Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

A Letter To My Father

As an adult child of divorce, I have done all that I can, in my current divorce, also involving children, to prevent any and all issues that I experienced as a child that were negative. Issues from back then, still carry with me to this day. And as I prepare to celebrate the graduation of my oldest daughter, one of those memories has come to the front of my mind, and refreshed the emotions of that time.

My father and I made up years after my graduation. But we rarely talked about the past, the “why”, “when”, and “who” of those memories. I cannot talk to my father anymore, as he passed away years ago. I wish this was one of the things we could have talked about.


I need to talk to you. We should have had this conversation long ago. But you are gone now. And I am at a period in my life, though I know is too late, where I wish we had done something different.

Your granddaughter is graduating from high school next week. And I know that you will be looking down from the heavens, watching over her, as proudly as I will be.

But as special as this moment is, especially for her, it has brought up a time in our lives, between you and I, that if we had the chance to go back, I believe we would have done differently or at least should have. Because to be quite honest, this time period, nearly forty years ago, a decision was made by both of us, that lasted your lifetime, and continues on with mine. And as hurtful as it was to me, I have used that pain, to make sure your granddaughter not only does not experience this same hurt, but have to live with it for years to come like I have.

This of course is all for naught, a memory that is clearly as fresh in my mind and heart today as it was back then. And though we made amends years later, the question of “why” still haunts me, now unresolvable. All I can do is make sure my daughter never feels this pain that I live with.

I get it Dad, divorce is hard. Nobody gets married with the plans of getting divorced eventually. But the divorce was between you and mom, not you and I. And having gone through divorce myself, I know it is not always the need or want to have discussions with an ex, but you did not divorce me, nor have I divorced myself from my children, and discussions needed to be had. There was no separation from father of child. So why were you not there?

After all the years of disappointments in my childhood by you, not being there, I gave you one last chance, a chance I did not feel you were entitled to, but I wanted to see, if one final moment, might have been enough to see if I meant anything to you, my graduation. You were given the ultimatum, and one ticket for the graduation. “Show up, or I never want to see you again. I will never allow you to disappoint me again.”

You never came. No card. No telephone call. You lives ten minutes away from me for Christ’s sake. NOTHING! And that is what I took away from that. I meant nothing. I would never allow myself to feel that way again. Yet here I am, all these years later, still feeling that wound as if it was yesterday.

As angry as I was back then, I have actually been able to do something good from that anger. The decision that you made, would be my driving factor, to never hurt either of my daughters the same way.

My divorce has been hard on them. But the one thing I would never let them feel is that I ever gave up on them. Though I am afraid, I really underestimated how this would affect me in my future.

But there I was, watching your granddaughter, experiencing the first graduation of her two ceremonies in high school. As she entered the auditorium, I could see her looking around. I was seated four seats in from the aisle she was walking down. With total disregard of concern of embarrassing her, I yelled out her name. She did not hear it. I yelled it again. This time, her head swiveled, left to right, and then I know she saw me. A huge smile lit up on her face, and she gave me a wave similar to the wave of a Miss America contestant. That is what I wanted and needed to experience. That is what you took from me.

Dad, though I have broken this cycle, it does not take away the pain from years ago. And though we made our amends, and really, ended up closer than we possibly could have imagined, it turns out, that hurt is still in my heart.

I was looking for you Dad in that gymnasium. I knew Mom was there, because she brought me. But as I looked for you, I could not see you, anywhere. You lived ten minutes from me. I live states away from my daughter. This day was everything to me. Her day is everything to me. And as your granddaughter experiences her high school graduation this week, just as last week, I will be there for her. Because I know how important this is to her, and just as important to me.

I just wish we could have done things differently.


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