A couple of weeks ago Michael invited me to his sisters high school graduation. This would be the first time I would be meeting his dad and his extended family and I was understandably, incredibly nervous. But I sucked it up and I decided to make the best of it and try not to let my fears of failure overcome the situation. In the end it was a wonderful experience. I have never felt so welcomed by such a warm family in my life. The experience I had with my last parent-in-laws was not a good one to say the least and I was so nervous that this would just be the same old thing replaying all over again. His family is dominated by strong, intelligent and warm women who remind me a lot of my own mother. I was so relieved by the night was over but it was easy not to dwell on it as my heart was on something else entirely.
Michael’s parents have been divorced for quite awhile. Michael was in high school by the time they divorced but his sister was still very young. Immediately following the split his parents moved to different states and his father spent years of silence living his own life with the woman he left his mother for. One of the things I’ll always remember Michael saying about his dad was one day early in our relationship when talking about family, he said “my dad is a good person, just a very selfish person.” After years of distance for one reason or another his dad started coming around more, calling more often, visiting a couple of times a year and trying all around to be more involved. Michael was receptive to this and slowly they began to mend their relationship, Michael’s sister on the other hand has been hesitant to do the same. Being a woman who has gone through the same thing with my own father just years older I understand completely why she wouldn’t be too receptive to his efforts. However, this being her high school graduation he flew up to watch her walk.
The first thing I saw (lets just call her K) do when she walked up to the giant group of family in front of her all cheering and clapping was put a huge smile on her face and walk directly toward her dad. They hugged for a long time, she came close to losing it but did a good job of keeping it together. I watched them and I felt a deep sadness that I could not have had the same thing. This is a large family with a long history with this man who is their father but instead of separation and coldness they put smiles on their faces and welcomed him to join the celebration for their daughter. I’m not saying everything was rainbows and butterflies but every single person stayed quiet and polite, he even took a picture with K’s mom and him together. I think it showed hugely what their character is and I was so happy that K got to have her whole family together for this occasion. There were no pieces missing, every one banned together to make it as special of a graduation as they could. But through my happiness for her was a pain in my heart that I’ve felt for a long time.
My dad left just a few months before my graduation. I spent my whole life with an intact family, a father who was the best father I could have asked for and in an instant all of that was ripped from me a long with countless other things. I tried my hardest not to let what happened effect my school work and it didn’t, I graduated with good grades. My mom asked me if I wanted him to be in the stands at my graduation. I thought about this for a long time. On one hand I was so broken apart emotionally I hated him, I was angrier then I had ever been in my life, I was crushed that the father I had my entire life was gone and worst of all he was gone and didn’t want me to follow him. On the other hand, he had been an active participant in my schooling since kindergarten, usually more active then my mother. I didn’t want to think back years later and remember that he was not able to watch me walk, I didn’t want it to be my call that I didn’t let him come. So I gave my mother the ticket and I told her to give it to him, but that I didn’t want to know if he was there or not. I didn’t want to think about him on my day even though I knew that my mind would be on nothing else.
The day of my graduation was very difficult for me. I woke up in the morning with so much pain in my heart and I went to bed that night with even more. I broke down before we even left for the ceremony, yelling at my mother and bursting into tears. I remember walking down the street, trying to calm myself like I used to always do not knowing why I snapped on my mother but knowing that it really had nothing to do with her. Normally this kind of situation would have caused even more yelling and the entire day would have been ruined and I would be blamed for it, but for the first time, maybe ever my mom allowed me to have my breakdown and then talked to me calmly. She told me she knew this was hard for me and that she was sorry, she helped me calm down and we continued with the day. It is maybe the only major free pass she had ever given me and I will never forget that.
After the graduation practice all of the graduating class was standing out in front of the amphitheater waiting for the families to show up. Before long, families and friends started flooding in to take their seats and I looked for my small group consisting of my mom, sister and her family, my boyfriend and a friend. I didn’t see them right away but who I did see navigating through the crowd was my father, program in hand, pants neatly ironed. I saw him and my heart threw out an aching jolt and I turned away, hiding myself behind a crowd standing near by. That was the only time I saw him that day, I listened for his voice in the crowd as my name was called but never remember hearing it. That next time I saw him was about a year later when my niece was in the hospital having a kidney removed. He also said nothing to me that day.
My senior year of high school had to be one of the worst years of my life but I will always remember the effort my mom put into making my graduation as special as she could. There was an absence there that couldn’t be mended by any of us and we were all still learning how to live without him, but the day was full of every one else that loved me at that time. I am so glad that K got to have the memories of her father incorporated into the rest of her family for her graduation. No matter how she feels about him right now, one day she will look back and be forever grateful that she allowed him to come. I am to this day grateful that my father came, even if he made himself invisible like I requested just knowing he was in the audience means a lot to me. That will probably be the last one of my major life events that he will ever be apart of. I can’t describe the pain that brings me but I am glad that he at least did that even if it was more for him then for me.