I’m sitting here dreading lunch with my dad. I don’t know why I always feel this way when we are meeting for lunch, but I do. I always go and I always get through it just fine, so why do I dread it so much?
My parents divorced when I was 11 years old. I didn’t like it at the time, but have grown to understand why as an adult. When I was little, I had a lot of fun with my dad. My dad played baseball on a men’s league and when we went to his games, my brothers and I played with the kids whose dads’ were on my dad’s team. We had a blast!
My dad and mom had a lot of friends and we were always surrounded by their families. I remember people coming over and music playing and everyone having fun. We also used to go to other families’ houses and play, too. I remember everyone getting together to swim at a hotel where one of my dad’s friends worked. We had barbecues, went on camping trips, and did a lot of fun things together.
One of my fondest childhood memories is the time my family had a HUGE water fight IN THE HOUSE!!! It started out as a small water fight between me and my brothers. We had squirt guns and were shooting each other, running in and out of the house. My dad got involved and started shooting a squirt gun at my mom, while she was washing dishes. My mom grabbed the spray nozzle on the faucet and squirted it at my dad. One of them, I don’t remember who, filled a pan with water and threw it at the other one. My dad ran outside and grabbed the hose, brought it inside, and started squirting everyone! It was a mess, but we had so much fun!
Another fun memory is this little game my dad played with me and my brothers. He would write hints down on little pieces of paper and hide them in the house. He’d give us the first hint: LOOK IN THE MAILBOX, for example. We’d run out to the mailbox and grab the hint that was sitting in there: LOOK IN THE BATHTUB. We’d follow the hints all over the house and yard until we found the “prize,” usually some change to get ice cream. I remember my dad hiding a hint on our dog’s collar! Those were the days!
After my parents divorced, everything changed. I didn’t see my dad very much. I saw him once in a while, but he didn’t put much effort into our relationship. I remember my dad picking me and my brothers up and taking us to his new girlfriend’s house. His new girlfriend had three children, two who were around my age. I remember her kids having some pretty cool toys and games, and one of her son’s telling me that my dad bought them all of those things. That was hurtful, because my dad didn’t do that for me or my brothers. My dad’s relationship with his girlfriend didn’t last very long.
A little while later, my dad started dating and eventually married my stepmom. I never felt comfortable around her, because she made it pretty clear that my brothers and I were burdens. I remember her and her friend picking me and my brothers up from school to go shopping for clothes to wear to their wedding and her saying, “Ew, they’re so dirty!” She acted disgusted with us and I didn’t understand why, because I wasn’t dirty. It made me feel awful.
My dad and stepmom made very little effort to see me or my brothers. I maybe saw them once a year while I was a minor. I remember them taking me to a cheap restaurant for my birthday and while we were there, my stepmom bragged about the nice, elegant, expensive restaurant they took my stepsister to for her birthday. My stepsister is two years older than I am.
After about the age of 16, I didn’t see my dad at all for about ten years or so. By that time, I had my daughter, who was 5 and my first son, who was 3. When my kids were 3 and 1, my dad and stepmom sent me Christmas gifts for my kids. The gift tags said, “To the little girl” and “To the little boy.” They didn’t even know my children’s names!
Over the years, my dad started making an effort to have a relationship with me. I see him a few times a year for lunch, and that’s about it. He feels remorse for not being there for us kids while we were growing up and he’s trying to make up for it. Unfortunately, it’s a little too late. Yes, I get together with him for lunch, but we don’t have very much to talk about. We usually end up talking about God or sports, because that’s all we have in common. It’s sad, really, but it is what it is. I do love my dad and I wish things were different, but for whatever reason, I have a hard time “wanting” to get together. After all this time, it still feels awkward. I go anyway, because he’s my dad.