My father and I haven’t spoken in years. And as I see friends post testaments to their dads today, I can’t help but be touched by sadness and no little envy. After the abuse and dysfunction of my childhood, it’s been a hard journey realizing that the best relationship I can have with my father is no relationship at all.

To each of you who have had painful or abusive experiences with your father, know that you’re not the only one. Fathers are human, too. And sometimes they fail spectacularly and often. It’s what we do with the aftermath of these experiences that defines who we are. Despite everything, I still love you, dad.

“Letter to a Dead Father” by Richard Shelton

Five years since you died and I am
better than I was when you were living
The years have not been wasted.
I have heard the harsh voices
of desert birds who cannot sing.
Sometimes I touch the membrane
between violence and desire
and watch it vibrate.
I learned that a man
who travels in circles
never arrives at exactly the same place.

If you could see me now
side-stepping triumph and disaster,
still waiting for you to say my son
my beloved son. If you could only see
me now, you would know I am stronger.

Death was the poorest subterfuge
you ever managed, but it was permanent.
Do you see now that fathers
who cannot love their sons
have sons who cannot love?
It was not your fault
and it was not mine. I needed
your love, but I recovered without it.
Now I no longer need anything.