My dad was a jerk. Or so I thought at the time. He never listened to me. Seldom did he ever spend time with me. He was gone on trips all the time. He remarried a spiteful woman that was the very epitome of the wicked stepmother. When he was away on one of his many trips, she verbally and psychologically abused me with a twisted focus.
I remember finally confessing what had been going on. He told me that I was exaggerating and that I needed to try harder to get along with her. This fostered a burning anger and bitterness towards my dad that festered like an open wound. It hurt me. Deeply. How could my dad ignore what was being done to me?
One day, he had his boss over to the house and my stepmother instructed me to stay in my room. I was not to make a peep and remain hidden from view. I remember hearing voices outside as my dad walked his boss around our ranch, showing the man projects he was working on around the property. I peeked through the window to see her giggling at something witty the boss said.
I lost it. Something snapped inside of me. I had enough. I raced outside, ran straight up to them all, pointed an accusing finger at my stepmother, and told my dad that she was an evil witch. That she was abusive and treated my like I was the very filth of the earth. Of course, I used the language of an eight-year-old boy and not the language of a budding author. I think I even cussed for effect. I remember the absolutely stunned looks on all their faces.
I don’t regret that action not one little bit. But what I did next, I will endure torturing regret over until I take my last breath. I glared at my father, in front of his boss, and shouted that I hated him. Then I ran lest the man kill me.
My dad is no longer with us. He passed away last year. In the space of time from the moment that I told him I hated him, until the moment that he closed out his time on this earth, a healing of sorts took place. He divorced the vile woman he was married too. He apologized to me when I was in my twenties. I grew to respect the man and appreciate the accomplishments that he made. We made amends but were never really close. Still, there was at least a friendship there.
Now, many years later, I am a father myself. I look back at my own life and realize that I have made a few poor choices myself when it came to raising my children. I find myself wishing that I could have done more to form a bond with my father after that apology. He wasn’t all that bad, and he made an attempt to correct his mistakes with me. In the end, I truly think he came to admire me and even looked to me as a role model. I’d like to think that I influenced his life as he got older.
This Father’s Day, do yourself a favor. Take a deep look at the relationship you have with your dad. Ask yourself this: if the man died today, would I have any regrets? If there is a yes in there somewhere, then I encourage you to do something to fix it. Do whatever it takes. Pay any price. The man is your father. You only get one. Don’t choose a side or level blame. Just wipe the slate clean and fix it. Being a dad is hard. That’s not a justification for any misdeeds that may have happened. It’s just a statement of fact.
Secondly, as you go forward to raise your own children, take any of those past experiences and channel them into opportunities. You won’t be perfect either. But you can try to be the best you can. And our kids deserve the best we have to offer.
Our time here is fleeting. There are no do-overs. Make it count.