A roughed up, torn up, coming apart tin man sits on my office couch. Its one of two stuffed animals that have stayed with me past childhood and into adulthood. Why the tin man? Why was this particular stuffed animal so important? Well because that’s the one my father bought me. And that’s the only memory I have of us doing something special together. It was The Wizard of Oz on ice and I can barely remember it. But I remember the excitement waiting for him to come pick me up. I remember that feeling I had that night. I remember the end where he told me I could pick out any gift I wanted from the show and something drew me to the tin man. Was the show even good? Did I even enjoy it? I don’t remember that. I remember being with my dad and how happy I was to be with him. So I keep this stuffed tin man who looks like he’s been through hell at this point, to remind me of that feeling. That feeling that I only ever had once in my life with my father.
The emotions surrounding my father I remember everyday since then have always been emotions a daughter should never have to feel when it comes to her father. The rest of my life I spent fighting. Fighting for my fathers love and fighting to be enough to him. Fighting to one day finally make him proud of me. And no matter what I did or how much I achieved in this life that moment… the moment where my father was supposed to be proud of me never came.
The day I graduated high school he left before I walked the stage because it was too hot outside. The day I got into college he told me that I was wasting my time and money because we all knew I was just going to end up working in a McDonalds anyways. The days leading up to my wedding he threatened to ruin the whole thing causing me nothing but stress. My college graduation? I had to beg and plead with him just to get him there to the point where it took most of the excitement I even had about the day away from me.
I don’t know what I was expecting. I guess I thought there was a level of success I would one-day meet where he would turn to me and say “you did it! You proved me wrong. And I am so sorry for having ever doubted you. I love you and I am so proud of you.” But sooner or later I realized there was no level of success I would ever reach to make my father see me as successful or be proud of me
For the longest time I tried to figure out what it was I did wrong. Did he just not know how to be a father or did he just not want to be my father.
My father thought because he threw money at me a few times in my life that he had played his part. He bought me my first car, which I was very grateful for and he helped me get funds to help with college debt while I was going to school. When I graduated I posted a picture of my diploma on my Facebook and thanked my father. I said that I wasn’t sure I could have been able to do it without his help. He never even commented on the post. But more than that he expected that I give him credit anytime I spoke of my success. And anytime I criticized him or wasn’t happy with how he was treating me I was ungrateful for how he had helped me financially. When that could not be further from the truth.
The thing he never seemed to grasp was that money did not mean love to me. I could have loved him if he was the poorest man I had ever known and never had a dime to offer me. As long as he gave me the love and support I had always so desperately wanted and needed. I would have traded those few dollars he threw at me when I was younger for him being there cheering me on at my games. For us to have had father daughter dates. For him not to scream at me and belittle me to the point where I felt worthless whenever I did something he did not approve of. The truth I think he never quite figured out was that a girl doesn’t need her fathers money she needs her fathers love.
For me I had to let go of the dream and hope that he would change. I’m not saying he didn’t love me. I’m saying the way he loved me was not good enough for me and as my father I feel he should have stepped up to the plate and given me the love I begged for the love I deserved. Many times I met him half way for him to not show up. How many times can you tell someone what you need before you have to demand they either give it to you or you walk? It doesn’t mean at the end of the day I do not love my Father and do not wish the best for him. But that love doesn’t stop his actions and words from being toxic to my health. As a girl with depression who has struggled in her life to want to live, I have felt at times that if I was standing at the edge of that cliff my father would be the one to push my over it. It took me a really long time to realize I needed to protect myself. That I was worth saving and that sometimes saving yourself means saying goodbye…