Don’t Be An Absentee Father Like Mine

I’m going off the reservation again, so it you’re expecting a post on personal finance, this isn’t it. This post is about the importance of fathers. Father’s Day is coming up this weekend and I’ve never once celebrated the day or purchased a Father’s Day gift. I’ve never had to. You see, with the exception of one hour 2 years ago, I had not seen my father since I was twelve and I am 33 now. My father chose to not be a part of my or my brother’s life and now I think that he regrets it.

I’ve mentioned before in my article about growing up poor that I came to this country at around 6 years old with my brother. My mother had already lived here for two years prior and she did not leave us with our father before moving here. He was already checked out. I’ll give my mother credit for sending us back every summer until I turned 12 to both get us out of New York and to spend time with her family in our home country. She also made sure that we would spend sometime with our father but he seemed to always be much too busy to spend any real quality time for us. When I turned 12 my mother could not longer afford the airfare because I would have to pay the adult fare and as a single mother, she couldn’t afford it. I didn’t blame her for prioritizing putting a roof over our heads versus what amounted to an annual vacation.

I’d like to say that I missed having a father when I was growing up, but quite honestly, I didn’t. It wasn’t because my stepfather was there because at the time he was just the man dating my mother and wasn’t really interested in being a father, so he was a non-entity in my eyes. It was just that not having a father was the norm and you can’t miss what you don’t have. My brother and I were not alone since some 33% of all children in New York City live in fatherless homes. If you are a minority that statistic rises to close to 50%. That’s a hell of a lot of kids without fathers in their lives.

Why am I telling you this? Because Father’s Day is coming up, and I wonder what goes through my father’s head when the day comes and he is not surrounded by his children. My father, “the sperm donor” as my brother, his namesake refers to him, is the father to many children (don’t really know how many) and we don’t know our half-siblings. As I grow older and value more and more the family that I have, I wonder how one could go through life knowing that there are people out there sharing your DNA and have absolutely no curiosity about their lives. I have no anger or resentment. I just wonder how one could be so heartless.

Two years ago my family went to put headstones on my maternal grandmother’s grave and my mother insisted on making the hours long drive to my paternal mother’s house. They have always maintained a good relationship and she wanted us to see our grandmother. My grandmother took the opportunity to call my father who lived just around the corner to let him know that we were coming – in the middle of a major storm I might add. When we arrived the neighbors immediately knew where my brother and I were going because we apparently looked like some of my other siblings and they were right. I met my sister that I had not seen for 19 years and we could have been and I guess are, pages out of the same book. My brother too shares a deep resemblance with one particular half-brother and he actually looks like a younger version of my father.

When my father arrived it was very much like meeting a perfect stranger. Here we were all adults standing and looking at each other. The years stood between us an uncrossable chasm, but I was willing to try to cross it simply by saying, “hello”. It was the first word that I had uttered to my father in almost 20 years and it felt completely foreign. I’ve felt more comfortable meeting complete strangers on the subway on the way to work. Here was the person that had contributed to the act of giving me life, and I felt no connection to him. My mother launched into a tirade about his past statements that she had kept us away from him, and while she wanted to be vindicated, I felt embarrassed for her. There was nothing to prove because it did not matter. The time for blame and pointing fingers was long past and would have made no difference, so I did exactly what the situation called for. I asked my mother to be quiet. My brother and I chose to sit and have lunch with my father. It was then that he invited us to come back and visit on our own so that we could get to know each other. I was noncommittal because quite honestly, I didn’t know if I wanted to invest the time, money and most importantly, emotion trying to get to know a perfect stranger. It’s been two years and I now feel as if I should at least try. For my brother that need does not exist.

My boyfriend asked me why I want to even bother trying, and I guess it’s because after going through the dying process with my coworker who was old enough to be my father, I don’t want to regret having missed an opportunity to get to know him. According to my grandmother, my father had been in the hospital for a month with complications to diabetes. If he had died I would have lost an opportunity to at least try. Ten or twenty years from now I don’t want to sit back and reflect on the things that I should have or could have done.

Dads if you are separated from the mother of your child you are still a father. No matter how difficult it might be to see or speak to your kids make an effort to do so. You might not be able to pay child support or take them out and do things with them, but in the end, your kid won’t remember any of that. What they will remember is you and the time that you have spent with them. Don’t be an absentee father – or mother for that matter. You might not regret it now, but decades later you will. Trust me. I’ve seen it in my father’s eyes.

