I couldn’t believe it: a woman weeping in a pharmacy while picking out a Father’s Day card. I also couldn’t believe that woman was me. I cut my eyes to see if anyone saw me and did my best to blink tears away. This year was different than all the others. Of course, I’d picked out Father’s Day cards before for the men in my life I consider my “dad”. But this year was the first year I decided to pick one out for my biological father.
I picked up one brightly colored card after another, quickly read the words and placed it back down. The words felt foreign to me like a language I never cared to learn. All of the cards said nice, gushy things about dads: about how great they are, how they teach lessons, are always there to talk to, how they are strong and are the pillar of the family. Those words I couldn’t relate to. The phrases “I love you, Dad” and “You’re the best” or “You’re always there when I need you” felt like the first time my eyes saw those words strung together. I backed away from the cards for a minute, thought about leaving and starting afresh later. I pulled myself together and began again.
The brown skinned stranger wearing glasses and a blazer standing beside me waited awhile before choosing a card. I wondered if she had the same difficulty I had. I’m sure I wasn’t the only disheveled daughter on father’s day that wanted to at least acknowledge the man who aided in her birth, even if he wasn’t around much for her. It felt like everyone else got a present I wasn’t allowed to receive; like being the last one picked to play on a team. I felt like I was ten again. I hadn’t experienced that level of heartbreak since the first time I realized my dad was gone. In my reverie, I was still a child and couldn’t comprehend why daddy had to leave for years at a time; or why I had to ride long hours and get patted down just to see him in a room too loud and smelly for a ten-year-old to be in. I felt violated by those words on the cards just like I felt violated by those officers who searched my body for illegal paraphernalia. Years of being absent physically and emotionally can make any daughter indifferent toward her father.
And no, it doesn’t make everything right but it does provide a sense of freedom from this creepy crawly feeling of missing out on something all the cool kids had.
At 23 years old I still want my father around for conversation and guidance. I now allow myself to feel those raw feelings instead of resulting to being numb. I’ve made good progress on building a relationship with him. I don’t get upset if he can’t give me what I need: him to be my dad. I understand he doesn’t know how to do that. And I don’t hold him to expectations I know he can’t fulfill. It’s allowed our relationship to grow and gave me room to breathe. I’ve asked God to help me forgive the men in my life who did their best in loving me. So, if I want to cry in a pharmacy, so be it. If I want to throw things in private, I make sure to clean up afterward. If I want to write unsent letters to my father then I break out a box of tissues. It’s caused me to heal instead of being a tactic to pull me deeper into my pit of unforgiveness.
And once I got over myself, I chose a brown and blue card with as little words as possible.