From an absent father to his son

Subject: From an absent father to his son
Date: 19 Feb 2016

Dear son,

I have so many things to say. First I want to say that I miss you. I think about you often and wonder about your life. How you are doing. What you are thinking about. What kinds of things you like to do.

I have missed so many things. I was there when you were born. I was there when you were a small boy. But I have not been there for many years. I have missed so much of your life. I’m sorry for that. I am so sorry.

Even when I was there, there were many times when I treated you like I did not want you around. When I was mean and cruel to you, angry at you. I am so sorry for that. I wish that I could go back in time and help the younger me who did that. Tell him that it was not ok for him to treat you that way. I can never do that, but I can tell you that I wish that I hadn’t acted that way. I wish that I had been kinder, that I had been more loving towards you when you were so small. It breaks my heart that I was not. You were an innocent child and did not deserve that.

I was distracted by so many other things. Even worse, I am sorry for how I took so long to make a decision if I was going to stay or go. I would come a little closer, be in your life a little bit more, only to go away again, so many times over and over through the years. It was not fair for me to do that, and I wish that I had not. If I could change one thing, I would change that. I regret that I pretended for so long that I was maybe going to stay, that I might change. I wasn’t going to change.

I made my decision to leave. That is who I am. I followed my heart, made my choice that I wanted to pursue the life that I live today. Someday maybe it will feel right for me to say more to you about that. I hope we can have long talks about all of it. But it doesn’t justify breaking your heart as a small child. Nothing will ever justify that. I will carry that mark for the rest of my life, as I’m sure you will too. But I do want to heal. I do want to forgive myself for the decisions that I made, that now it is impossible to take back.

I knew that you were cared for when I left. I knew that your mother, your grandparents, and your step dad would all be there for you. I told myself that you didn’t need me, that you would be alright without me. That is still true I think. I know that you have a good life, that you are loved, that you are taken care of. I even told myself that you were better off without me. That I do not believe anymore. I had no right to say that. I had no right to decide that for you, but I did it anyway. I decided, and you did not get a choice.

Once when you were very small and only had just learned how to write, you wrote me a letter. It said, “I want you to live with me. Can you live with me?” It had a drawing, too. I will always remember that letter. It is impossible for me to forget. I would take that letter out and read it, and know that my answer was, “No.” I chose that, chose to say no to that. I said no to your mother, and no to others, but I never really said that “no” to you. I never answered the question. You were so little. How could I say that to your face? I couldn’t handle that.

But that meant that I just walked away without ever saying goodbye, without ever explaining myself, without ever telling you why, or even telling you what was going to happen. I left that up to others. Left a mess for them to clean. I am so sorry for that. I did not face my decisions and the impact that those had on you. I locked those feelings away. So that when I would see you, which became rarer and rarer, I would never explain. We would have fun and remarkably, you welcomed me every time. We would spend our time and when that was done, I would simply say, “It’s time for me to go. I love you,” and go. Maybe I would be able to tell you when I would see you next. Maybe not. Lately, I have never been able to say when it would be. Just goodbye. Knowing that my visits just get fewer and further between.

When your step dad adopted you, I worked it out with him and signed the paperwork. I never talked to you about it. I never really asked how you would feel. I didn’t feel it was my place, that it would just be an insult to ask. He raises you, so it only seemed right that he should be your father. I know that you love him and that he loves you. I am glad that he is there. I didn’t ask you how it felt, didn’t talk to you about it. I’m sorry if that gave you the impression that I didn’t care. I acted like I didn’t care because I was not ready to face my feelings.

I have been running from you for your whole life. It is true that I never wanted the responsibilities of being a father. While that is still true, I do love you. And I feel ashamed that I hold that love for you in my heart, but do not give you my time, do not go out of my way to be there for you. So much so that I stopped even expressing it. Stopped communicating.

I’m still not sure if my communication will make things feel worse. I do know that soon you will be a man. You are no longer that small boy whom I was there for for only a short, precious time of his life, and that it is not right for me to keep treating you as if you cannot understand.

Nothing I ever say can make up for what my choices have cost you, but I do hope that you will hear me and find some kind of healing and comfort in knowing a little more of who I am and how I truly feel about you.

Your dad