Join the newsletter

Subscribe to get our latest content by email.

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by Seva
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

26 thoughts on “Don’t Be An Absentee Father Like Mine

  • Although my parents were together, I miss having my dad. My father passed away when I was 12 years old. My mother was always busy by choice. It was real important for me to have a strong relationship with my children. They are adults (37 & 34) now and we have that strong relationship. My children were always a priority and I spent a lot of time with them. No regrets.

    • I’m absolutely sure that your kids will show their appreciation for it. Being present instead of bringing presents is rewarding. I don’t have kids, but I have a sister less than half my age and my brother and I spend lots of quality time with her because while her father and my mom are together, he’s not hands on.

  • I’m absolutely sure that your kids will show their appreciation for it. Being present instead of bringing presents is rewarding. I don’t have kids, but I have a sister less than half my age and my brother and I spend lots of quality time with her because while her father and my mom are together, he’s not hands on.

  • I’m glad you’ve chosen to see your father again. I was going to suggest the same thing, that you should make that effort because you may not have the opportunity again, and you may learn important things about who you are.

    My parents split up when I was six. For a few years, I saw my father every other weekend, but when I became a teen, I guess I lost some interest and he didn’t make an effort either; he was busy raising 2 boys from his second marriage. From my teens through my early 30s, I didn’t see my father; I was very hurt that he chose not to attend my college graduation.

    It was around the time my sister and, later, I, bought our houses, that he re-entered our lives, perhaps out of curiosity.

    We’ve maintained a relationship ever since, and he has definitely enhanced and contributed to my life. I find that the stern and quick to anger father I knew growing up has become more mellow, very likeable and funny in his 70s. There’s a lot to like about him, and I would never have known that had I not been open to allowing him back into my life.

    Life is short, get to know your dad.

    • Fern,

      Thanks for sharing your story. I think that age mellows everyone and we all kind of come around. If I go visit this year I’ll share the story. I don’t know that making a phone call would be enough.

  • Fern,

    Thanks for sharing your story. I think that age mellows everyone and we all kind of come around. If I go visit this year I’ll share the story. I don’t know that making a phone call would be enough.

  • This post really touched me. I had a similar experience, and for me, this day is a difficult one.
    The thing is, it’s probably difficult for him too.
    I don’t know how I would live with myself, knowing I failed my own children.
    I can tell you are a strong person.

  • This post really touched me. I had a similar experience, and for me, this day is a difficult one.
    The thing is, it’s probably difficult for him too.
    I don’t know how I would live with myself, knowing I failed my own children.
    I can tell you are a strong person.

  • I also think it will be good for you to make the effort. Now that you are grown up, you will be able to see the situation with a new perspective.
    We’ll probably have only one kid and I’ll try my best to be a good dad to him.

    • You’re already very hands on! I can’t believe how quickly baby RB40 is growing. I feel like he was born just yesterday and we’re watching him grow up.

  • I also think it will be good for you to make the effort. Now that you are grown up, you will be able to see the situation with a new perspective.
    We’ll probably have only one kid and I’ll try my best to be a good dad to him.

  • Thank you for this post. It must be very difficult to have this type of relationship with your father, but it is good you are trying to forge some sort of connection. When he passes, you won’t be the one who feels regret.

    My own dad lived with us, but he was chronically depressed, and except for going to work, he never left the couch. NEVER. My mom brought him his food to eat on the couch, and in the days before remote controls, he always called me or my mom in to change the tv channel. He died at 38, when I was just 15. Now I look back and think what a sad life he led. So much wasted. . .

    • It’s not so difficult because it’s the non-relationship relationship. You know what I mean? It feels far more difficult to try to have a relationship. I am sure that it was much harder for you having a father that was physically there but was unable to emotionally connect. I think that growing up that way would have been harder.

  • Thank you for this post. It must be very difficult to have this type of relationship with your father, but it is good you are trying to forge some sort of connection. When he passes, you won’t be the one who feels regret.

    My own dad lived with us, but he was chronically depressed, and except for going to work, he never left the couch. NEVER. My mom brought him his food to eat on the couch, and in the days before remote controls, he always called me or my mom in to change the tv channel. He died at 38, when I was just 15. Now I look back and think what a sad life he led. So much wasted. . .

  • My dad cheated on my mom (and then married the woman… but now they’re divorced) when I was 14 and we didn’t talk for many years after that.. it wasn’t until my paternal grandmother passed away a few years ago that we ended up spending time together again…

    I guess it was a gift that my grandmother gave us, in her little way.

