Happy Birthday to My Father & Sister

This is as close as I will get to actually saying it to them this year. Sadly, I’m one of those sons that hasn’t had contact with their father in a few years. Actually, the last time I talked to my father was September 2011. It was a rocky summer for us that year because I needed a car for student teaching my father refused to help my mom out. It was rough. He felt like he won this major battle by depriving his son of something that was somewhat of a necessity at the time, but I ultimately got a plan together (like I always do) and got my very first car. I think that ate at him inside – no matter what curve balls he throws at me, I always seem to rise above. It’s somewhat of a skill of mine. I don’t take no for an answer when it is something I really, really want. I always find a way.

Well, today my father is one year older. He’s a sadder part – he shares a birthday with my sister. She turns 13 today. I don’t think I’ve seen her since she was seven, maybe eight. My father and I have always had our differences, but it does hurt that I lost that side of the family in the process. My father lives in Pennsylvania now with his wife and two kids. I suppose at some point I always wanted him to fight to keep me close, but never really did. There were some efforts here and there, but nothing that really showed he wanted me part of his life. I have a brother too who is the middle child. He never got along with my dad either, but he got stuck with him while I got to live with my mom on Long Island. There’s only a matter of time before that kid runs away, I’m sure.

Each year I always say I will write him a letter around Father’s Day and his birthday. I never do. I always find some great excuse like this weekend. I was away taking students on a conference in Syracuse. It’s not a real reason and if I really wanted to, I could pick up the phone and call or write. I just don’t think there’s anything left to say and what’s most frightening is that I feel like he would have nothing to say to me. Although I’ve done just fine without him (truly, I am quite proud), there’s always part of me that wonders what that father/son relationship could be like if we tried harder to have it. He always thought that he would hold the cards and that he would be able to stop me from doing what I wanted unless I gave him what he wanted (more phone calls, visits, letters, etc.). I would have been more than willing if he was willing to meet me halfway with the effort.

There’s no pain like a parent expecting (and possibly) hoping for you to fail. There’s no greater satisfaction than beating those odds and doing better than you could have ever dreamed. He may think of me selfish and he may think that I don’t care now (or that I ever have), but today, I do stop and think about him and my sister like I do every year. I always hope that my sister is happy and she’s enjoying the birthday parties someone her age should be enjoying. Although there’s obvious resentment toward my father, I hope that he’s found some happiness as well. Happy Birthday.

Family and Getting Older

Christmas dinner has to be by far the most interesting dinner my family has had in a very long time. Coming home for the holidays this time around, I was worried about all the drama surrounding my family. Who will come for Christmas? Who would talk to who? What would be the big surprise no one saw coming (because there’s always one!)? In years past, I’ve felt so defenseless in these awkward situations often using my mom as a buffer between people and as a source of the gossip. This year, it was different. Being twenty three and living on my own (and away) for two years has made family members see me in a different light – more like an adult.

This year, I was able to intervene and stand up for myself along the way. This year, I was able to point out how silly some arguments have been and have a glass of wine while saying so. I’m not saying I solved all of my families problems tonight (not even close), but I felt more stake in this family now that I’m older. I spent more time in the kitchen preparing food and cleaning up this year. I can slowly sense the passing of the baton in a way that in a few years, my mom is going to expect me along with my cousins to be the ones to bring the family together for the holidays. Being an adult in this family has given me a sense of responsibility I never saw coming. Truthfully, the thought of getting older and being the one people depend on is very daunting and only makes me want to live further away where my excuse could legitimately be, “Can’t come home this year – too far away.” My cousins and I talked after dinner about how when it becomes our turn to host the family events, it will be different. Less stress, more togetherness and we’ll have fun along the way too. The thought of that actually makes it sound more exciting and more like something I would want to be part of consistently. We promised that we (along with future kids) wouldn’t behave the way our parents do at times because of how we’ve felt for so long about it. I deeply hope that’s a promise we can keep, but then I think our parents probably made similar promises and in the end, family happens.

With that, I’m reminded that we cannot choose our family and although we can complain about them, there’s a love deep down for for family (at least most of them). Surprisingly, my feelings about family come from my father who often reminded me that I should always do anything family even if the same type of love isn’t given in return. I understood what that meant a little bit more tonight. This holiday dinner made me cherish the times I’ve had with my family a bit more. I grew up a little tonight at the dinner table. Let’s see how I feel about this at Easter.