There were many years I didn’t speak to my father on Fathers Day. Many years I didn’t even know him or whether he was alive or dead. Most would have filed him under the deadbeat dad category never realizing the impact the judgements and assumptions had on the daughter. The daughter of a deadbeat. About 8 years ago on the eve of a humid Fathers Day we sat in a workers cabin surrounded by tulip poplars on the curve of a Delaware back road. Me, my dad, and Alex.
We sat there for hours until I hit a wall emotionally. These were hours I longed for my whole life and a person I longed for for 18 years. I cried. No, I sobbed. I wanted to love him without the pain, without the fear I had become accustomed to but had trouble articulating that through the well of intense emotion. My dad asked what was wrong but words abandoned me. Alex spoke very simply and said “set her free, Marc. You have to set her free.”
And he did. My dad shared intimate details of his own life experience, his internal struggles, his pain, the intergenerational trauma of our family, and the love he wished to exchange with me in all the moments we were apart. We started walking together after that day. He taught me the names of every tree along the east coast and I told him the stories I kept safe until given the opportunity to share them with him. I shared my years of heartache as I cultivated forgiveness and understanding and he did the same.
We shared the same sense of belonging in nature and felt most our lives nature was really the only place we did belong. We sang the songs we always felt each other in, no coincidence, they were all the same. We were more alike than we were different and with every walk we took we walked through layers of sludge. We walked out of the past and into the present. My dad and I rose through the ashes resurrecting a new narrative. I may not have grown up with my dad but we sure have grown together.