I've touched on this before in my blog, but my feeling around my dad are rather complicated, because he was a great and terrible presence in my life.
My dad was a narcissistic, antisocial monster, who emotionally abused and abandoned me, and who did some astoundingly terrible things to my family, including emotional blackmail, embezzlement, fraud, and manipulation. He destroyed my grandparent's family business, stole money through fraud from my ailing grandmother, cheated on my mom multiply over the course of more than 20 years, and faked having leukemia to coerce the family into giving him pity, money, and resources.
He was also a genius. And, he did many great things for me in my life. I had a stellar education, travelled the world, and materially, wanted for very little for most of my childhood.
When I was in my early 20's, much of his machinations began to come to light. I went from yearning for his approval and attention up through high school, being confused about what was even real about him during my college years, to an outright seething hatred and resentment for him as an adult.
I flew overseas to deal with his ill health when I was in my late 20's, and discovered through a series of misadventures that he had faked having leukemia. He was deported back to the states not long after, and spent the next 15 years in a state of decline. He was on the edge of homelessness, saved from it only by the good graces of my aunt. and some effort on my part too.
Despite his change in circumstance, he still continued to play games, manipulate and toy with everyone around him. He remarried multiple times, conned many people, and got to me in all sorts of ugly little ways for a while yet.
I used to be fairly saturated in anger for him. Eventually I did make my peace with who and what he was. The last time I saw him alive was back in February 2006.
He died three years later. I went to the funeral, spoke at it.
Since then, I actually have to struggle to remember when his birthday was, what year he died.
As I'm sure you can imagine, all this makes father's day problematic for me. But that's not the end of the story.
During my first marriage, I was a father myself. I was the step-father to my ex's son from her previous marriage. He was a good kid, and we connected easily and well. I taught him a lot of things, and we were a huge part of one another's lives. When his mom and I split, we kept in contact, and nurtured our relationship. I took him out for his first beer. We went on a trip to New York together to see The Blue Man Group. We were in each other's lives.
He married into a very religious, very conservative family, and things began to get a little weird. He would post these very cringe-inducing things on Facebook about Caitlyn Jenner, and about homosexuality.
It became a problem between us. We negotiated a careful detente, and then broke the heck out of it. Two years ago we had a throw down over Facebook over something, and that became it. We were done. I texted him a message on his birthday, months later, and got a very terse reply, "Thank you."
I have a general sort of weirdness around holidays to begin with, that I work hard to overcome.
So, here's the funny thing.
This past weekend, over father's day weekend, Missy and I went to visit my girlfriend, Alissa in Chicago. Her kids got to spend part of it with us, and then the rest of it with their dad. I had good connecting time with the kids, who love me, and whom I love very much. And mostly, the fact that it was father's day came and went without it meaning much of anything to me.
Later still, as we were traveling home, and I read Facebook, I saw this great outpouring of sentiment, good and bad for the day, including people looking to express all sorts of painful feelings about the day there.
And I made the conscious choice not to add to that.
Why? Because it doesn't serve me. A huge part of my practice is recognizing that I am not my thoughts. Also, that pain and suffering are a part of life, and that they're transient, like all experiences.
There's this thing I'm always going back to, time and again, a quote of the Dalai Lama's.
The thing about that quote is, it's not perfect. I think there are other words than "fault" that fit there better. One in particular, that I learned from The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck really jumps out at me: responsibility. It may not be my fault my dad was so awful, or that my stepson and I don't have a relationship anymore. But it is up to me, it is my responsibility to decide what I'm going to do about it.
And what I've picked to do, what I consciously do about it each day is this: nothing.
My dad was who he was. My stepson is who he is. And I am who I am. That's not to say that who I am doesn't change. I'm in a near constant state of change. I have no idea whatsoever if my stepson and I will ever be on good terms again, and that's okay.
It's not that it's not sad, nor painful. It absolutely is. I'm very glad that I got to raise him for as long as I did, and that he mostly came out the other side of that okay. Who he is now as an adult, that's not my responsibility. That's up to him.
In the meantime, I have other things going on in my life, other connections which are vibrant, valuable, and which tap that call to nurture and be nurtured that's inside me.
I want to say, too that I don't begrudge anyone for wanting the validation of others, and posting how they feel about the day, their dad, or being a dad. I'm not better than them, nor worse than them. I just embrace my responsibility for my feelings in a way that works for me, and that's very different.
I hold no universal truth about this stuff. But I do know myself a whole lot better than I have before. I'm grateful for that.