An Open Letter To The Daughters Whose Dads Left

Open Letter To Daughters Whose Dads Left
Family, Heartbreak

I don't know how fathers with daughters survive without them in their world.

Your dad left. That's the gist of it.

I'm a daddy now to three kids — two boys and a girl — so there's a loose connection to our unified cosmos. And my daddy left me when I was a little boy, so there's that as well. Who knows, maybe we're connected in ways neither one of us can ever really understand.

One thing's for sure, though: I don't want to be all Weepy McWeeperson telling you my heart breaks for you and that your father doesn't know what he walked out on when he walked out on you. Blah blah blah. That's greeting card stuff and I'm no good at that. You probably don't need to hear that stuff from me anyway.

You're doing alright. Hell, you're doing better than alright. You're superb. The hole your daddy left when he went away has been mortared up again and again by you and by the people who love you so much that they'd rather wrestle hungry mountain lions than ever spend a moment apart from you when they don't have to.

I get all that. 

I have a Violet. She'll be seven in a few weeks. Her mom and I got divorced a year ago and it's caused me a lot of grief. As a dad and as a man and as a lump of living breathing clay with a heart that beats blood all up into my head on the nights when Violet and her two little brothers go and stay at their mom's house.

She's so strong about it all too, Violet is. She moves back and forth between these two homes with such power and grace. I don't think she has any clue of her beautiful fortitude, which honestly makes it even more special in my eyes.

Violet just kind of got it a while back. She just rolled with the notion that this is what her little life was going to be from now on, and she's been OK. She has love from her mom and I. She has us both, even when she doesn't. And we have her even when we don't. (Does that make sense?)

Still, that thought alone shatters my heart a thousand times a day. V is my first kid and when she landed in my life- on the high side of my thirties, while I was still trying to find my way in this world- well, it was the most important and wonderful thing that's ever happened to me.

And I never dreamed, never in a trillion years, that I would ever enter into a reality where she and I wouldn't be sleeping under the same roof damn near every night of her life — at least not until she was old enough to not want to do that anymore. But that's what happened.

Now, on the nights when she's not here, I cry like death. I do.

It's weird. I hate it. I need to move past it, but I miss her. I miss everything about her. I miss it when I can't walk into the other room and watch her watching her brothers.

I miss the way she spills her damn dinner all over my floor because she keeps turning around to check out the TV behind her. I miss her voice, even if she's only been out of my earshot for an hour or two. I miss the way she says, "Daddy?" when she wants to ask me something, when she wants to ask me if I can show her pictures of frozen caveman bones on Google or if I had the gall to cut her lemonade with a little water (how does she always know?!).

Am I overreacting? Possibly.

Some people think that every man is always supposed to be big and strong and tough, that they should never cry. Whatever. I don't buy that crap. I like me as a dad. 

Back when Violet was still months from being born, I remember I kept staring at her mom, Monica, out of the corner of my eyeball. I kept falling so hard in love with both of them over and over again. Violet's mom had come from a broken home, too; just like me, her dad had been out of her life more than he ever was in it.

It might sound odd but I really loved Monica so hard during our years together and right from the moment I first met her and listened to her tell me her tale, a lot of it had to do with the fact that we'd both come from the same kind of busted homes. Our hearts, our trust, our sense of direction, they'd all been banged up by our missing dads.

Love is so strange. There were a lot of things that made us dig each other, of course, but the dad thing? That was a big one. 

I don't think we ever got over our dads, either. It's a tough one to move through. Dads should be around, right? They shouldn't leave. Even if they have to leave they shouldn't. They should swim across the endless night ocean to get back to their little girl. Or their son.

If you were some runaway dad, it'd be better to drown fifty feet off the beach you just left, at least trying to get back to her than to live a thousand years in the place you ran off to once upon a time.

Sometimes I try and imagine what it would be like to be in prison. How would I be apart from my daughter, from my kids, and be able to survive? I honestly don't think I could do it; I think the beams of sun streaking through the bars would torture me.

I'd imagine playing with her in the park. I'd imagine her eating cotton candy at the fair, getting it all stuck to her hair and never even caring. She'd just plow through it, so delighted. I'd probably pound my head against the hard cell wall after a while. I'd probably end up dying just trying to get back to where a dad belongs.

I don't know how fathers with daughters survive without those girls, without those women in their world. My guess is they barely do. My guess is they live their life with some kind of sinister ghost following them everywhere. Down at the supermarket, over at their job, when they sit down on the couch in the evening: my guess is there's a very dark feeling deep inside of them that never lets them know much peace. 

For what it's worth, I'm the opposite of my dad. I have missed that motherf*cking man across all the years in ways I cannot even begin to explain with words. But the kicker? I'm pretty much the opposite of him now. That's the greatest gift he could've ever given me.

You're probably the opposite of your dad, too. And that makes me smile like hell. We're the same. We may never meet again, but we're the same forever.


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