THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

James Di Fiore Headshot

A Father's Day Letter To My Estranged Dad

Posted: Updated:
MAN WRITING LETTER
lolostock via Getty Images
Print

Dear Dad,

Father's Day is coming up, and I wanted to tell you a few things I never had the chance to say before you died.

Actually that's a lie. I had several chances to tell you lots of things, but we hardly ever spoke to each other for nearly twenty years. Jesus, twenty years. That's half my life. When I moved out of the house to go to college I didn't realize I was saying goodbye to you. If I did I might have thought twice before asking you for fifty bucks. Hell, let's be honest; the way I was back then I may have asked for a hundred.

I wasn't the easiest son, Dad. I know that. I won't pretend to know why I was such a troublemaker. Maybe it was because you and Mom seemed so unhappy. Not to be an ass, but we all knew you two were headed for divorce years before you finally pulled the trigger. Having two older sisters taught me to read the signals in people, and all three of us could read the situation with our eyes closed. It's OK, by the way. None of us were bitter about it. We knew it was for the best.

I don't really think my behaviour was your fault. I'm pretty stubborn, always have been. There's a part of me that wants to blame you for my struggles as a youngster. Every suspension, every detention, every ejection from a baseball game, every rejection from a female classmate; all of those would have been easier if I could just blame my old man I guess.

But then you just stopped. I don't know if I did something that made you stop, but you stopped. You stopped being a father and became an estranged parent.

The truth is I always blamed myself, even as I pointed my fingers at principals, at teachers, at girls, at umpires and whoever else rightly called me on my bullshit. I always heard that voice in my head telling me that I was the problem. It's quieted some, but I still hear that voice.

It makes me think. It makes me miss you. It makes me wish I didn't follow your lead and become your non-communicative son. I have so many regrets, so many questions.

I wish I knew what made you tick, Dad. I try to remember the real you and all I get are these flashes of your bearded face taking a draw off a cigarette, rubbing your forehead or swearing during a Habs game. In other words, I feel like my version of you is sadly but honestly incomplete. Twenty years is a long time not to talk to your son. Twenty years is an eternity not to talk to your dad.

I sometimes want to hold the urn that holds your ashes and just scream at you, but when you died I told my partner to stash the urn out of sight, and I'm not sure I'm ready to ask her where she put you. In a way your ashes have become your phone number. I know it is there somewhere, but I just can't be bothered.

You quit on me. Not just me but your own daughters too.

It's not your fault, Dad. Both of us let each other down. Both of us never picked up the phone. Neither of us seemed to know what to say. Your father was a drunk, so who knows what kind of stitching danced across your heart as a young man? Who knows what your scars had to say?

But let's be clear on one thing. Your grandson, who you never bothered to meet, who will be two years old this coming August, will never write a letter like this. You had a life that shaped the man you became, and I have no right to tell you that you fucked up. You put a roof over my head, coached my baseball team, and taught me how to cook a Sunday sauce.

But then you just stopped. I don't know if I did something that made you stop, but you stopped. You stopped being a father and became an estranged parent.

Maybe you were depressed. Maybe you weren't equipped with the kind of emotions that allowed a long-term dad to shine through. I've spent countless hours rewinding my childhood in my mind, trying to capture a beautiful moment or two, desperately trying to convince myself that I'm just not seeing the full picture of who you were. But I can't keep lying to myself. You quit on me. Not just me but your own daughters too.

I will use your failures as a way of guiding myself through fatherhood. Consider it your contribution to my life, years after you had given up on me, that I will never end up alone and away from the people I love.

My daughter is due to be born weeks from now. I swear, if I ever get to a point in my life where she will be forced to wonder why her father won't call her, I will remind myself of the space you carved inside my heart, and then fill that space with an unconditional love you should have instilled inside your son.

I began this letter wanting to cut you some slack, and whether it is my aforementioned stubbornness or merely an urge to break the familial chain rather than add a link, I need to tell you something I never had the chance to say when you were alive.

I resented the man you became, Dad. I truly resent you, even to this day. But I will use your failures as a way of guiding myself through fatherhood. Consider it your contribution to my life, years after you had given up on me, that I will never end up alone and away from the people I love.

And I do love you, Dad. Despite all of it, I love you.

Happy Father's Day.

Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook