I disagree. I have keenly mourned the absence of a father figure in my life. After all, I grew up with a mentally ill mother. Parental pickings were slim - bruised, battered, not even vaguely appealing. I would have done anything to have a father who wanted to participate in my life. I would have forgiven most every character flaw in him. It just hasn't worked out.
The other morning I watched as one of the second graders in my classroom walked up to the front entrance to school. She was holding her father's hand and swinging it back and forth, the motion jaunty and relaxed. The pair stopped, there on the sidewalk, and the man stooped low to give his daughter a bear hug. She laughed. He grinned. They parted.
And I felt both genuinely happy for this child, who knows the love of a good father, and also gutted by longing. A forty-five-old woman envious of a seven-year-old. How did it come to this?
Like so: Yesterday my father sent me an email to thank me for a Christmas present I'd given him in 2012. I usually buy him books, because his is a life of the mind. I do not choose these books lightly. I have to have read and liked them, and I also require that they be award-winners of some kind. My father would never read a book on my word alone. He requires validation by authorities, experts, people who are not-me, not-daughter.
I nearly copied the email into this post, but I stopped myself. Suffice it to say that he found the trilogy (the genre: historical fiction) disappointing. This was not, he wrote, the writer's best, and he didn't think he'd be passing on the set to anyone he knew. He was surprised that I'd enjoyed it. He went on at great length, dissecting the books and their shortcomings in a professorial tone, one mastered over years of teaching at the university level.
Par for the course, that email.
I want to know what father, besides mine, writes his daughter to detail the many ways her Christmas present missed the mark? What father mails his daughter back an annual fund solicitation letter she wrote in support of her child's preschool with his unsolicited corrections marked in red pen on nearly every line (and no offer of financial support for the institution)? A letter most others found to be eloquent?
So yesterday I did something novel. I refused to engage. I deleted my father's email without responding to it, an action damn near unfathomable for a good girl like me.
Maybe I haven't seen my father since my mother died because with her went him, the two people who made me, even if they were separated, then divorced, only months after my birth. Maybe I'll never see him again. Who knows? Observing my student with her father revealed two truths to me: one, that I still ache for a father, that a person can be an adult and still ache for a father.
And two, that my father is not now and will never be the father for whom I ache.