I'd like to begin this first chapter with June's story. In many ways her story mirrors the cry of countless daughters just like you, who struggle with the effects of a dad who wasn't there for them. Year after year they cry: Daddy, where are you? Who are you?
My son was born five years ago. He's a healthy, energetic child. At least he appeared to be healthy at birth. But a few days later we discovered he had a defect. It wasn't visible. No one could see it. But it was there, and it was serious. He had a hole in his heart. He was born that way. Within a week after we discovered it, the doctors opened his chest and repaired that hole in his little heart. He was able to go on with his life in a normal manner. He's not even aware that he had a hole in his heart.
I wish I could say the same. My son and I are alike. We've both had holes in our heart. He was born that way and it was repaired. I wasn't born with one, but over my childhood years the hole was created and it grew larger as I grew. It hasn't been repaired, even though I've tried. It's a different shape than my son's. The hole in my heart is in the shape of my father. Physical surgery won't repair the hole. It will take something like emotional surgery or healing for it to slowly close. I'm not sure how to go about the process. I'm confused. Is it dependent upon my father reaching into my life and somehow undoing what he did or doing what he failed to do years ago? I just want a whole heart. It's too bad there are no heart transplants for this kind of disorder.
There are many daughters walking around with a hole in their heart in the shape of their father. They are missing something from their father that should have been given. Or he responded to them in ways that were way beyond what any daughter should have to endure. Or he simply vanished one day from their lives and hasn't reappeared. Any of these experiences can create a hole that seemingly cannot be filled by anything else. If you think you are alone, that your pain is unique to you and your family, I hope that this book will show you that this is not true. Listen in as other adult daughters share how their dads influenced them--sometimes positively and sometimes negatively--far beyond their childhood years.
My relationship with my father was incomplete, guarded, confusing, and sad. He was an intelligent, funny, deep, and personally likable man when sober, and an explosive, unpredictable, abusive, angry, pathetic, destructive shell of a man when drinking, which increased as time went on.
My father and I have always had a good relationship. He has always held high standards, but they were never unreasonable. I hold those same standards today--expectations that people should always try their best, be polite, behave themselves, and make something of themselves, but also not to allow ambition to get in the way of happiness. I can talk to my father about anything and feel very comfortable asking his advice on things relating to finances, politics, and life in general. We have grown closer as I have gotten older because we share the same love of history and good conversation about important things, plus we both have grown spiritually over the past five to ten years. I have never felt anything but good about our relationship in general, though of course there were times when we may not have seen eye to eye, as there are in any father/daughter relationship.
My father was not available for me emotionally. I do not recall ever discussing struggles or problems with him or seeking his counsel. I recall asking his advice about a boyfriend once when I was in college. I had consciously decided to offer him the opportunity to give me advice because I had been thinking that maybe he hadn't given any counsel because I had never asked. I remember his responding that he really couldn't answer the question, and that I would need to decide, because it was my life. (It was apparent that he was not comfortable with giving me advice.) He was not available to help with homework or provide advice on anything like choosing classes, extra-curricular activity options, career possibilities, my interests or life goals, moral decisions, college options, car repairs, home purchases. Although I performed well in school (A & B honor rolls) and was/am extremely responsible, I do not recall my dad offering praise or acknowledgment other than on very rare occasions, and only as a result of my mom's prompting. (On a positive note, I know that as an adult, he is proud of me and I do know that he loves me. I observe that he asks questions about things in my life and is trying to get to know me. I am touched by these things.)
My biological father was in my life from birth till I was approximately six and a half years old. I came five years after the loss of a two-year-old daughter. My dad spoiled me, carried me in his arms or on his shoulders. He was kind, loving, indulgent, and oh so strong. At six-and-a-half my dad had a breakdown, and I didn't see him again until I was fourteen. By then I didn't know him and was afraid.
The gap between my father and me is actually growing as we get older. I'm beginning to see how disrespectful and hurtful he can be and has been in the past toward my mom. I'm having a hard time reconciling the daddy I loved as a child and the man that I recognize him to be today. I'm embarrassed by some of the things he does, but I still want to defend him to the grave. It's painful.