye. When you talk to him, his eyes are always off to the side or studying the ceiling. My first therapist said he did it because he was frightened – frightened of the world, frightened of other people, frightened of people knowing him. He took an assertiveness training class for work once. Work insisted that he go was more like it. When I asked him about the class, he said people were giving examples from their own lives, hoping that the teacher could help them be more assertive. He said he didn’t want any part of that.
Back to frightened, when I told my parents that my uncle molested me, he couldn’t even stand up to him. Years later, he walked up behind him and said, “I know what you did to my daughter,” but when I was young and still vulnerable, nothing.
My dad keeps everything to himself. The biggest sin in our house was to talk about what went on there. We didn’t do anything really unusual, but that was the admonishment nonetheless. But the biggest thing my dad keeps to himself is money. He doesn’t spend money, and he works money into every conversation, like “I had the lamb shank. They didn’t leave enough meat on it for what I paid.” To his credit, he’s helped me out when I lost a job, but he complained with every check. I used to buy him gifts for birthdays and Christmas, but he complained and told me not to buy him those things. Finally I just sent him money. He hasn’t complained since.
So my dad doesn’t let people in, and now I’ve got a chance with another dad who does. Why am I not taking it? I guess I just don’t know how to have a father/daughter relationship. What would a new father want from me? Would I be any good at being a daughter? I don’t know, but I need to figure it out because I’ve got an amazing opportunity out there, and I’m letting it slip away. That’s why I will call my birth father on Father’s Day. That’s why I will talk to him and I will take my second chance at being a daughter. That’s why, in the future, when he calls, I’ll make sure I call him back.