Today is Father’s Day. It’s a day in which we are supposed to appreciate and celebrate fathers. But not everyone has a father, and not everyone has a father who loves them. For those of us who fall in the latter category, today is just another day to dread. There’s nothing sweet or kind about this day. It’s a hard day, a shameful day.
Scrolling through my Facebook feed today, I’ve seen loving posts thanking their dads for their love. Some reminisce about good memories they have of their fathers, some list off the ways they were supported, some just joke around because that’s who their father was.
I have very few good memories of my father. There was the time he followed an ice cream truck in his car to get me some ice cream. And that’s probably the only memory that isn’t tied into a lot of sadness, anger, or loneliness. Every time I try to drag a good memory from the recesses of my mind, try to brush the cobwebs off, I’m confronted by the spiders hiding in them.
I don’t think my father ever really wanted to be a father. He didn’t really seem to have any connection with my brother and I. Most of the time he was at work, and when he wasn’t, he was watching TV or falling asleep in front of it. There weren’t really trips or outings. He didn’t even really try to get to know us. And I lived with him for twenty years.
The issue is, it wasn’t just that my father was absent. He was around, he was always there. It was that he still wanted to be head of the household. With the bigger paycheck, he thought he was better than my mom. It was him who paid for the house, the cars, our every need and desire.
Except that’s not quite how it worked. My mother made less than my father, but she still worked full time. And whereas my father came home at the end of the day and disappeared into his basement, my mother would come home and cook, clean, and take care of us. I remember my mother as buzzing. She was always moving, always tidying. There were even times where she’d still try to sneak studying in whenever she returned to school. And she was the one who handled all the finances; she made sure the bills were paid on time, the Visa was paid off, and that we had enough clothes for school.
But we were supposed to obey my father. He was supposed to be the ruler, the breadwinner, the king of the castle. And he convinced my mother that she was the bad parent and that she was bankrupting us. I watched him blame her for every mistake my brother and I made. I watched him put her down every chance he could get. And he didn’t stop with just my mother.
My father made me into the person I am today: hard, insecure, and alone. I didn’t have a father that told me that I was beautiful or wonderful or smart. I was only as good as my accomplishments, and my accomplishments were only accomplishments if my cousins didn’t do it first. If I couldn’t be compared against my cousins, I wasn’t worth a thought.
And unlike some folks who have had their fathers turn around and apologize to them, my father has only hurt me more. I have had to cut my father out of my life completely. I had to block his number.
I told my father that I had an eating disorder on a visit one day. He had commented on my weight loss and how I looked much better. After I told him, he just shrugged and said, “Well at least that must be easier on your legs.” And I remember the way he blamed my mother’s weight for her excruciating joint pain — pain that she worked through, cleaned through, silently. I walked out of the house without saying goodbye.
The last time I talked to my father after that, I had asked my father for help with rent. It was the first time we had spoken in months. My mother was struggling with her own bills, but every spare cent she had went to help me. It had gotten to a point where I couldn’t ask her for more help, so I turned to my father. I explained that I had no money at all, that I was late on rent, that I didn’t even have money to eat. And this was after I had told him about the eating disorder. I had just started new meds, and I had to pay for my pain meds on top of that.
According to him, my mother and I, both disabled, are leeches on the system. I have been waking up with pain everyday for years now. But I went to school and then eventually started working full time. I worked for two years, up until the point where I found myself throwing up on a weekly basis from pain. I stopped eating. I spent all my days off in bed. I was calling in sick at least once a week because my head would hurt so badly that I couldn’t see.
After I stopped accepting his calls, he emailed me an e-transfer. Even though I wanted nothing to do with him, I reluctantly accepted it. I needed to pay my rent and I couldn’t be picky how I did it. I wouldn’t survive another month. And then a few days later, he starts to demand the money back.
After that, I found out he had been telling our entire family that he’d been footing the bill for my rent and that he was so broke after having to pay my mother spousal support. Except he had been doing neither. That was the first time I had asked him for help in nearly a year.
There were no moments in my life where my father was there for me. There were times he called me selfish, he called me a bitch, or times where he would tell me that if I kept talking back, I’d never find anyone to love me. There were times he mocked my facial hair, or when I started to gain weight. There were times he told me he couldn’t help me find work before helping my brother get a job. And then there was the time he asked me to work for free and then told me to never ask for help looking for work again when I refused.
So no, I don’t want to hear how great your dad is. I don’t want to hear that he grew a lot, how he came through when you really needed him. I don’t want to see photos of you smiling together. And I don’t want to see posts congratulating fathers just for being dads.
Not all dads love. Not all dads grow. Not all dads are good.
Fuck you Father’s Day.