Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

The 2nd Chance For My Dad

This time of year is always difficult on me. And instead of getting easier, this year it has actually been the hardest for me. It was eight years ago yesterday, I lost my father to lung cancer. There are several factors that have made this a difficult day more so this year than others. But perhaps, this year, will lead to better years.

I would describe the relationship with my father in two parts. The first part, and the one that would have the biggest impact on me, would best be described as barely existent, estranged for the most part. I am an adult child of a divorce, and the relationship with my father during my childhood was a result of stereotypical behaviors associated with a divorce involving children leading to both my father and I making choices we would both regret later in life.

When we made amends with each other, it was in my mid-to-late twenties. My father would tell me many times throughout the rest of his life, that he “wished things would have been different.” When I adopted my daughters, I told him, though we cannot change what happened, he has the chance to be the best grandfather a child could have. And that would mean so much to me, as well as to him.

There are a lot of fun “grandparent” stories about my father, including his one and only sleep over with two very active granddaughters who like to explore at three in the morning.

But today’s post is about a particular time in my life with my Dad, and its current relation to today.

As I said, my relationship with my father was strained, and through my teen years, it became more difficult for me to deal with. Soon, I would even stop going with him for his parental visitation, because I was that annoyed, even angry. I cannot even tell you what it was about, only that I was told how I was being treated. I could not see it in the beginning, but over time, I came to see at that time, everyone else was right, and my father was wrong.

I was going to give him one final chance. I was going to be graduating high school, and I had a ticket for him. I mailed him the ticket, along with a short note. It was to the point. “I need you to come to my graduation. If you do not, I don’t ever want to see you again. It will be the last time that you disappoint me.” Long story short, he never came. He was living ten minutes from me, and never stopped by, never sent a card, never made a phone call. As far as I was concerned, I was done.

Spoiler alert, my dad and I having made amends, took the opportunity that I had offered, to be a great grandfather to his granddaughters.

It was near the beginning of his diagnosis of lung cancer, that I had filed for my second divorce. There were actually several things going on in my life that were all stressful at that same time. I did not want to burden my father with my divorce because he knew how his divorce affected me, and did not want that for my daughters. While he offered me emotional support, because unlike my first divorce, this divorce would involve my children, something that he could relate to. But soon into his diagnosis, I would no longer talk to him about my case, though he would ask. It was just not fair to burden him with what was being done to me.

It has been eight years since he passed. And now, his oldest granddaughter, by me, is graduating from high school. And it is causing a lot of flashbacks for me, some quite hurtful. The comparisons cannot be any more different in the choices my father and I made as parents. My father would eventually fade from my childhood, not even with the challenge of a complete severance of our relationship could convince him to show I was important to him.

Unlike the choices my father made in his divorce, I made a promise to myself, and to my daughters, that I would be different. Oh, I heard plenty of screams of “you are just like your father” from the various “flying monkeys” (Wizard of Oz reference, you figure it out). Nothing could have been further from the truth.

I did everything I could to be involved with my daughters, at least within my abilities. If I asked, I was answered. If I did not know, I was not told. So, yes, I did everything I could. The most difficult decision I had to make, and the explanation worthy of a post on its own, was where I chose to live, and sadly, it was more than 1300 miles away. As one friend put it, “it had to be pretty bad for you to move that far away from your daughters.” Hard to believe, there have been moments, when it appeared not be far enough. But, I made it work, at least on my end. A custody order was written, and I honored the order to the letter, modifying the order over the next several years as the girls got older. Again, if I knew of something, I was there. I have so many memories of my daughters in the years that I missed with my father when I was younger. Even Covid19 could not interfere with the love and need to be with my daughters in their lives. No, I was nothing like my father in this divorce.

So, here I am, about to see my oldest daughter graduate high school. There are already comments on how weepy-eyed I will be, and admittedly, I know I will not be able to control myself. The odds of me seeing this day because of all of my health issues did not have me being here. But the last eight years of my divorce could have easily turned out much differently.

My Dad fortunately did not get to see how things had gone for me during this process, but I do believe, that if he were here today, he would be sitting with us in the stands to watch his granddaughter graduate. And as I told him long ago, “it is too late for you to be my Dad, but you have all the time in the world to be a grandfather to your granddaughters.” Yes, he did pass away before this time came, but it was that 2nd chance he got with my daughters, and the influence he had on me, that completely make up for the opportunity that he and I did not have. And I know he will be looking down on us that night, proud of his granddaughter, proud of his son.

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