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.