When I think back to my childhood, I only remember doing two things with my father. Not family things, but father-and-son things. Once, when he was on a company softball league, he took me to one of his games. The other time he took me fishing with one of his friends.
He provided the things children needed growing up. We always had food in the fridge and a house to come home to. We had new shoes and clothing when we needed it, school supplies and lunch money. I remember we always had vanilla and one other flavor of ice cream in the freezer. He loved ice cream and so did my sister and I. We had what we needed. No extravagances, but the basics were there.
He wasn’t a bad father. He just didn’t know how to connect with me. I suspect he didn’t connect with my sister either. Luckily she had my mom. I had myself. I remember spending a lot of time playing in the back yard alone with my imagination. As a kid, you don’t know what’s normal or what isn’t. I don’t think I ever felt loneliness back then. I was too young to know loneliness. And besides I wasn’t truly alone–my family was just on the inside of the back door, each into their own thing–doing homework, making dinner, watching the news. I’m no psychologist, but it seems obvious that this is why I tend to be a loner.
I have been an adult for decades. My parents are still around and in good health for people in their 70s. I thank goodness for that. But my father and I still don’t connect. And any time when we happen to be left alone together, even if only for a few minutes, I still find it awkward. I fumble around in my head for subject matter to discuss that’s more personal than the weather yet still guarded enough that he’ll never get an unobstructed view of the entire person I’ve become. I think at this point, so late in our timeline together, we’re both choosing to accept that this is the way it is–this is going to be our dynamic until the end. It’s easier to do nothing and pretend everything’s ok. And in truth, everything is ok. I do love and respect him. I don’t begrudge him for not spending more time with me during my formative years. I did at earlier points in my life, but I outgrew it some time ago. Looking back it just seems a little selfish and a waste of time to hold on to that negativity, especially in light of the fact that I never made a single effort to get his side of the story. I just wish that we were close enough–just enough–for there to be an easy comfortability at times when it’s just he and I. Also, I’m just a little curious about whether my life would’ve been any different had we been closer.