The One Who Walked Away: A Letter to My Absent Father

There are videos of me at a very young age, asking why “that man” was in our home.

That man is my father.

You see, when you grow up and someone is hardly around, its hard to remember that they hold any sort of significance in your life. I spent the beginning of my childhood with just my mom as I was an only child. Once my brother was born in 1994, I went from feeling scared and alone, to being empowered and knowing I had to protect him. This is my letter to my absent father for Father’s Day:

Dear…Dad?

I’m not sure how to address you anymore, as it’s been well over a year since I saw you last. Even before that, things were not great. This is not the first time I have written you a letter. In fact, the last letter gave my mom the voice she needed to go through with the divorce. It was easier to write down all of my thoughts because you were never around for me to argue with. 

In my younger years, you continuously had excuses as to why you were gone. I distinctly remember you walking out of my eighth-grade graduation dinner because you had a race that night. For whatever reason, driving a race car was more important than my childhood. That car took you all over the state of Iowa, sometimes resulting in you being gone for multiple weekends in a row. If it wasn’t the car, it was your job. You’d conveniently take a two week+ assignment, working on building homes. Anywhere but here.

The One Who Walked Away: My Experience With An Absent Father

The times you actually were home, I resented you even more as you sat in the basement, smoking one cigarette after another. Our entire home reeked of smoke and I would lay angrily in my bed each night as I was forced to inhale the smell until I fell asleep. That might have been the best part of you finally moving out. We were able to breathe fresh air in our own home for the first time.

I was eighteen years old when the divorce was final, and away at college. It was hard on mom raising two kids on her own but better than the alternative. I never understood the point of being married to someone who was never present. Missing games, school programs, being unable to even know what our simple likes and dislikes were.

Was there truly a point of keeping this person around?

After that, you’d pop in from time to time, usually around our birthdays and Christmas. There were years we’d hide when you came to the door as if you were a salesperson soliciting the neighborhood. Even as an adult, when you only see someone once or twice a year, it’s hard to gather the will to have a quick conversation.

I had my twins at twenty years old and you found out days later. The relationship with them was always strange because you’d sign cards “Love, Grandpa” but never put any effort into knowing them.

A situation that felt all too familiar. 

I’ve spent the majority of my thirty-one years wondering why I was never good enough for you. Why my father chose his hobbies over being my parent. I’ve had friends whose fathers passed away and mine walked out willingly.

I have three children now, but maybe you already know that. My youngest looks just like me and has brought so much joy into our lives. I will never allow you to take that away or hurt us any more than you already have.

I married a man who is the complete opposite of you.

My husband is working hard in his career but chose a shift that works best for our family. He’s home for dinner every evening and attends every activity he can for the kids. He is my partner and the best father to these three. I owe it to him and myself to let go of the resentment I’ve held towards you for all of these years. I could spend hours debating in my head how someone could ever choose a life without their kids and grandkids, but I’ll never find an answer that’s suitable.  

This Father’s Day, I will smile and celebrate my husband. This day is about the dads who stuck around, not the ones who walked away.

You will no longer affect the way I live my life or think of myself. I lived with guilt, depression, and a lack of self-worth for too long. Every day, I witness the way a father should treat his family, and the way a man should treat his wife. I’m learning how to fight fair and that he isn’t going to give up on us because something better comes along.

Happy Father’s Day to my wonderful husband, grandfather, and the fantastic men out there fighting the good fight and being the man their wives and children deserve.


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