“This is supposed to be a happy occasion, let’s not start arguing about who killed who…”
April 27th is forever one of the most beautiful days of the year for me and yet simultaneously one of the saddest. My daughter was born on April 27th 1991: my first child, somebody I expected to somehow do the right thing by for the rest of my life. Except I didn’t. I’ve not seen her in person for over fifteen years. Reasons? Yes there are some but they don’t really stand up to scrutiny and they all bulldozed over the reality that however impossible I was finding it to negotiate a grown up relationship with her mother (my ex-partner), I should have remained adult enough to stay in my daughters life.
Perhaps the toughest thing for me to acknowledge now is that my daughter had her Mum and later a step-dad and step-siblings, so family was achieved without the participation of a biological father in the long run. I am the one with the greater sense of loss and need these days. When she was a child her need and her distress must have been dreadful but, aside from admitting in a very adult way that she is angry and upset about my abandonment of her, her connection to me seems to cause far less distress than it once did. She’s a young woman doing the things she chooses to do in life with no need for input from me.
All children reach a similar stage, I know, because one of the responsibilities of parenting is to hopefully enable your child to grow into a self-sufficient adult. But because my failures have enhanced my understanding of how much I have lost, I also see her adulthood as a reminder of how poorly I’ve managed to be an adult myself.
This is a bunch of sticks with which I shall mercilessly beat myself for the truncated remainder of my life. I feel such an urge to let her know how I yearn to be reconciled with her but never actually do so as that time when she must have most yearned for reconciliation has long since passed. I’m a reminder of past hurt and abandonment and why would she want such reminders in her life now? So even my wish to be a part of her life seems to be driven more by what I want than about what she needs, same as my departure from her life was. I want her to want to know me but I already know I’m not worthy of her time and energy.
Feeling sorry for myself? Yes but it’s more than that. This is a depth of regret over past mistakes that can rarely be resolved. Smaller regrets we might learn to embrace as part of our learning curve through life. Something like this isn’t a bad decision I learned some valuable things from, it’s the single most ruinous and impactive wrong turn I ever made. There is no turning back, no road home, there is simply trying to continue to exist while it burns up my soul from within.
Perhaps it is fitting that one of the happiest days of my daughter’s life should always be one of such tortured self-flagellation for me? Self-flagellation barely lightened by the inclusion of a Monty Python quote at the start.