Guest Post: Is It Too Late To Have A Dad?

A wonderfully honest guest post from Katy, who is estranged from her father, and wonders if there is any point in reconciliation.

The last time I saw my dad plays like home movie footage in my head. I was about 20. My hair was longer and brighter and everything about me was generally perkier. Well, physically at least. Mentally I was in the midst of unravelling, except I didn’t know it at the time.

My dad was in a pub around the corner from a wedding I was at and I was told he was there if I wanted to see him. It was the first time in about 2 years, but I thought fuck it, why not? What’s the worst that could happen? So I rocked up at the village pub and there he was sitting in the smoky tap-room with his Sunday drinking buddies. I didn’t have a scooby what I should say to him. He showed me off to his cronies. “This is my daughter, isn’t she beautiful?” Me: “yeah dad, I’m awesome, that’s why you never wanted to see me growing up.” Not out loud of course, wouldn’t want to make a scene.

I lasted about 10 minutes and then went back to the wedding and cadged a cigarette off my cousin with a, “Sorry mum, I have a tendency to smoke when I’m stressed or drunk and right now I’m the former and very shortly intend to be the latter.” In the circumstances she couldn’t disapprove. I was shaking. I was on the verge of my first panic attack in 5 or 6 years. She isn’t daft my mum, so she kept schtum as much as she probably wanted to snatch the fag out my hand and tell me off.

So, now I am 42 and while we were away on holiday in August I got a text from my dad. First one since 31 December 2013 when he was clearly at the bottom of a bottle of vodka. I saw his name on my phone and I was back there 20 years ago, heart racing, butterflies and utter panic. What did he want? Was he in my home town? Did he want to see me? Should I just press delete and not read it? I showed his name to the man and I think he could read all this crap flying through my head. “What does he want?” So I looked. Just his new mobile number. Clearly a sent to all contacts job. My heart calmed down a bit. The butterflies flew away.

But it left me thinking, as contact from him always does, should I try to see him? He will be 70 next year and is probably only alive thanks to the pickling and preserving qualities of alcohol. Do I want the next I hear of him to be an email from his sister in Canada telling me he died? That is a question I honestly cannot answer.

Before the wedding, the previous occasion I saw him was when he turned up at my mum’s house when I was 19. He was in the area as a witness for a court case he said, so he thought he’d come and see me. Thing was, before that I’d not seen him since I was 10. A lot had happened in the meantime, including the death of my brother; his son. So we sat in his car in the local pub car park, which is now a Tesco local. I told him exactly what I thought of him. It came out like a relentless monologue informing him exactly how many ways he had fucked up by doing what he did with the occasional question thrown in for good measure. “Why didn’t you get in touch when my brother died? Why did you not want to see me any more? I was 10 FFS, I didn’t know what I’d done wrong. I must’ve done something wrong because why would my dad not want to see me any more? Where were you when I was grieving for my sister and my cousin and my brother? How do you think it makes me feel when my gran, YOUR FUCKING MUM, asks me if I’ve heard from you, well I can tell you dad, it makes my heart-break just a little bit more.” But in the same monologue: “I’m glad you left because we didn’t have to worry we’d upset you any more and feel the wrath, get that look that only you could give that withered a child to the core. My mum would never have gone out and got a degree, a life, a job, if you’d have stayed around. She wouldn’t have met my stepdad who is twice the parent you could ever have hoped to be. She wouldn’t have bloomed into the woman she was meant to be. Teenage me and you would’ve killed each other. So I’m glad you didn’t want me any more. But I was 10 then. All I had then was why?”

He had nothing.

Rewind another 10 years to a 9-year-old me home from junior school for my lunch. I found a crying mum on the sofa by the patio door and a dad saying something unexpected and unwelcome. He sent me upstairs. I sat at the top and I listened. That’s what you do when you’re 9. I wish I hadn’t. I wish I hadn’t then spent the next few days pretending I believed my dad was away on a business trip. So a few days later we were told, my older brother and I, that he wasn’t coming back. He was with someone else. Even though I already knew, I cried and clung to my mum, across the knee of my brother, who frankly could not have given less of a fuck.

I saw him maybe 3 times after that. Then nothing. No explanation why. Just nothing. Years and years later my mum told me how she’d begged him to see me, even if he wouldn’t agree to have my brothers, because I was the only one who cared. Although I didn’t know why. Maybe it was the unanswered whys that made me care. Maybe it was the comments that my mood swings, my temper and my dirty look (of which I am still particularly proud) were replicas of him. Maybe it was just that he was my dad. He had been my dad for 9 years and now he just wasn’t.

