First Person: Learning to Forgive My Father After a Seven-Year Absence

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First Person: Learning to Forgive My Father After a Seven-Year Absence

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Me and my dad in 1989.

Sunday is Father's Day. Rather than marking it with declarations about why our fathers are the greatest, or how-to guides on buying Dad the best ties or tools, Yahoo News solicited first-person anecdotes about the contentious or disagreeable moments we've had with our fathers. Here's one reader's story.

FIRST PERSON | Father's Day is a difficult time for me. Over the years, I've had many men whom I've called "Dad," but there's only one who is, fair or not, legally and biologically my father.

My parents were divorced by the time I was half a year old, and my dad was always very much the "other parent," the one whom I visited occasionally, whose hours with me were usually little more than babysitting.

In 1998, when I was 11, my father was arrested for failure to pay child support. Although he was released within days, I didn't see him again until I was an adult.

A few weeks before I turned 18, my grandmother tracked me down online. It had been seven years since she and I had talked and, like my father, I had written her out of my life. She was no longer family to me. But her message was clear and urgent. "I'm sick," she said, "Cancer. I don't know if I'm going to die, but if I am, I want you to come see me, and to see your daddy again before I go."

I couldn't say "no" to it. My sister and I drove to the little town in Alabama that had been our "other" home as little girls but seemed surreal and alien to us as young women. We learned that our father was taking good care of our two half-siblings and was helping to raise his girlfriend's three kids. He had moved on. My sister and I together prepared speeches: what we would say to the man who had abandoned us, who had missed seeing us grow up and who no longer knew us at all.

"Are you going to yell at him?" my sister asked me.

"Yeah," I said, "He deserves it."

But, when I did see my father for the first time in seven years, with silver in his hair and wrinkles on his face, and when he saw me -- no longer a little girl, but a young woman -- I burst into tears. My father cradled me in his arms, and I smelled his aftershave, and I vividly remembered a day, so many years before, when he had picked me up from kindergarten, held me against his cheek and said, "There's my little girl."

And there I was. And here I am today. Eight years after reuniting with my father, I can't say that I've fully forgiven him, and I can't say that I ever truly will. There aren't enough apologies to make up for missing the most formative years of my life, but, in the time that I've been reunited with my father, we've both gradually learned to accept that he made a terrible mistake -- many terrible mistakes -- but that we can forgive, and apologize, and atone for our wrongdoings.

It's strange, but after 26 years of being my father's daughter, it's only been in the last two that I have actually felt like we are family. He isn't perfect, and he didn't raise me, and he hurt me by abandoning me when I needed him. But, when I see my father today, I see a father -- one who made his share of mistakes, but one who is, at the end of the day, the only dad I've got.

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