With Father’s Day just days away I wanted to reflect on my relationship with my dad. My dad and I have always shared a special bond. I would wake up every morning to hang out with him and watch him shave until I started Pre- K, which is the inspiration behind our "Dad + B" Father's Day card. I wasn’t complete until I heard the garage door go up and heard his footsteps coming through the door.
My dad was my hero. He taught me how to ride a bike. He taught me how to throw and catch a football (I was a tomboy). He taught me to swim. He taught me to love the beautiful brown skin I am blessed with when I wished I was lighter skinned. Growing up I would hear family members, friends, and onlookers ask if I was his biological daughter because we didn’t share the same fair skin complexion. It’s something I still hear, but as my dad always says “You are my daughter, Bianca. Don’t listen to that nonsense.”
I always felt this sense of pride to call him my dad. He was at every recital, marching band performance, and track meet with a camcorder in hand. All of my classmates knew him. In some ways, I felt like I shared him with them and I loved that. I think he did too.
When I was 16, everything changed. I came home from school, and all of my stuff was gone. My parents were getting a divorce. I went from seeing my dad every day to only seeing him on the weekends. My sister and I spent less and less time with him because he picked up a part-time job to take care of the extra expenses that came with divorce. At the time, I couldn’t understand why my dad was no longer this ray of sunshine in my life. I couldn’t figure out why he couldn’t afford to take us to Disney World or on our annual family trips anymore. I couldn’t understand why I was no longer the object of all of his affection. The loving dad I’d always known was no longer there. He was different.
A year after my parent's divorce I went off to college. There was this constant battle between my parents on who paid for what, when it should be paid, and whatever else they could find to argue about and I was caught in the middle of it all. I was the mediator, I was the message taker, I was everything but a 17-year-old college girl. I was angry, resentful, and still was dealing with the fact that the family I'd known my entire life had fallen apart.
All of the arguing pushed me away from both of my parents, but the relationship between my dad and I suffered the most. I didn’t return his phone calls. I didn’t make it a priority to spend time with him when I was home from school. I just let the relationship go. Not because I wanted to but because I’d always felt like I had to choose and I chose my mom. At the time, I felt like she did “more” for me. I thought my dad was only doing the minimum because he had to not because he wanted to, which was a 360 from the person who was my hero my entire life. As an adult, I can recognize that realizing my dad was a mere mortal was hard. Realizing he wasn't perfect was challenging. For the first time, I saw that my father was flawed. I saw that he was hurting just like me.
I made a choice a few years ago not to let anyone make me feel like I couldn’t have a relationship with my dad because of their dislike of how he’d handled things in the past. It is one of the best choices I have made for myself. I picked up the phone one day and just called him. He started coming by to see me more. We began to have lunch together. Then one day I realized I had my dad back, and boy was it an amazing feeling. The little girl that waited by the door and the was proud to say “this is my dad” was back.
The biggest lesson I learned from all of this is that parents are human. They will do things we just don’t understand or agree with, but it’s up to us to take off the pressure. They are dealing with their battles just like us.
I am so grateful I am getting to make up for the lost time with my dad. I often feel lots of sadness that he wasn't in my life for seven years, but I try not to rest in those feelings. Throughout those seven years of silence, my dad called me every single day. Left voicemail after voicemail until I finally returned his calls. No matter how much time goes by relationships can always be repaired.
Happy Father's Day Dad. Thank you for not giving up on me.