Celebrating Father's Day With an Absent Father

Rachel Ablondi
A stick figure of a family with the father blurred out.

The last time I saw my dad I had just moved into my new home with my family. It was May of 2011. My dad flew here to visit us from his home in Florida. This was unusual because it was his first visit back to our home state in over 30 years.

I didn’t know it at that time, but this would be the last time I would see my dad. My dad was a good dad for the early years of my life. I can remember family trips to Florida, fishing on our boat, my dad cooking his favorite foods for us, helping my dad on his job sites and so many more memories living as a happy family. My dad was present in my life then.

When I was 11, my dad decided to leave my mom, me and my three brothers without any notice or warning, only a casual, “I may be a little late for dinner.” After those words he was never my dad again. My dad chose his own happiness over his wife and four children.

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I fall into a different type of category then most when it comes to living without a dad. My dad did not appropriately separate or even divorce from my mom. There were no set arrangements. My dad chose when and where he would see us. This behavior would continue up until that last meeting in 2011. My dad didn’t succumb to drugs or drinking or to prison or any other demon that so many men face. None of those unfortunate circumstances would explain my dad’s absence either. My dad did not die unexpectedly. He was alive, and he was living an abundant, happy life, just not with me. I learned long ago when I was a young girl that I had no choice but to accept my dad not being there, to let go of what should have been and, even greater, I learned to believe in the future and to have faith that there would be better times ahead. 

On Father’s Day I choose to celebrate what is good in my life, because there is so much good in my life.

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The way my dad left us, abandoning us on every level emotionally, physically and financially, is one of the most cowardly things any parent can do. The way my dad lived his life, with no regard for his own children, leaving us to pick up the pieces of a life he didn’t want, did take its toll. A child growing up has so much to take on, and wondering where your dad is and when he will call next is too much to take on for any person, much less a child. Now that I am a mom, I have made it my top priority to let my kids know they are special and they are important. That they can count on me. I celebrate them, every single part of them. They deserve that, all children do.

On Father’s Day and every day I take pride in my children and how special each one of them is. Being their mom is a great gift that I cannot ever take for granted.

Thank god there was my mom. Her life changed the most that day my dad decided to leave, yet she kept caring for her children and kept us first in her life. Without my mom and her dedication to me, I simply don’t know where I would be. My mom took over for my dad, pulling double duty as my mother and my father. I would learn from her over the years how to be an honorable, loving and strong woman.

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Recently, my mom became ill for the very first time in my life. She was hospitalized and fighting for her life in the ICU. Every doctor that came in her hospital room explained to me how strong she was. She was recovering so much better than most her age facing the same circumstances. I already knew she was superhero strong. On Father’s Day, I celebrate my mom and her amazing strength.   

Every day I celebrate the men who have kept in my life and those who have stepped into my life over the years. My husband is an amazing father and partner in my life. He is dedicated to our family and gives us so much love. My father-in-law shows me every single day what it’s like to be a present father and grandfather and the great joy and pride there is in family. My three brothers have lost a great deal as well, but they have continually shown my mom and me dedication and love. On Father’s Day I choose to celebrate these men who have made a greater impression in my life.

I have learned to live without my dad. I can’t pretend it wasn’t easy though. The tributes that pour in on Father’s Day celebrating all the great dads out there do bring out feelings and questions. Why did my dad do what he did? Why did my dad leave? Did he have any regrets? I don’t think I can ever completely forget these questions. If your dad is in your life and he is a good dad, tell him. Let him know the inspiration he has been to you. You have something not everyone has. If like me, your dad wasn’t in your life for whatever reason, I hope that you have found reasons to celebrate on Father’s Day and every day.

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