Most of the time he doesn’t enter my head. It’s just occasionally something will trigger a memory: hearing “By The Rivers of Babylon” by Boney M or “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” by Rod Stewart, which remind me of the weekend mornings when it was my mum’s turn for a lie in and he would turn the music up too loud; if I see a picture of The Incredible Hulk I see him coming looming up from behind the sofa to scare me silly; Billy Connolly and Dave Allen; sheepskin coats; jellyfish washed up on a beach; slicked back hair in need of a cut.

The day of the wedding when I last saw my dad was emotionally charged before I knew that he was in the pub round the corner. When my cousin had invited me, my mum and my older brother to his wedding he must’ve known it wouldn’t be greeted like a normal invitation. He’s a bright bloke. Maybe he expected us to say no.

I remember approaching the venue feeling like I had several tiny, acrobatic monkeys in my stomach and a frantically pounding heart. This was the first time we’d faced this woman in about 10 years. See, the mother of the groom was the woman my dad left my mum for. My aunt. Their child, the half-sister I’d never met, was his bridesmaid.

So now when I receive one of his random and unexpected texts I consider whether I want to see him. Two things stop me. The potential that he’ll break my heart again. I’m not sure I could stand that. I’m not sure that would be fair on my mum, my brother, my relationship or my children. Then there’s the fact that he’s not my dad any more. He’s just a man that was in my life for a while.

There’s only one thing that makes me think I should.

He’s my dad.

What would you do?

48 comments on Guest Post: Is It Too Late To Have A Dad?

  • Bec

    Oh Katy! This is a tough one! I think it depends on what your expectations are. What do you want to gain from it and do you think that is achievable in actual reality? I think you may have made your mind up already from your last paragraph. Maybe you just need to accept that your gut feeling is the right way to go, and that your family around you are the ones to keep the closet and cherish. Such a tough call. Good luck in whatever you decide to do. X

  • @adadcalledspen

    This is such a tough one. I guess it’s one of those decisions where you know, in your gut, how you feel. Speaking from the perspective of someone who did get in touch with his dad after a long time, its amazing how people can still disappoint you, even though you felt a long time ago there’s no WAY they could disappoint you any more.
    I guess you have to protect yourself and those around you, and have to think if it’s any good for your emotional well being to have someone like that in your life.
    I suspect not.
    Great writing. Honest and ballsy. Well done for writing this, and thanks for sharing your story.
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  • Lisa - Leelee Loves

    This is a really difficult one, I can see many reasons why you shouldn’t contact him but then as somebody who lost their mum 5 year ago I’d also say you’ll never get this time back and you’ll never have the opportunity to see what might have been. I’d do anything in the world to have my mum back and although we never went through anything like you and your Dad I still have regrets over silly little things and it’s these regrets we cannot change. Xx
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  • Tessa

    What a situation to be in! That certainly can’t be easy, I’ve never been close with father as my parents divorced when I was a baby and he now lives halfway around the world from me so I can somewhat relate but I think in circumstances like this you should go with your gut feeling. I suppose there’s not much way of knowing if you will regret a decision either way until it’s done unfortunately. Best of luck x
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  • The L's Mum

    This is such difficult one, and I think only you can really make that decision. I’m all for not having any regrets and always ask myself, “Will i look back on this in years to come and think, I should have done it” I hope you decide what you are comfortable and happy with soon. 🙂
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  • Fi Ní Neachtáin

    This is such a difficult thing to decide and actually something I have struggled with myself throughout my 20’s. My dad was my best friend growing up and even though we lived in different countries I always loved seeing him. When I had my own child though I realised all the things he should have done for me and never bothered… I’m too forgiving to not speak to him though as, like your guest poster, I had to ask myself if I’d want to receive an email or phone call one day notifying me of his death and it being too late to make amends or say goodbye…

  • Kat

    I really feel for you. I’m sort of in the same boat. I did not know my dad. He left when I was about 1. I never gave two hoots about it until recently when I started my own family. I wondered if he ever thought of me and wondered if he had any grand children. My husband lost both his parents far too early in life. When I asked him if I should get in touch with my dad, he said he would give anything to talk to his mum one last time. So I did get in touch. A few phone calls (he lives in Germany), we even met up. Things have slowed down. Phone calls are fewer and we have recently moved and I have not given him a new number. I just feel like he hasn’t changed. He still hasn’t explained why he never got in touch before. I think I know why. He just doesn’t care enough, as much as he wants to, he just doesn’t. So I think I will leave it as it is. We have nothing in common and it wasn’t the reunion like “Long Lost Families”. Perhaps I’m just like him, perhaps I just don’t care that much either. I am his daughter! No idea what advice to give you. Ask yourself if you really want this stranger in your life, just because he is your flesh and blood? xx

