I'd like to wish my father a happy birthday. I'd like to, but I won't. You see, my dad and I don't talk anymore. No, he's not dead. No, we didn't have a huge dramatic fight, where we angrily shouted phrases such as "you're dead to me" or "I have no son". It's rather difficult to pin down exactly why we don't talk anymore.
Well, that's not really true. I know why I don't talk to him. My reasons are clear to me. I just don't know why he doesn't talk to me. To explain: he never initiates contact with me. My parents divorced when I was 8, and after about 3 months of him coming to get me on weekends, he just stopped showing up. At first there were excuses - he was busy, or he had to go away, etc. Then he just stopped coming, and didn't bother phoning with an excuse.
He quite often left me sitting out on the front porch, suitcases packed and waiting. I was a patient kid, and I would sit there for hours, reading a book, waiting for my daddy. Eventually, my mother would try to get me to come inside. She'd tell me that he probably wasn't coming. She'd suggest that I could watch television while I waited. But I refused. You see, I wanted every last drop of my time with my father that I could get. Even when I could see his car driving up the street. If I was inside, I wouldn't see the car, and I would miss that moment.
So, I sat and waited. And waited. Sometimes for more than 4 hours. No car, no dad. No weekend visit. He went away.
When I turned 11, I found out that my father had sold me. My mother was getting remarried, and wanted to change my last name to that of her new husband. She contacted my father, and asked him to allow her to change my last name. Even though he hadn't seen me in 3 years, he refused.
So my mom offered him a deal: in exchange for allowing her to change my last name, he would no longer have to pay child support. He agreed.
He sold me.
When I turned 13, I decided to find my father. I grabbed a phone book, and looked up his name. There it was. His name, and his address, and his phone number. I was afraid. Fuck afraid, I was terrified. But I went to see him anyway.
I spent the next 22 years of my life trying to have a relationship with my father. I always went to visit him. In that entire time, he came to visit me exactly one time. I had just rented my first apartment, and I invited him over for dinner. He refused. His wife insisted he come over. He came over, and spent 20 minutes in my new place. He never even sat down. Then he left.
In my entire life, he has called me on the telephone me exactly twice. Two fucking times. The first time was when I was 16. It seems his daughter from his second marriage needed to borrow my button collection (yes, I collected buttons. The pin-on kind, not the kind that you use to fasten your shirt). I told him he could borrow it, and asked him when he wanted to pick it up. He told me I had to drive the collection over on my bike. I told him that the buttons were pinned to a large piece of canvas (about 5 feet long by 2.5 feet wide), and would be very hard to transport on a bicycle. He didn't care. So I rode the collection over on my bicycle.
The second phone call came when I was in my mid-twenties. He wanted to know if I knew where the remote control for his television was. I didn't. He said goodbye and hung up.
For me, the final straw came when I was in my mid-thirties. You see, I used to try and do the things he liked with him, in order to spend time with him. I didn't drink, but went to bars with him. I don't like golf, but I went golfing with him. I was used to being the one who initiated contact, who went out of his way to make sure he spent time with his dad.
One of the few things we both enjoyed doing was fishing. We used to go fishing fairly often. We'd head out for a weekend, or even a full week. I treasured these times. These were father/son times. No wife, no daughters. Just me and my fucking dad. They were the most precious times to me that I could imagine, because while we were away I could pretend he liked me.
Around my late twenties, my dad decided he would no longer go fishing. I asked him to go, but he refused. I begged him to go, and he refused. I demanded he go, he refused. That was it. No explanation. He just wouldn't go.
After about 5 years or so, I had stopped asking him. What was the point, I know the answer would have been no. So one weekend, I came over to visit. When I got there, Jude (his wife) informed me that he had gone fishing with my grandfather.
After decades of being abandoned and ignored, of being forgotten and made to feel unimportant, this was a new, sharp, piercing agony. I don't really have the words to explain how I felt. I knew my father didn't want me around. It hit me suddenly, a rush, a gut-punch. My father did not like me. He did not love me. He did not want me.
So, I sat down with him and tried to explain how I felt. Whenever I did this, both he and Jude would end up making me feel like things were my fault. I'm not really sure how they did that. But they were good at it.
I ended up telling him that I was leaving, and that I would not be contacting him again. I made sure he had my phone number. I told him that, if he really wanted to see me, to talk to me, all he had to do was phone me.
That was six years ago. He hasn't called.
Happy birthday, dad.