My dad got engaged over the weekend and told me through a text message.
To be fair, I think he texted me before it was announced on Facebook, but we aren’t Facebook friends so I don’t know for sure.
The news, although unsurprising, makes me feel uneasy. I mean of course I’m happy for him, but it’s complicated.
It was only last year (before I moved here) that I found out he was seeing the equivalent of his high-school sweetheart, i.e., the woman he dated before my mom.
As a child of divorce I’m no stranger to the mixed feelings one can have towards their parents. And I’m used to the rotating doors of life partners they seem to go through sometimes. And I’m used to feeling a little disappointed in my relationship with them – the strain that trauma, drama and distance has created.
But I’m not used to seeing my dad as a loving guy.
I’m sure he would disagree with me, but even when I witnessed firsthand the baby talk, cuddling and concern he could show to one of his previous girlfriends, I didn’t quite believe it. I just didn’t think it was genuine.
Admittedly, that might be kind of unfair, but this side of him – this loving, thoughtful and reliable guy – well, I don’t feel like that’s my dad.
Every time we make strides in our relationship something goes awry. Just months before he started dating his now fiancé, we talked on the phone almost nightly while I drove home from work. I’d tell him about the stories I was working on and he would tell me about the pains of growing older and how he did during his bowling league.
Then the phone calls stopped and eventually I found out the great news of his long-lost-love-now-found.
I felt a little jilted, but tried not to show it.
Was it weird that if the couple had had it their way they would have been together the past 32 years? Yes, it was. I rather like the fact that my brothers and I were born even amidst the chaos that was our parents’ violent marriage.
I tried to ignore this feeling of angst, but then, when I learned he had traveled to and from New Jersey to Florida several times to see her in just a few months, my self-worth sank a little. I’m better off with no expectations, I thought. Why did I let him back in just to be disregarded again?
You see, I lived in North Carolina for three years and he didn’t visit me once.
“I’m just working so hard, babe.”
“I don’t have the money, babe.”
“I plan on visiting you, babe.”
That’s what I heard anytime I brought it up. Finally, he missed his chance at the eight-hour drive and I moved to California.
It wasn’t that big of a deal, though, until someone else was getting him to do it. I knew he wouldn’t visit – he didn’t travel much anyway. But then he turned into a traveler. In fact, this man who had hardly ever left New Jersey and who had lived in my late-grandmother’s home, ended up moving to Florida.
He sold one of the only stable homes I ever had without even asking me how I felt about it. Not that he needed permission to sell it, but he should have asked me how I was, right? If I was sad at all? I don’t know, maybe we could have talked about it? Reminisced a little?
I tried to discuss my feelings with him this past summer, but it didn’t go well. When fall came, he called me on my birthday and I called him on his. We both sent cards that arrived late in the mail.
So what was I really expecting when it came to an engagement announcement?
In my perfect Walgreen’s world, I think I would’ve liked to know about it ahead of time. I think he should have called me, discussed his plans and maybe even asked if I thought the proposal idea was romantic enough for his bride-to-be. Then, when it happened, I’d be the first person he called. That’s right, not texted but called … like on the telephone. That’s what old people do, right? Call?
But it isn’t a perfect world. And that’s not the relationship we have, so who cares if I’m not happy for him? Call me selfish, call me greedy, call me spoiled, but it’s how I feel.
I’m sick of pretending. I don’t want superficial. I don’t want fake.
I just wanted a phone call from my dad.