  • Rachel

    I really don’t think any of us can tell you the answer, I think you have to go with your gut feeling hun. We can all sit here and judge and comment from behind our screens, but we will never truly be able to help x
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  • Helen | Wonderfully Average

    An incredibly moving and honest post. I’m so sorry to hear you’ve been through so much heartache. There is nothing in the world that could stop me from seeing my son, so your father’s actions are completely bewildering to me. Whether to see him again must be such a tough decision, I honestly don’t know what I would do in your position. I wish you all the best in whatever you decide and the courage in your convictions to know you have made the right decision for you. Hugs xx
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  • Sam

    Thank you so much for sharing this.

    I had a similar experience growing up and I blogged about it recently. I made the decision to walk away. It isn’t easy but it gave me the release I needed.

    http://www.sobadass.me/2015/08/17/to-the-father-who-left/

    Lots of love to you, I hope whatever decision you make, you make it from a safe and happy place that will bring you peace.

    Sam xxx

    • Anna

      Thanks for the link Sam, and on behalf of Katy thanks so much for reading and for taking the time to comment. Much appreciated.
      Anna
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  • Janette Davey

    This is a really hard one and I honestly don’t have an answer for you. There must be a lot of conflicting feelings inside you and it is no wonder that you don’t know what’s best to do considering the past. For me, I think it would come down to how I think I would feel if anything happened to my Dad. Would I regret not seeing him or do I not have those feelings any more? Hope that you can find peace with whichever way you decide to go.
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  • Heather

    I’m struggling with this question too so I hugely appreciate you posting this.

    I can only really say what not to do. No disrespect intended to other people making comments but the idea that you should be in touch with him incase you regret not doing so when he dies is unhelpful fallacy that is echoed by society and the Hallmark card company again and again and again so we keep buying into Fairy Tales and many people stay locked in a myriad abusive relationships that are soul destroying. I’m estranged from my Dad and lost my beloved Mum in her 50s. Good relationships and bad relationships are just that, interchangeability is incredibly rare and when it does happen it’s because the person who has dodged responsibility (emotional and/or practical) decides for themself to change and then actually changes, rather than just talking about it. In essence, this situation is not yours to fix. Devote your time to you, your loving family and friends and the things that make you happy and healthy. If your Dad ever gives you an indication that he has changed massively you’ll know what to do then. Other than that, let yourself off the hook of feeling this is on your shoulders. That’s what emotional manipulators do perfectly – they transfer blame, shame and guilt to people who don’t deserve it.

    Much love xx

    • Anna

      Heather, Thank you so much for reading, and on behalf of Katy may I say thank you for your very wise words.

      Anna

  • Janine

    I am honestly not sure what I would do. I don’t know my dad at all and I am 28 years of age. I don’t really intend to meet him either so I am in a complete different boat as you. I supposed it is whatever your heart thinks.
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  • Charlotte Braithwaite

    What a lovely guest posts.
    I really feel for Katy – It must be such a hard thing to have to go through aways in the back of your mind. The only thing you can do is weigh up the pros and cons and take it from there. Ultimately its down to your heart.
    I wish you all the best
    Charlotte x
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  • Zena's Suitcase

    Wow, I’m not sure what I’d do. I haven’t seen my Dad since I was 17 and there’s no way of him getting in touch. I think about him occasionally but he’s less than a Dad to me than yours has been to you. Mine could even be dead, and I wouldn’t know. My life wouldn’t change whether he was or not, as I’ve coped this long without him. I have no relationship with my mother either, and she would only bring chaos and hurt into my life if she was in it. Is your answer there somewhere maybe? You shouldn’t feel guilty, what ever decision you make because from what I’ve read, you owe him nothing at all. Good luck what ever you do
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  • Ana De- Jesus

    I cannot tell you how much this post moved me to tears and it was I completely identified with everything you had said. My mother left me when I was 2, my dad when I was 10 and I have not seen him in nearly 12 years. It seems incredible that the people who are meant to be our role models are the ones that betray us. I have no anger any more but sadness, upset that I have had to live life without the people that brought me into this world. When my mum left my dad loved me to the moon and back until he met my stepmum when I was six. She abused me until I was put into care at the age of 10 and my dad was too scared or weak to stand up to her manipulative ways. At first he saw me but slowly she poisoned him against me and contact was cut off. I have been through so much in my life and the only way I can talk to my dad is when he is at work, when he calls me under a different name. My dad missed out on me being bullied, couldn’t wipe away my tears as the people who were meant to be my friends betrayed me again and again. In a lifetime of sadness I remain strong but it stills hurts me how quick people are to dismiss me without knowing my story. I really hope that your dad does the right thing and shows you that he loves you because I don’t want you to feel how I feel everyday… unloved and unwanted.

