Father of All Grudges

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By Dawn Goodwin

I hate it when people owe me money and act like they don’t know it. This kind of thing makes it easy for me to hold a grudge against them.  I bet the first grudge ever held by mankind was between Adam and Eve. I’m sure Adam was still mad at Eve for years after they got kicked out of the Garden of Eden for biting the apple.  I can’t lie; I know I’d probably still be mad, too. When someone does something to me that is hurtful or pisses me off, if I don’t get past that, I call it holding a grudge against them. People hold grudges against others for any reason imaginable: for stealing their money; for not being just like them; for copying them; for killing their cat by mistake, etc. The list goes on and on.

I’ve had my share of grudges throughout my life, and the older I got, the more my mom urged me that I had to forgive, but not forget, when others did negative things to me. Unfortunately, in not forgetting what they’d done, I often developed grudges. By far, the most serious grudge I’ve ever had was the one I held against my father. Growing up, my dad lived less than ten miles away from me, but he only came around to see my mom, which still wasn’t that often. He and I never had a real relationship, so I’ve always called him “Jimmy,” since the comfort in calling him “Dad” had never been there.  The only conversation I got from him as a child, on the few occasions in which he gave me a conversation, consisted of me saying, “Hey Jimmy,” and he’d respond, “Hey babe, how you?”  That’s it.  I’d head to my room, leaving him and my mom to themselves. As a child, I couldn’t wait until the day would come in which I’d have my own family—my own husband who’d be a great father to the house full of fun sons and one wonderful daughter, that I wanted to one day raise.

I never knew how much I was affected by my father not being an active part of my life until a few years ago, while watching television, and a show came on that featured a father-daughter dance scene. I thought it was so sweet, but all of a sudden, I filled with so much anger towards my father for never dancing with me. I don’t even know if there was a father-daughter dance at any of the schools I’d attended as a child, but it still hurt to realize that I was what American society refers to as a “fatherless daughter;” I didn’t have any real memories of my dad and me because he just wasn’t there.  For instance, up until the day he got sick earlier this year, the longest amount of time we’d ever spent together was at my wedding—that I had to beg him to attend. I’ll never forget our conversation that day when I called to see if he would still walk me down the aisle:

“Hey, Jimmy, this is Dawn. How you doin’?”

“Um, hey, babe. I’m doin’ good. How you?” he responded—not quite sounding right on the other end of the phone.

“I’m good,” I replied. “I just wanted to see if you’ll still be able to walk me down the aisle today.”

“Oh, okay,” he said. “Well…” he started, but his voice trailed away as if he had something to tell me that he knew I wouldn’t want to hear.

“Sir?” I asked, to calmly urge him to speak up.

“Well, your sister told me she was real upset ‘cause I didn’t walk her down the aisle.”

“What?!! Oh my gosh! That was years ago!” I cried out over the phone. I just couldn’t believe it! My dad not walking my older sister down the wedding aisle almost ten years earlier had absolutely nothing to do with me. She should’ve been happy to even have a relationship with him. Heck, it was better than the lack of one that he and I had!

“Yeah…so I don’t know, Babe,” he said in a regretful tone.

“Oh, my gosh!  Please, Jimmy!” I screamed out as I began to cry hysterically at the thought of him not doing me this once-in-a-lifetime favor.

After a few moments, he said, “Well, okay…I’ll be there,” and we hung up.

My dad did walk me down the aisle that day, but it was years before I saw, or spoke to, him again. I felt that no daughter should ever have to beg her father to give her away on the most important day of her life.  I also felt that no child should ever have to first reach out to their father to get him to be a parent. And, no children should ever make the decision to have a “children’s reunion” in which they unite their dad’s kids and grandkids—for the first time ever—because their father never took the time to do it. That’s exactly what my older siblings did a couple of years after my wedding, and I was the only child who chose not to show up. Heck, even a new, younger sibling that none of us had ever heard of before showed up to the park that day.  But not me, and, honestly, I had nothing better to do.

I must admit, I held on to this grudge against my father until very recently. When I got the news that my dad had a severe heart attack a few months ago, I was extremely shaken up. A week prior to hearing the news, I’d had him on my mind, but I couldn’t make myself pick up my phone to call him. In the past, every time I’d felt the urge to reach out to him, my grudge held me back, and I would ask myself, “Why should I call him?  He never calls to check on me…and I’m the child, while he’s the parent.” Those thoughts would always make me quickly change my mind. But this time, I felt the panic growing inside and feared that I would really lose my chance at finally having my dad in my life.

So, I got up from my couch and rushed to the hospital to see him. I may have unknowingly walked right past one of my sisters and not recognized her, but I made it to our dad’s bedside that night.  Seeing him on the hospital bed, almost in an infant-like state, was one of the most heart-breaking sights I’d ever seen. To see him at his absolute worst—having to be fed, bathed, and clothed—was a wake-up call that I needed, but didn’t want; I realized that I want to give all that I can to create a father-daughter relationship with him now. Thankfully, he recovered 100% from the heart attack, and I think I’ve finally recovered from my grudge. I know we can’t go back and recreate missed childhood memories, but holding this grudge against him hadn’t helped me at all.

Today, I’d encourage anyone to reach out to the person they’re holding a grudge against. Sometimes, simply talking to them about it can help, or just moving forward and trying to forget about it might.  I’m sure my father has no idea that I ever had a grudge against him, and I’m not sure if I’d ever want him to find out about it. It may sound really pitiful, but I even tell myself that maybe he’d thought that I have been too busy with my own family for me to spend time with him. Or maybe, it was simply too many of us to be involved with at once. Of course, I know I have never been too busy to receive his love and attention, but I’ll never tell him that. His welcoming arms today are enough for me to move forward, and I can now say that I am no longer a “fatherless-daughter” with a grudge.

Category: Memoir, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing, SNHU Student