I was 17 when my parents divorced. It was a long time coming really due to my dad's addictions to work, alcohol and probably other things my mom covered up. My mom overcompensated so that my older brother and I had more happy moments than many kids do amidst a parent suffering with addictions. My dad had times where he gave it his all. But those times were followed by his struggles.
I vividly recall one day in high school after a night of being up too late due to my insisting that I join my mom as she again forced my dad into detox at the hospital. I told a classmate I was having a bad day and she responded, “Oh what does Stephanie Beck know about having a bad day?”
The crowd of people walking to class suddenly became a flurry and all I wanted to do was scream and cry and shout from the rooftops that I knew plenty about having a bad day.
But, instead, I just ensured the wall I had been building inside of me was extra tall that day and I carried on my way.
A few people at my Catholic school knew my struggles. But only those that I thought possibly could understand. There seemed to be more perfect families than broken and I think I preferred to fit in with the perfect. So, that wall followed me everywhere I went.
This wall has always been its highest when it comes to the direct relationship I have with my dad. My early 20’s were full of many ups and downs with his addictions and I could never rely on him for anything other than a good story, should I dare to share it and risk people knowing my family wasn’t perfect. There came a point where I would become angry at my dad for anything that he did or didn’t do. I couldn’t even bring myself to hold a conversation with him without everything flooding back to me and knowing it was only a matter of time before another large disappointment reared around the bend.
I didn't talk to my dad for 2 years because I thought that option was easier than the pain I was caused from our broken relationship. I got married at 26 and decided to reach out again. I kept having this nagging feeling of, what if my dad died and I had never forgiven him?
The wall was a stable concrete at that point almost incapable of being broken down.
Two years of what I would describe as a semi relationship with my dad went by. At 28 I had my first baby and my dad was diagnosed with a late state of colon cancer. I remember being so grateful that I had reached out to him. Even though our relationship was less than ideal, at least fear hadn’t come true that he would die and I would never get the chance to talk to him.
My dad didn’t die. He, in fact, made a miraculous recovery largely due to amazing medical attention and an amazing surgeon.
I am now 32 with two children and I struggle with this wall I have up every time I even think about calling or visiting my dad. I want my kids to have a relationship with him. He adores my kids and lights up every time he sees them! He has not missed a holiday or birthday. He is sober and has been that way as far as I know for at least a few years. But the wall that was built from years and years of disappointments, heartache and sheer pain is not simple to just “break down”.
I took my kids visit him recently and I made this revelation. It will take time. More time than I thought or would like. I find I am able to open up just a smidge more with each text, conversation or visit I have. That is the journey our relationship will likely always be on. Time cannot make it go away or lead me to forget. But it can help me to make the conscious decision to continue pursing whatever relationship he and I are capable of at this point in our lives. I know that I was given my dad for a reason. And my experiences with him have made me stronger, more compassionate and more forgiving.
What pain do you wear inside? What walls have you built? Let's tear them down together!