    • Anna

      Oh Ana, On behalf of Katy I just want to say thank you so much for reading and for your comment.
      I am so sorry to hear about your own sad situation. Sending you love and big hugs from all of us,
      Anna
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  • Sandra Harty

    Oh god this is a difficult decision, I think you need to go with your gut instinct on this. If you do see him Katy I would say try not to have any expectations because you may just end disappointed and hurt all over again, I maybe would see as opportunity to put a bit of closure to huge ordeal. I hope you can get over this hurt Katy
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  • LadyNicci

    Absolutely fantastic and emotive post. Captures the emotions and feelings so well. Really great writing! And very representative of a lot of people I think, who become estranged from parents and then don’t know how to get through the emotions that it all brings. It seems that children really are the ones who suffer x
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  • Lindsay @ Newcastle Family Life

    What a difficult decision, I honestly don’t know what I would do in that situation. My own daughter sadly has a similar relationship with her dad he was in her life until we broke up when she was four then he carried on seeing her for a few years and now has not seen her since she was six, she is now 13 and wants nothing to do with him or his family which is her choice as she says why should she bother with him when he has not bothered with her xx
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  • Gemma

    Thank you for sharing i hope in some small way that it was a cleansing of sorts for you. Family issues will always baffle Me my hubby doesn’t speak to his family he had to make the choice for his own sanity to cut them out and I know he thinks of them often. At the start of the year his mam got cancer but wasn’t told till well into it and was tolkd by text, so harsh. He battled wit what to do and decided not to see her as to him it would make him sick and his priority now is Me and the kids. It’s a horrible feeling i hope you get peace wit things x

  • Crissietoff

    Brave you for writing this. In my humble opinion you are obviously wondering so the only way to stop the wondering is to do something about it. If you think you are doing this just to get it out of the way, that you will be disappointed and he won’t be any different and you will still think the way you do – then you have nothing to lose. Don’t build your hopes up because in your heart you know he will disappoint you, but do it… and if he is still the unfeeling drunk he was before – just tell him to fuck off again!!

  • @adadcalledspen

    Just dipping in again to say, on behalf of the writer of this piece, thank you all so much for reading and for your comments and for sharing your experiences. I think we all appreciate that this is a very personal decision, but all of your experiences and comments show that we all support the writer in whatever decision they make and wish them the very best.

  • hayley

    That is a really tough situation. I think its impossible for an outsider to say what they’d do. I have no experience at all of a situation like this, it would be easy for me to say that I can’t imagine never giving my Dad another chance because he isn’t the same person that yours is and we don’t have the same experiences of Fathers – in your situation I’m honestly not sure what I would do. Only you know how you really feel about it deep down and how you might feel in 10 years time with whichever path you choose. I hope you make a decision and find peace with it, whichever decision it is.

  • Kate ✚

    Oh gosh, such a difficult situation. And so difficult to advise what I would do. My opinion is totally swayed as I lost my dad a few years ago and would give anything to have time with him again. But my situation is entirely different to yours. Whatever you do decide, I wish you all the very best with it 🙂

  • Janet T

    Bravely written. I’m impressed with your gentle analysis of such a painful thing. It seems to me that you were created with a Dad-shaped space in your heart, you know what a Dad should be. But you can choose how that space is filled, you are allowed to buck convention if you need to. Best wishes x
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  • Tracy

    I don’t understand what it is to have a father like this. Mine’s been dead for twenty years but while he was here he gave me his very best and I felt loved. I am so sorry that you don’t have that. Every child deserves to be loved. Anybody can father a child but it takes so much more to be a dad and sadly some men are just not up to it. This is something that can’t be answered for you, Katy. It’s your life and it’s you who has to live with your choices and they are your choices to make. No matter how badly you’ve been treated, it’s up to you where you go with that. If it was me, I would try to see him as the person, rather than your father. I had a problem with my mother many years ago but my perspective changed once I saw her as a person in her own right. Once I stopped looking at things as her child, I was able to come to terms with things. What’s in your heart? Do you want this man in your life? If so, are you willing to accept that he may never be able to live up to your expectations of what a father should be? Only you can decide that. It’s your life too. All the very best, whatever you decide and don’t let your past ruin your future. X

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