I don’t have that dad

Most of my life has been spent being too much. 

Today I was told I wasn’t enough.

My father attempted suicide again this week. As far as I know this is his fourth attempt in my lifetime. He has spent the week in lockdown again in a psychiatric hospital in my hometown. 

We had the same conversation I’ve heard over and over again in life. He felt hopeless. He felt worthless. Life events threw him for a loop. He stopped taking his medicine months ago but he guess he shouldn’t have. He can’t afford the medicine they have him on. He’s not good at anything. He doesn’t have anything to fill his time. He doesn’t have anything worth living for. 

Cognitively I know I shouldn’t go there. I know what suicide attempts really are about. He’s reaching out. He’s trying to find some sort of control. But if he was really going to do it he would do it. But he doesn’t. But that selfish heart of mine is saying “why haven’t I ever been enough? why am I not worth living for? why are my kids not worth filling his time with?” Once again I let his pain turn into my pain and I feel crushed again. I have the angry cry leaving me completely drained. I don’t even want him around my kids. I don’t want them to be confused by his severe mood swings, irritability, anger, or over the edge affection. But somehow I still wish I was enough. 

He says now that he’s getting help we can have normal conversations again. I wanted to scream at him we’ve never had any kind of normalcy. I haven’t had a functioning dad in about 30 years. I’ve been disowned and written out of his will so many times it’s comical. I walk on eggshells around him. What would we begin to talk about? 

If he was anybody else I would be so much more compassionate. so much more understanding, so less judgmental. I want to cut off all communication. All interactions. Protect myself and my kids. 

But instead I am the obedient daughter. I choke out the life giving words he needs to hear. 

I love you. 

I forgive you. 

I confess I still think about what kind of dad I would like instead. It’s some cross between Mr. Rogers and Arnold Schwarzenegger. He swings by on Saturdays to take the kids to a ball game or just up to QT to get a soda. He comes to their soccer games and cheers them on like they’re better than sliced bread. I might come home from work some evening to find him fixing a leaky faucet or tightening up some loose screw on the kitchen table. He meets us for church then takes us out to eat for dinner. He has one kid on his lap while he pulls quarters out of another kid’s ear. He calls me up and tells me to be careful because of some hoax he saw on “the google.”  When I’m traveling he sends me the weather report and tells me to check my tires. He laughs freely. He forgives freely. He finds joy in the little things. He finds purpose in the small things. 

I don’t have that dad.

I know my father’s story will not end well. One day someone won’t get him to the hospital in time. His attempt will be success. I wonder if I’ve already starting grieving that loss knowing that it started a very long time ago. 


2 thoughts on “I don’t have that dad

  1. Gut-wrenching, but wonderfully expressed.

    As a father who once attempted suicide myself, I respond to this with both a measure of profound regret and a resolve to now express my love as best I can.

    I have included this in my “Mental Health Monday” feature on my blog this week.

    Keep up the faithful blogging. And God bless.

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