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  • Writer's pictureNina Castle

Father's Day

Happy Father’s Day!

As I reflect on Father’s Day, especially seeing friends’ social media posts and pictures with their fathers, recalling their treasured memories and close connection, I am left in wonder. I wonder what it would have been like to have had that type of relationship with my father.

To my dad, I was his “princess”; in fact, “Princess” was his nickname for me early on and it made me feel special.

I used to love going places with my dad. I loved going fishing and crabbing with him; being near the water and soaking in sunshine has always been so grounding for me. The whole process of being able to cast a line or drop a net and retrieve living creatures on them a little while later was fascinating to me—there was a whole other world that lived in the sea! The wind in my hair, the calmness of the waves, the smell of salt water…I was in heaven. It was a special time for me and my dad. I wish I remembered more, but I do remember that I liked going—a feeling of a good time with my dad; you don’t know how precious that is.

I don’t have many memories of my dad from childhood, at this point in time. My childhood consisted of a lot of turmoil in all of the adult relationships—between my parents, between my grandparents, and between parents and grandparents. In fact, I soon felt like I was the “adult” out of all of us, and especially in my relationship with my parents. My dad was not as responsible as one should be with a family, so that caused a lot of problems.

My birth was not planned and my parents had a rocky relationship, plus the influence of my mom’s controlling mom did not help their marriage. They divorced when I was a toddler. I don’t recall much of that time except for living in two different apartments with my mom. A couple or so years later was round 2: my parents remarried each other. I remember being a flower girl at their wedding. My mom was so gorgeous and my dad was so handsome. He had a beautiful smile with a cute quirky grin and sparkle in his eyes, especially when he winked at me or called me Princess. He had thick sandy blonde hair in a style reminiscent of James Dean, which my younger sister always points out. He had blue eyes that my sisters and I all envied for we missed the genes for that.

I remember how much I loved going on bike rides with my dad. I felt so free as I rode my bike; it carried a certain kind of exhilaration and stress-release. This was another feeling of a good time with my dad. However, I didn’t know it at the time, but the lady we visited on our bike rides had a son with my dad who was born several months before my first sister was born, during my parents’ separation. This boy--HE got the blue eyes genes, we are told!

Unfortunately, my parents again divorced when I was 10; my sisters were both toddlers. Sometime before the divorce, I recall leaving home with my dad to head from the SF Bay Area to Baltimore. I must have loved him enough to be willing to leave my mom, sisters, and grandma (who had a lot of control in my life). While I can’t say that car ride was a good memory, it shows I cared for my dad enough that I was momentarily willing to leave the others I loved. I’m not sure how we made the decision, but at Lovelock, NV, we turned around and headed back home.

There are a lot of sad and painful memories from that time. This is the reason I do not have a lot of GOOD memories from then; this is why I hold on to the good feelings from going fishing and riding bikes with my dad.

There was a lot of foolishness on his part. He hurt a lot of us. He left us. He left his three daughters who were part of his flesh. This hurt me. But, I don’t remember that.

To this day, I still don’t recall feeling pain from his departure. As you can sense from the above, I am not some uncaring person who did not care that he left. I blocked all the pain out. It didn’t help that our grandmother was always saying negative things about Dad, and that we were afraid to mention him to Mom and bring up the pain. In the process of blocking the pain, I’ve blocked good memories of our relationship also. While I’ve healed in many ways from other areas in my life, it is interesting that these memories are still blocked.

In my adulthood, I had various visits with my dad. Most of them felt awkward to me, and what is my first response with discomfort? Avoid it, of course! Thankfully, visits became less uncomfortable, but we never discussed the past nor brought up our hurt from it. I know he buried his pain as well. He had loved my mom DEEPLY, but circumstances and people in their lives did not help them succeed in their marriage. They even reunited one more time many years later after their second divorce, but that did not endure, either.

My last trip to visit my dad was when he was in the hospital in Delaware. My sisters and I were told to rush from California in order to say good-bye since the hospital staff assumed he would not survive. He had been on a ventilator, and was in terrible condition. When we arrived at the hospital, he was surprisingly better. He reacted to me as if I were his Princess from the early days of my childhood, as if we had the same bond. He wanted to leave the hospital and he was able to. All of the staff cheered him on. His extroverted, gregarious personality had charmed them all. There was certainly no one like my dad!

That visit to Delaware was such a pleasant time with my dad. When we were departing his home, such sadness swept over me. I felt like it would be the last time to see him, but that was ridiculous since he was remarkably better, and back to his spunky and feisty self. Little did we know, our dad would pass away two years later, so that trip truly was our final visit with our dad. We are thankful that we were able to travel and spend good time with him. I’m grateful. It was a little bit like the old days while vastly different.

My dad asked for my forgiveness over the years, which I imagine was not easy for him to do. I gave it to him then and I continue to forgive him now. I believe each person operates and makes decisions in the best way possible at a given moment in time. Sure, that decision could cause pain or just plain suck, but the decision cannot be undone. Time cannot change. However, forgiveness helps to heal the results of bad decisions and lost time. Forgiveness is vital and necessary. It can be hard, but more than that, it is oh so healing.

Fathers who may have difficult relationships with your daughters—please continue to reach out to them. They need to remember you are there for them. Without the reminders, it is easier to hide the joy and pain of your relationship. I’ve seen people I love in “good families” yet a daughter may not have a good relationship with her father. This is my encouragement to you to connect NOW—whether that daughter is 5 or 50. Your relationship with her is more precious than you may know and she DOES need you, even if she has convinced herself otherwise. Keep planting seeds. Keep pursuing her. Talk to her about what she loves. Show that you are concerned about what concerns her. Ask for her forgiveness. Pray for her. Let her know, and show her, that you love her unconditionally. (Thank you, Father God, for your unconditional love for us…always…)

Relationships can be so difficult at times. There are too many things that can distract from health. We must be vigilant and mindful that we are treating our relationships with the TLC to promote positive growth and connection.

As I reflect on my father, I am thankful for the other father-figure in my life. He is not a father-figure to me, but to our kids. I am so thankful for this husband of mine. In my teen years, I prayed and pleaded that God would give me a “normal” Christian family. I refused to repeat the patterns of dysfunction, divorce, dread, and disappointment in MY marriage. God came through, as He ALWAYS does! Thankful! That teenage girl is thankful! She knew she’d have a successful marriage and good family, but she also feared the “what if” it did not happen? What would her life be like? What would happen to her? There were so many roads she could have traveled which could have led to turmoil and trouble. Instead, it led to her husband, Tim—the other man in her life who just happens to call her “Princess”…

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I woke up the other morning with these words going through my head. I had been in even more conversation with God this week, and am always so thankful for the connection and for what He is telling me!


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