The anxiety starts months earlier. Expectations whittle away at my denial until I can no longer ignore their penetrating slashes. Piercing echoes rebound in my head; the day is coming. The day is coming.
The cards lined up on the shelves in the store all ridicule me. “Which one of us will you pick this year?” they whisper tauntingly. I cringe at the thought of perusing the sentiments inside each small missive. What could I expect? These cards are for happy occasions. Love and gratefulness. To good fathers from thankful children. Who would make a card for me?
I could forget to send a card. I think about that rebellious act every year, but the guilt gnaws at me until I give in and pick the least sentimental, least personal card I can find, anxious to get the task over and behind me.
It could be worse; the anxiety could turn into a full-blown panic attack if I consider making a phone call instead. I’ve thought about it each time. But, what would I say? What wouldn’t I say? The deafening silence. The unspoken accusations. I didn’t have the strength. A phone call I didn't want to make. Memories I don’t want to remember. A father I don’t want to call my own.
A past I long to forget haunts me day and night. Why must I hide my pain? Why must I continue to act like all is well?
A child’s world no longer carefree. Where did that little girl go? Has she found peace? No, she’s still here, hiding deep inside. Yearning for safe shelter. Where is my guardian, my strength, and my protection? Am I strong enough? Not nearly enough, but my power comes from within. I will protect that little girl. She has nothing to fear with me by her side. I’ll hold her tight in the darkness so she no longer has anything to dread.
Who was that man who insisted I call him daddy? That man who entered my life while I was too young to choose. Who was that man who made me afraid? Long nights awake in the dark too afraid to close my eyes, too afraid to give in to sleep. Too afraid to wake up while the sun was still on the other side of the world. Daylight was my closest friend. Was my daddy like other daddies? Were all little girls afraid of the dark?
Shattered dreams and broken hearts, those were the crumpled, discarded toys of my childhood. No happy memories of father/daughter moments; no ice cream, fishing, or special days. Only darkness, fear, and shame. Responsibilities too heavy for a child to bear hung around my neck like an anchor holding me in place.
I applaud that young, scared girl, who grew into the strong brave me. Who still fears the darkness and who still lives with the shame. Yet, survived.
That man who is called “Father”, whose heart continued to beat within his chest; he lived on. Each year he grew weaker, yet he lived on.
I survived as well. Each year I grew stronger, knowing the end would come some day. A heart would no longer beat. When there would no longer be anymore Father’s Days.
And, now it is over. You are gone. And I am free. Am I bitter? No. Have I forgiven you? Yes.
However, I am ever so thankful, that there are no more dreaded Father’s Days for me.