My Father is Alive, But is Dead to Me

My dad’s not dead yet, but he will be. His health is deteriorating. He has over twenty-five years on me and I’m thirty-eight years old.

While there are some good childhood memories (like trips to the park, getting ice cream, and talking me through a heartbreak at thirteen), there are also some darker memories (the abusiveness, the ridicule, and the times he’d discourage me).

Through all the bruises, I have always tried to reach out to him. I was a Christian at the time, and I had always felt it was my place to forgive and try to forget.

But it’s not that easy.

As I age, I can see now that our failed reconciling was not my fault. My dad was never was able to make and keep many friends—his only friends are my step-mom’s family (of which many have died by now)—and he was barely able to reconcile with his own siblings after many years.

Though I’m no longer religious, so I feel I have no particular moral obligations, but the situation still saddens me. I have tried and tired before to re-develop a relationship, but I can’t try again.

I attempt to keep my emotions at bay when I hypothesize what I would do if he had called to make amends—or if I got the call that he had died. I have additionally role-played various situations in my head. I’ve resolved that I’m at peace with the situation. The animosity is mostly gone, and I have pretty much healed from his abuse or neglect.

I feel I can honestly say I’ve moved on, and shouldn’t invest myself into what would only cause more pain, anger and resentment. In a metaphorical sense, he’s been gone a long time, and I’ve learned for half of my life to go on without him, or anything else in my life that holds me back, or is suppressive.

Though he is still alive, there is no need to dwell on the past. I have since married, and I have several supportive friends, fun talents and hobbies, and have built a few small businesses.

While my wife and I are currently child-free, we’re approaching a decade of marriage. Watching my dad’s good treatment toward his wives (my mother and step-mom) contrasted with how he treated his children, and I can admire him for that. I try to treat my own wife with respect, compassion, openness and sacrifice. And if we ever happen to have kids—which I doubt we will—I foreshadow that I’ll treat them in kind.

You don’t always have to be just like your folks, unless you want to be. In many cases, you want to be good like your parents, but sometimes you want to be better than they were.

I have a better life now, and I am grateful for that. I feel that when life gives you crumbled cookies, just sprinkle those crumbs on some ice cream, because even though my dad is leaving darkness and bad taste, there was always the ice cream.

– Originally published at


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