As some of you know, I had been dealing with an estrangement from my father that began in October 2017. Through the latter part of 2018, I sought out help in order to deal with this, because I wasn’t dealing at all. I was struggling with it to the point where I couldn’t deny how much it was eating at me any longer. Initially, when I met with my therapist, my goal was to make myself feel better. This was true, but the real goal, I discovered, was to end the estrangement. I’m happy to say that I have! After a series of phone goals beginning around Thanksgiving, I finally reunited with him, accompanied by my brother Bill, yesterday at his home in Ottawa, Illinois. It was a nice visit with the added bonus of seeing his snuggly dog.
When I wrote my post around Father’s Day 2018 about my estrangement, I had a lot of feedback from people dealing with similar situations and acknowledging the pain that it causes. I’m not saying ending estrangement is right for everyone, but if you’re thinking about it, I highly recommend seeing a professional therapist to help guide you through the process. What I realized is that I was holding him to unrealistic expectations, creating unreal narratives, and not being compassionate at all for my dad. I’m not saying that he was perfect. Obviously, he wasn’t. But I never understood how my brother was able to accept him as he was.
Well, that makes sense because I postured myself as 100% in the right and not culpable for any part of the dissolution of the relationship even though it was my choice to be estranged. That’s an impossible foundation for any relationship and it’s a sure way to disappointment and resentment. Before I made contact with my dad, I decided he would react poorly if I were to reach out again. I envisioned a scenario where he wasn’t excited or friendly, but rather annoyed and angry. This turned out not to be true at all. He was very glad and told me he hoped it would never happen again.
I also realized that I was holding my dad to a standard throughout my life that he couldn’t meet. For example, I resented him for not being able to play with me, throw me in the pool or push me on a swing like the other dads of my friends. I thought he didn’t want to, but the reality is that he couldn’t. He’s been plagued with serious back problems ever since I can remember and now requires two canes to walk, albeit very slowly. This is someone that loved to work out, that was an outdoorsman who loved to fly fish and duck hunt. And he can’t do any of that now and he hasn’t been able to for years. In dealing with my own chronic pain, I realized how awful he must feel all the time, especially as someone that mentally is still lively but unable to do any of the activities he loved. So when I would get annoyed by his complaints and negative outlook, I didn’t really consider his pain mental and physical pain as disabled person.
I will say, in his own way, he’s been more respectful, thoughtful and interested in my life since we began communicating again. That came from him and is really all I wanted. My thought is the estrangement was necessary for us both to reapproach our relationship more appreciative and understanding. And I feel more whole now. I do believe, if it is possible, any relationship that you care about, even if it makes you angry or sad, is worth the effort to repair. If it’s good, or even decent, maintain it. It’s as good for you as it is the other person.
Before I headed home, my dad gifted me with two of his vintage tins that I’ll be displaying in my home somewhere. In the past, he didn’t want to let go of them, but I think it was another way he’s making efforts to keep me happy and to share what he treasures with me. I mean, look at how cool these are!
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