    My boyfriend often asks why I don’t just ignore my dad because he was so “deadbeat” and not present during the important times. He often says he would not be speaking to my dad, if he were me.

    I guess it’s because I know he’s still my father, he’s still blood. Families aren’t perfect, and we all make mistakes, but living with regret is something that I to avoid. I now see him about once every month or once every two months for dinner with my siblings and mother. he’s been more supportive and almost seems “reformed” in terms of his lifestyle and his attitude.

    It’s never too late.. 🙂

  • My dad cheated on my mom (and then married the woman… but now they’re divorced) when I was 14 and we didn’t talk for many years after that.. it wasn’t until my paternal grandmother passed away a few years ago that we ended up spending time together again…

    I guess it was a gift that my grandmother gave us, in her little way.

    My boyfriend often asks why I don’t just ignore my dad because he was so “deadbeat” and not present during the important times. He often says he would not be speaking to my dad, if he were me.

    I guess it’s because I know he’s still my father, he’s still blood. Families aren’t perfect, and we all make mistakes, but living with regret is something that I to avoid. I now see him about once every month or once every two months for dinner with my siblings and mother. he’s been more supportive and almost seems “reformed” in terms of his lifestyle and his attitude.

    It’s never too late.. 🙂

  • Hi Sandy. Thanks for sharing such a personal story with us. I grew up most of my life only seeing my dad a few times a year after my parents divorced. I lost the closeness of our relationship that I used to feel when I was young, and have only recently started to get some of that back. I think you should listen to your heart and continue to take that step forward to try and get to know your dad a little more. It’s okay if your brother doesn’t want to, no one can be forced to feel something. I hope things will work out. -Sydney

  • Hi Sandy. Thanks for sharing such a personal story with us. I grew up most of my life only seeing my dad a few times a year after my parents divorced. I lost the closeness of our relationship that I used to feel when I was young, and have only recently started to get some of that back. I think you should listen to your heart and continue to take that step forward to try and get to know your dad a little more. It’s okay if your brother doesn’t want to, no one can be forced to feel something. I hope things will work out. -Sydney

  • Hey Sandy,

    I have never met my own father. My mother remarried with another man when I was young, and the situation was abusive. I eventually left when I was old enough and haven’t heard from them in over a decade. I don’t know if it’s worth the effort to try and seek out my real father, or reconnect with parents that didn’t want me around when I was there. You’re right, as time goes by things mellow out, but at the same time I still remember. I don’t know if I want to die without having made that effort, but at the same time I don’t want to dig up skeletons from the closet. I prefer to focus on the future, because I have some control over that at least, and to do everything possible to give my own kids a better life.

    You’ve given me something to think about though; thanks for sharing your story.

  • Sandy,

    This story really touched me, mostly because it was so different from my own experience. I think you should reconnect with your father if possible, because nothing is lost if it doesn’t work out. And, there is a finite time in our lives to make these kinds of choices.

    My Dad is gone now, but I was fortunate to have spent a lot of time with him, especially as an adult. My parents got divorced when I was around 13 and my Dad moved half way around the world, to Micronesia. He paid every dime of child support and loved us very much. It just didn’t work out between my parents.

    Anyway, I went to visit him in Pohnpei in 1989, which is when I met my wife. And, he would fly out to spend summers with us in California for months at a time. We had way more time and much more to say than when I was young. And, we had so much more in common.

    When I got the call in 1998, I never had to look back with sorrow or regret. Our relationship was about as rewarding as it could have been and I am thankful for all of the time we spent together.

    Bret

  • Sandy,

    This story really touched me, mostly because it was so different from my own experience. I think you should reconnect with your father if possible, because nothing is lost if it doesn’t work out. And, there is a finite time in our lives to make these kinds of choices.

    My Dad is gone now, but I was fortunate to have spent a lot of time with him, especially as an adult. My parents got divorced when I was around 13 and my Dad moved half way around the world, to Micronesia. He paid every dime of child support and loved us very much. It just didn’t work out between my parents.

    Anyway, I went to visit him in Pohnpei in 1989, which is when I met my wife. And, he would fly out to spend summers with us in California for months at a time. We had way more time and much more to say than when I was young. And, we had so much more in common.

    When I got the call in 1998, I never had to look back with sorrow or regret. Our relationship was about as rewarding as it could have been and I am thankful for all of the time we spent together.

    Bret

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.