26 October 2016

A hole in my heart

Today is October 26th, 2016. 

Matthew is now five and Luke is three, so I've celebrated the actual birth of both and a combined eight birthdays between them.  Each of those celebrations has been so meaningful to me as their mother as an opportunity to celebrate their lives, accomplishments, express how much we love them and really just to thank God for sharing them with us. 

Four days ago, I turned 35.  Although Dustin prepared a beautiful dinner for me, complete with gourmet cupcakes from a local bakery, I was able to visit with my sister and my mom and brother took me out for dinner and then a little shopping spree, I didn't hear from my dad.... 

Each year on my birthday, a part of me, deep down inside always feel a sense of emptiness around the raw fact that my dad doesn't celebrate me.  Or maybe it's even deeper than that, it's probably more along the lines that he doesn't even acknowledge my existence.  Most days I'm able to bury the hurt and loneliness in that special place for parents that he's never inhabited, but each year on my birthday (and especially since I've had my own children), I just struggle with how little he's ever made an effort in my life.  It's so hard for me to fathom a time when I wouldn't go out of my way to tell my kids I love them and I can't understand how he could just forget about me everyday, but even more so on the one day of the year that I would assume he might be even more called to reflect on the day I was born. 

Throughout my lifetime, my dad was the most involved when I was a young, school-aged girl... a time when I recall him picking me up for more than half of his court ordered visitation weekends.  Many of those memories were tainted however by the fact that he usually would have a new girlfriend or the two times that he showed up with a new wife - the first was "Brenda".  They weren't married long, but she had a baby girl while they were married - he told me that he wasn't the father.  Her name was Leann... I've always wondered if she was really my sister.  After he and Brenda were divorced, I believe that Brenda may have given her up for adoption...  There was one time when he took us on his own to fly kites and another when he took us sled riding at some point before "Diana".  When he married Diana, his 2nd wife after my mom (4th wife in total, but one that he's been married to for over 20 years now and whom he had another daughter with... a half-sister I barely know named Chelsea) is when he'd pick us up more regularly for maybe five years or so, but when my mom, sister and I moved about an hour and a half from him when I was in 9th grade, we rarely saw him... probably fewer than 5 times per year.  I began to see him more frequently when I started college about 20 minutes from his house, but seemingly only because I made the effort to go see him and our relationship sort of ended my junior year in college when he said some really hurtful things to me and we never completely made amends.  As I reflect on our history and the significant amount of baggage in our relationship, I truly believe that Diana was a big part of what went wrong between us... there were so many times that I caught her in a lie as she relayed information to my dad, times when I found letters she'd written to her friends portraying my mom in a negative light and other instances where she worked hard to manipulate the situation to make others look bad and attempt to inflate her position.  I didn't invite them to my wedding because I couldn't envision him walking me down the aisle... especially after so many hurt feelings, lack of apology or even a willingness to have a real conversation about what went wrong between us so we could move forward with even footing. 

Despite all that's happened, I wish things could be different.

I wish that he'd pursue me as his daughter... someone whose opinion he held in high regard.

I still wish he'd sweep me off my feet as every daddy should do for their little girl - ride in on his white horse and rescue me from the loneliness that his absence has created in my life.  In my dreams, he would have picked me over all of the other women he's chosen, even if it would happen just once, when the circumstances were important to me.  That's a tall order for someone who doesn't even think of me on my birthday. 

The only place I know to go from here is to trust in my Heavenly Father.  To know that He has a plan for my life - one that I don't have to understand, but one that I have to trust is meant for me.  Maybe knowing the sort of sadness that abandonment can bring will be the catalyst in pushing me to always let my boys know how much they mean to me and more importantly to always make the effort to help them achieve their dreams.  Understanding the way an insignificant father figure can impact a child's life helped me to be a strong supporter of Dustin taking on a vital role in raising Matthew and Luke, one that resulted in me pushing him to be a stay at home father for over two years after Luke's open heart surgery (a role that I selfishly wanted for myself). 

This life lesson has taught me that mothers and fathers are equally important in the lives of children, regardless of whether they're babies, adolescents or even grown adults with children of their own.

Update - October 19th, 2018

Well, it's been almost two years since I wrote this and nothing has changed.  The weeks leading up to my birthday always have me reflecting on my dad.  There was a time when he'd at least send me an annual birthday card; typically, it was one of the few times during the year that I'd hear from him.  It makes me almost cry to think about the number of cards that he'd misspelled my name on - it's "Kristin",  but it wasn't uncommon for him to write "Kristen" on the front of the envelope.  It would make me so mad that he didn't know how to spell my name right.  As a kid, the bicycle license plates, keychains and Christmas ornaments I understood, my spelling was lesser common than the more popular version spelled with an "e", but considering he was a party to naming me, it would just piss me off more with each passing year as a teenager and young adult. And as I grew up and the interactions became fewer and farther between, it would really irk me that the only communication attempt he'd ever make was on MY special day... a day that should have been fun and celebratory always ended with me crying as I'd walk back to the house from the mailbox with something from him; a reminder that I was only worth a stamp once a year as far as he was concerned.  I guess on one hand, I could have been encouraged that he remembered me at all (it's been almost a decade now since I've gotten even a card), but instead it just felt like he was intruding on my life, one that he didn't know a thing about... like what I did for a living, my favorite color or favorite food, the kind of vehicle I drive, my hobbies or the musician that I've seen live almost 20 times. I remember one day in my mid-twenties when I was travelling for work during my birthday - that year he happened to call me instead of sending a card (it was probably the only time he called me that calendar year)... I remember being out to dinner with co-workers when I saw his name on my caller ID and my heart started racing; I just knew that I couldn't answer him in front of other people and expose my vulnerability to them... when dinner was over and my co-workers were heading to the hotel bar to continue the fun, I went back to my room. I listened to his voicemail and cried because I wanted more than just a voicemail on my birthday. The sadness overwhelmed me that night and I remember laying in my hotel bed crying myself to sleep.  It was my 26th birthday.

This year, [I think] my dad is 66 years old. We are so detached from one another that I don't even know where he lives anymore.  A few years ago, he and his wife sold their house Southwest of Columbus and I believe that he built a new house in West Virginia, but I don't know if that's actually true as it came to me as secondhand information and not directly from him.

I wonder if I'll ever see or speak to him again? 
Will one of us die without us ever having a relationship?  If so, will the other regret it?
Why, when I think I've moved on, does he still make me feel so vulnerable?
Are my perfectionist tendencies my subconscious way of trying to be worthy of love? Good enough?
Can I overcome him enough to pass on the characteristics of healthy relationships to my kids?
So far I've only told my kids that they don't know their grandpa because he "lives far away" - when will the right time come to share more?

I recognize in my self that I have a really, really hard time trusting people - even though I want to, the inner circle of people I truly let myself trust is very small.  It's just so hard for me to open up because my life experiences have conditioned me to believe there are very few people that I can be honest with, vulnerable around and reveal all of myself to. And when I extend my trust and it's broken by someone, even though I may have forgiven them, I can't think of a time that I've ever been able to fully overcome the prior breach to regain the same relationship we'd had previously.  If my dad ever reached out to me in the future, despite my desire to know him - I don't know to what extent I'd ever be able trust him.  And I'm not sure that he'd respect that - I think he'd want to pretend like we'd never skipped a beat and I think I'd feel so cautious about trusting him that it wouldn't feel right to me unless we went slow. 

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