Father’s Day is meant to be a happy time, and so it is for me – in part: a time where my wife and son conspire to present Daddy with some nice little momento, usually (at this point) a card with artwork, to tell Daddy how much he is loved by his youngest child. And I love it: he and I do the same thing for Mom on Mother’s Day. All such things speak of the love and care that is within this home and our life. It also speaks of the importance we attach to family, and modeling for our son that it is important to tell those closest to us how much we love them, in many ways, all the time.
Unfortunately, Father’s Day is also a day of sadness for me, as it is for many. In my case, it is a stark and painful reminder of the long separation between my daughter (who is now 26 years old) and myself. July 12th of this summer will mark ten years since the last time I spoke to her, or had any idea of how her life was going, where she was living, or anything else about her.
Now, I could dwell on the events surrounding my divorce from my first wife, which began with our separation on July 10th of that year (2005), but that would be doing her a disservice, since she is not here to defend herself. So, I will merely say that my separation from our daughter is the outcome of a great deal of dysfunction in that relationship, magnified by a legal system that grants custody to the mother as the default, on the assumption that doing so is in the best interest of the child; and made worse in turn through my own ignorance of how to navigate that same system.
Now, assuming the mother (and children) are the ones who need more (and immediate) protection when accusations of abuse are being made is not a bad thing. In fact, it should be that way, since they are (generally) much more likely to be the ones at risk in a dysfunctional relationship.
However, granting such protection should not be done with eyes closed, nor can it be assumed that it is a good or correct decision just because it is the current one, nor should that assumption turn the determination of what is best for the children into an endless courtroom war: a war where the one parent is continually attempting to prove their ability to be a good parent, and are always exposed to the risk of accusations from their former spouse that may or may not have any basis in reality, accusations which the other can throw at them with great effect, and at little risk or cost to themselves. There has to be a better way. … But enough of this: this is about Father’s Day, not trying to again fight a battle for my daughter’s future that I lost years ago.
I miss my daughter intensely, as any father in my position would, and I constantly I worry about her, even now: Is she OK? Is she happy? Is she in a stable home and relationship? Does she have kids? (OMG – I might be a grandfather, and not even know it!!!) Is she even alive? I simply do not know, and have no way of finding out.
I wish I could share with her the stable and happy, fulfilling life I have now – something we rarely had when we were still a family. But, I cannot, and I see no hope of that ever changing. She is gone forever, as far as I can see.
So, I understand how painful Mother’s Day and Father’s Day is for so many. My own pain is something I rarely mention to others, but it is always there, something I wake up with every morning, and which I go to bed with every night. The passing of years has buried the pain beneath the busy-ness and joys of my new life, but it is still there and it will never go away. And as it is for me, so it is for many; not to mention the multitudes of people who, for one reason or another, cannot be parents, as they once hoped they someday would be. I am especially sad for those who never had a positive and supportive “father figure” in their lives, as my own father has been in my life, and as I am certain I was in turn for my daughter.
So, for all of you out there harboring a hidden pain similar to my own, you are in my thoughts and prayers.
And, if you happen to know my daughter, do not tell me where she is or seek to put us back in touch with each other. I am sure she can find me if she wishes to; but whether she does or not must be her choice – not mine, and not yours. She’s a grown woman now, and must live her life as she feels she must. I trust she will know when it is best for her to re-establish our relationship – if ever. All I can hope is that there will eventually be such a day, before it is too late for us, or for the others left in our extended family who care for her.
All that really matters is that I love her: always have and always will, just as any father should love their child.
(c) 2015, Allen Vander Meulen III; all rights reserved.