Last year for Father’s Day, I purchased the book, Our Fathers, Ourselves: Daughters, Fathers and the Changing American Family. If you are a father of a daughter or a daughter who wants to know more about and understand your relationship with your father, this is a great book. The backdrop? Multiple interviews with women who open up and share their very personal journey and relationship (or lack of) with their father.
Words that come to mind reflective in these relationships? Complex, diverse, dynamic, sometimes difficult, yet loving, evolving, and enriching. Daughters look to their fathers for support and guidance yet do not always receive what they are looking for or need. Yet, despite this or in spite of this, daughters continue to turn to their fathers for guidance and direction, acceptance and approval, regardless of age.
Me and my dad.
After I purchased this book for my father, I bought a copy for myself. Over the course of a few months, my father and I would “chip” away at this book together. He shared his insight, his perspective. I did mine. We discussed our relationship and how it has evolved and continues to evolve over time. Doing this helped me understand not only my relationship with my father and all its intricacies, but the special bond between a father and his daughter. This helped provide clarity where once there once was very little.
My relationship with my father is neither complicated nor simple. It just is. It has become one of honesty and openness; although our relationship wasn’t always this way. Years ago, it was much more complicated, complex, dynamic, and distant yet loving. Past circumstances and the impact of his words and behaviors – not always good – had a profound impact on my life. Added to that was my need, like others, for independence while searching for my own identity that came from a feeling of dependency – a yearning to shed the skin and create distance, but not too much distance. And no doubt, my need for independence resulted in instances of disappointing him (A few of these quickly come to mind!)
My father has taught me valuable life lessons. Our conversations have changed. His guidance has become support. We talk books, sports, jobs, relationships, family, and work among other things. His stories are known to be long in duration – sometimes too long – because details are important to him as is the nostalgia of life. His conversations can be tangential with interspersed nonsequitars that can drive the most patient person crazy! This includes me! My impatience with him at times gets the better of me but I am able to share my frustrations with love and levity.
I would like to say that we have both grown in our relationship – individually and as a father and daughter. I listen and so does he – much better than he did while I was growing up. I like to believe that I too, have become a better listener, a better daughter. In many ways, I am my father’s daughter and in many ways, I am not. I recognize the role that his family of origin played in raising me. I have come to understand he did the best that he could.
I cannot seek to understand my father or any other person for the matter, in a single incident or situation. My father is no exception to that rule. Nor am I. People are more than the sum of their parts. We are complex and ever changing and evolving. I have learned to accept him for one he is and just as important, for who he is not. Because doing otherwise is a waste of time and energy. Acceptance is a wonderful feeling. A powerful gift. It allows and teaches a person to move forward. This is an invaluable lesson to learn and one that I try to impart on people as they struggle to find acceptance with their own father, often based on a sense of loss.
Words and forgiveness lessens the space in between and allows us and others to move on. Time lost doing that is well, time lost. You cannot get it back. With each passing day, my time with my father becomes increasingly limited. My days from the past out number the days we have in the future. Our relationship past, present, and future remains ever present in my mind and important in my life.