Dear Dad I Never Had,
As you know, we have never met. It’s not because I didn’t have a dad. I did. I had a biological father, but he didn’t love me. So, he wasn’t really a real dad, was he? But you were.
I imagined you.
I missed you.
I still miss you … every day.
I miss not being able to talk to you. Looking back, I never really had very important things to say. Mostly I just wanted to tell you about the songs I was learning to play on the piano, the social challenges I was facing with other kids, and maybe my secret crush on Emilio Esteves.
I also wanted to show you those little nylon pot holder things I used to make. I was so proud of them. I never understood why mom didn’t actually use them.
It wasn’t the topics of conversation that were important though (even though they felt important to me at the time). Really, what was important to me was your attention, your investment of time, your patience, and your interest in things that I knew weren’t something you’d normally care about.
I wanted to be special to you.
So special, that you’d talk about Polly Pockets and my new clothes with me. So special, that you’d drink the lemonade I put too much sugar in, and help me build a fort in the woods behind our house.
Maybe even so special that you’d read the murder mystery I was writing. Not even I knew who the killer could be! And it got to be pretty long too. It’s a shame I never solved it.
I miss you helping me with my homework. I wish you could have taught me math. I’m still self-conscious figuring out waiter tip percentages in public in case people are watching. I know it’s silly. I even know how to do it. 10% + 10% = 20%. I know.
But I don’t think you realize how much a few hours of support a week, back when I was learning algebra, would have meant to build my self-confidence and make me a stronger adult.
It wasn’t just math. It was knowing that I could do it. It was knowing that you knew that I could do it.
I’m not stupid. I know that. But I don’t feel like you know that. And at 31 years old, I still feel like I need to prove my worth. It’s crazy what a big impact a dad who doesn’t exist can have on a person’s life, isn’t it?
I don’t miss camping trips. Camping is so dirty. Even when I was a kid I hated not being able to shower. Maybe we could have gone “glamping” in a nice cabin with running water and electricity. That would have been cool. I’m definitely your prim millennial!
What about sports? Do you like sports? I don’t know anything about sports. But I’d gladly sit through three hours of sweaty men chasing a ball with you, if that would have made you feel loved. What does make you feel loved? We’re not all that different I guess.
You know, girls can play sports too. I know I’m super feminine, but we could have played softball or something if you could have taught me how.
God, I miss you.
What about fishing? A lot of my friends went fishing with their dads.
Would you have liked reading with me? Bowling? What are your favorite movies? Do you like board games? We could have played Scrabble. I’d have won 🙂
I’ve always been kind of good at cooking. Except for that mint pumpkin pie I made when I was seven! That was so funny and horrible. Mom suffered through an entire slice.
Maybe I could have learned to make your favorite dinner or dessert. With your help of course! We could have done so many things together.
Together is really what it’s all about. The activity almost doesn’t matter as long as we’re spending time. So many people don’t seem to get that.
But we do, don’t we? Because we never were. Because we never are going to be.
I also miss learning about what you thought about things. Just listening to you talk to me would have meant so much. Hearing your voice. Seeing your eyes take me seriously. Feeling your concern. Your passion about what you believe.
What are the issues you think are important? What is right and what is wrong? What makes good people good, and bad people bad? Are there heroes in real life? I know there are monsters.
Well, Dear Dad I Never Had, there’s this void in my life. I don’t think you realize how big a hole you left by not existing. But maybe, just maybe, a real dad will read my letter to you, and be you to a child who needs you like I did.
I love you.
I grieve you.
I pray you exist for somebody else.
Happy Father’s Day,
That is so sad. I’m so sorry you didn’t have that in your life. Mine was abusive. Interesting that even though we’ve been through these respective things, we married men who are great fathers?
It’s a great blessing! I know that supposedly child abuse victims usually marry someone who is also abusive, but in my case (and I’m guessing in yours) I had a long list of attributes I wanted my husband NOT to have … road rage, impatience, foul mouth, temper tantrums, etc … I think as a result I wound up with a very patient, calm, and thoughtful guy. God is good 🙂
Our two dads aren’t very different, and it’s funny how I wrote out letters just like this one so many times in my own mind. When I realized what you had written, and took the time to read it through, it brought me to tears, even all these years later.
I realized once that I had always wanted my dad to be home more often than he was (he traveled three weeks out of four), but the truth is, I didn’t want my own dad there, and having him there more often would’ve been so much more difficult and complicated; I wanted the dad I had imagined, the one who actually cared about me and would have spent time with me just being us. Coming to that realization helped me to grieve what I never had and give me a measure of peace with it. A measure of peace is something.
Thank you for writing this, Jennifer. It really hit home.
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