Dear Dad (Thoughts on building a relationship with my dad in adulthood.)

Dear Dad,

I called you last week to vent about picking up my sons medication. You calmly talked me down from the cliff of despair. Being who you are I don’t know how you do it. Talk calmly to me when I feel like a mess of a human being. I’m not always a mess dad, but I feel like one sometimes because I’m learning to be a parent. Even though its water under the bridge I get sad sometimes because you are being more of a dad now than when I needed you the most.

I still get sad on Father’s Day when women share stories of times their fathers spent with them. Not that you didn’t spend the odd time with me. We had Taco Bell and the Monkey Forrest. We had the weird shop of your friends who sold interesting things like taro cards and a homey smell of sandalwood. There were times of listening to music which created my love for Rob Zombie and Smashing Pumpkins. The moments we had spent together were fine because it helped shape my interest. Some Fathers go fishing and camping trips but ours was outings. I think the main part of hearing stories of fathers who would do anything for their daughters is that it’s not our relationship. I don’t know if it ever will be. That’s ok though because in the last couple of years you have gained my respect.

Sometimes I struggle with your fear of my special needs child. You don’t say it out loud however some slight comments make me worried. Yes, your grandson has Autism and Juvenile Arthritis. Is it terrifying? Absolutely, I’m terrified of it too. My terrified is different because I feel like a failure when it comes to helping my child with disabilities. That’s why I try to call you because possibly, you would be able to treat me like a normal person. You see, when you’re a special needs parent your either treated like a superhero or your treated with apologies. What people forget to treat a special needs parent is with empathy and understanding that we love our kids but sometimes it’s a blurred line with doctors, medications, therapist, and school. I value you Dad, for putting words to my feelings, and I know I complain a fair bit when I get frustrated about the whole situation. Please don’t be scared of your grandson and please see the little boy that he is. He’s neurotypical and complex, but he is loving and intelligent. Creative and filled with brilliant ideas far beyond his time. You have only met him twice and you have not met your other grandson; but I think if you give them a chance to know them, you would see the parts of you in there too.

I know I was complicated much like my son, and that was terrifying for you. You were not ready for me when I was born. I get that because I had my oldest at nineteen and you were in your twenties. Here’s the thing even though I wasn’t ready I still try to be there for my kids. You did get better with my sisters and you learned to be a dad to them. I remember somebody once asked me how mad I felt that you learned to be a dad to someone else. Feeling mad is not how I would describe it. I do feel pride for you because you still grew as a person. You keep growing and I see the changes you have made in the last ten years. In ten years I have seen you as a lost person, and now I see you as a strong human being. Hearing you say that you found a new job or did something exciting makes me feel like you are finally where you need to be.

What I really want to say to you and I struggle to say it sometimes, I’m happier now knowing you than when I knew you as a kid. I’m not angry at you anymore because the dad I get now is a good dad who is trying. Giving a second chance wasn’t easy to do but I’m happy I didn’t walk away from you and we still found a way to communicate. Please don’t give up on me because I don’t want to give up on you.

I love you Dad,

Ali Johnson

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