Last Conversation with My Dad

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Last year in the last week of may was the last time I heard my father’s voice. I was in Paris with girlfriends and then had ny husband join me for a couple of days to celebrate our anniversary. It was the first time we left kids for that long to do this.  Granted, they were with their grandma.

My dad was in Paris to pick up his youngest son and bring him home to Zagreb. He planned to watch French Open so the only way he thought we could see each other was for me to come to the gates and message him from there to come meet me.  None the less, he was in Paris an entire week.

It took everything for me to say no to his proposal to meet him by the gates and not because I didn’t want to make an effort to see him but because for as long as I could remember, I was the only one making an effort. I thought this changed when he broke the streak of broken promises 2 years before this by coming for a weekend to meet my older son and spend some time with me.  I appreciated that very much, but the reality is, this was a rare moment and one of  few I can count in the past 30 years.

I decided to do what works not what I wanted.  French Open was in a completely different part of the town and had I gone there, I would’ve missed a chance to see Paris and I felt that I worked really hard to earn that trip. I was so mad because I really wanted to see him and introduce him to my husband.  And yet, I didn’t feel like it was ok to invest so much money, time and effort in celebrating my anniversary to set it all aside and adjust my schedule to my dad’s. I was mad that he didn’t want to find another way. He was mad that I didn’t accept his proposal and that I was mad and that was it. 

He never spoke to me again. I reached out a few times and then stopped. Some time in November I began to feel regret that we weren’t talking.  Then I realized, it wasn’t up to me.  I didn’t mind reaching out, but I think everyone eventually gets tired of trying.  I knew that in every possible way, I tried to be better, more understanding and forgiving.  I didn’t see any effort on my dad’s part.  On contrary, he always gave himself an out by saying: “I am the way I am” and by asking me to “let it go.”

I cried my eyes out over this that night.  If I wasn’t happily married, I would’ve felt completely unlovable.  In fact, from time to time my husband reminds me that he will not abandon me because that experience, even though from childhood, still felt ingrained in my mind.  I even did a family constellation session.  I thought, why not give it a shot to try to repair this relationship on a soul level.  My friend, and facilitator told me: your father is there for you on a soul level, but his body doesn’t know how to be.

On New Year’s day he sent me a message with greetings. I responded with a picture of my family. He wrote back that it was beautiful to see us. On my birthday, a few days later, he had a stroke he never woke up from.  I often wonder if my clearing had something to do with his sudden reaching out.  Did he know deep inside that something was going to happen.  Had he not, the last thing I would remember would be the fight with him from my expensive hotel room about him not willing to make time to see us.

Am I at peace?  most of the time. It’s bitter sweet. On one hand, I stood up for myself a year ago in Paris and broke the habit of always setting everything else aside when my dad is available.  I am glad I did that because I didn’t want my marriage to come second to my dad’s crazy expectations of me (that he doesn’t have of himself).  But I am sorry.  I am sorry I got mad and I am sorry that I couldn’t have it just wash off of me and leave no impact.  It’s silly that we get mad at people for being who they are.  My dad was being true to himself and whether or not that was enough for me, I have to accept it.

I could feel guilty but I am not going to.  I am writing this just to share because I often hear people beating themselves up over choices they made in the past.  The things is, the time is always now to make the right choice.  After that, the only choice we have is to make peace with it.  I made peace with mine.  I still and completely love my dad.  And I know he loved me. We had whatever time we had.  May he rest in peace and may my children never feel I am hard to get through to in any way.  This is not the end of grief, however, for me.  It’s merely a beginning ❤

But it’s not my Father’s day

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I am celebrating my amazing husband today, his commitment to our 9 month old baby Adrian and his willingness to work out every bump in a road so we can have an extraordinary life.

As my husband is calling his dad to wish him a Happy Father’s day and I am browsing facebook to wish it to my friends who have become fathers, I am feeling the bitter sweet.

My father is in Croatia and has lived there for the past almost 30 years.  I saw him briefly at the airport in Belgrade 4  years ago.  I was flying back to Montenegro after my green card interview in US Embassy after much stress.  He came with his grown up younger son and I felt so completely awkward.  We had less than 30 minutes together and during that time his son, my half brother, was insisting that his/our dad takes him to see something in the city since they already made the trip.  When I got on a plane, I just wept.  It was the happiest day of my life as I was granted a green card, something I have wanted for over a decade yet, I was filled with deep sadness for the lack of connection with my dad.  That day at Belgrade’s airport was the first time I saw him after 25 something years.  And even though I am his first child, somehow I felt like I no longer had the right to have him in my life.

Maybe this sounds like a sad story.  What I am sharing here is not nearly as sad as the days of my childhood when I was longing and trying to understand why my dad is not more committed to being my father.  It was tough to figure that out: I was a smart kid, talented, pretty, straight A student, ambitious, but his lack of presence had scarred me for life.  Over time, I learned to pretend I don’t love him or miss him because everyone else thought he was a jerk, so it took years of work to undo the feelings I have buried so deep inside because I didn’t think how I felt was accepted in the world.

In 2005, I did transformational work that helped me heal.  It allowed me to find gratitude for my life that wouldn’t be possible without both of my parents not just my mom who was there for me through thick and thin, loving, committed and above all PRESENT and AVAILABLE.  I was able to stop wanting to change the past, the years of lack and missing and focus on what is in front of me.  I stopped blaming myself and thinking that I did something wrong – probably what all children do when their parents divorce.  I realized, just because my dad wasn’t there for me, doesn’t mean I can’t have a man in my life with whom I can create family and future.  So I worked on it, slowly, diligently, step by step.  My amazing marriage is a product of that journey and my commitment to having love in my life.

So today, I celebrate my beautiful husband.  I send love to my dad as I realize how much he missed.  I celebrate my mother for being both mother and father to me… and I celebrate myself for how much I grew despite my circumstances.

Love to all fathers out there!!! Love your children! Love your daughters!

M