Father's Day is Sunday, and while seeing as how I have completely procrastinated and not planned anything so far for my dad, I am completely filled with anxiety over what to get him, where to take him and what to do.
Bigger than the stress of gift giving and entertaining my father for an entire day, I am more perplexed over something bigger....an issue that stems from the complicated relationship my father and I have had since I was little.....
What do I say to him?
Things between me and my dad have never been....easy. We've always had a complicated relationship to say the least. He's bipolar, as most of you know, and he didn't receive treatment, medication or counseling of any kind until I was 12. By that time, he'd been a father for 22 years to my brother and sisters. He'd made a lot of mistakes, both with my siblings and with me. He was angry most of the time, irresponsible and self centered pretty much all the time, and from the time I was 9 years old I felt more like his parent than his child. He could be vicious when he was mad (which was often) and emotional abuse became a near constant in our house.
Over the years, things were up and down. He got better for about a year when I was 12, and got sick again when I was 13. This is the year he moved me and him into the shop at his junkyard, where we lived for 9 months with no shower, no heat, no oven or stove until my sister came home from college and moved me into her apartment with her. There are, needless to say, a lot of things I still struggle to forgive my father for. I am not bitter, or angry, but despite his best efforts (and believe it or not, he did try his best) he left me with some serious issues that still come back to bite me after all this time.
And still, we fight like cats and dogs. He stresses me out when he's around for more than a few hours. I know that sounds heartless, but I have been taking care of him since I was 11, and as much as he's grown and changed, he is still very hard to deal with. He's mentally ill and that will never change. We don't get along the best, and we don't see eye to eye, and we can't spend much time together without fighting, and the list goes on and on. But still. It's Father's Day. But still. He's some of the only family I have left that I can trust even a little bit. I should say something.
So, on this Father's Day, the 23rd Father's Day we've spent together, I want to say this to my dad:
Thank you Daddy, for never giving up on me. When my mother didn't want me, you always did. When you were too sick to get out of bed, you still never sent me away. When I got pregnant at 15, you told me we were in this together.
Thank you Daddy, for always trying your best. Even when you were so sick you couldn't think, even when we had nothing, even when you wanted so badly to give up and cash it all in, you didn't. You knew I needed you, and you tried your best to be there.
Thank you Daddy, for teaching me everything you knew. I can change a tire, I can jump a battery, I can check my oil and my brake fluid and my tire pressure and my tranny fluid too. I can stretch a canvas and gesso it smooth. I can do a lot of things, because you taught me how.
Thank you Daddy for giving me words. I would've never wrote a poem, or a song, or a story if you hadn't put a pen in my hand and showed me the power of words on a page. Without the gift of writing, there is a lot in my past that I honestly don't think I would have survived.
Thank you Daddy for making me strong. Maybe you fucked up a lot, and maybe you did everything "wrong" but you made me one tough mother fucker and I appreciate that more than you know.
Thank you Daddy for showing me that people can change. For making me more accepting, more open hearted and understanding. For showing me that the mentally ill aren't incapable or untrustworthy, and that they need love just as much as anyone else. You showed me how to love from the very bottom of my heart, Without question, and without holding back. I couldn't do the job I do if you hadn't given me that gift.
I love you daddy, and even though I might have told you otherwise during all those temper tantrums I threw growing up, I really wouldn't trade you for any other father in the world.
Happy Father's Day, Daddy.