I don’t have a lot of early memories. There was actually a day I distinctly remember leaving my bedroom and walking into the living room not having a clue where I was and not remembering anything from before waking up. I was about 3 or 4 years old. I did know who my mom was. I wish I could remember if I remembered who my dad was when I woke up. But he wasn’t there. It hadn’t have been long before that day that my mom had left my dad and moved in with her new boyfriend.
I’ve had an odd relationship with my dad since I was a small girl. I think I always desperately wanted him to love me, but years later I realized he couldn’t love me, at least not in the way I wanted or deserved. I never learned what his childhood was like, but from the way his adult life has gone, I don’t think he had a happy childhood. I don’t know if an event happened, if he was dealing with mental illness or developmental delays, or if he just was coddled or something similar. Whatever it was, he was not a good father.
Instead of getting into what he did or didn’t do as a dad I am going to focus on one aspect that is a cultural norm in the United States. My dad is a Christian. He’s a unique Christian because he is a Seventh-day Adventist. They’re an odd bunch. Some Adventists are very liberal and don’t follow the full beliefs of the Adventist church. They cherry pick the beliefs they like and leave the rest. And then there are those, like my dad, who hold the writings of Ellen White (the Adventist prophet) so closely that it’s obsessive.
I remember that I had been fairly well indoctrinated into Adventism by the time I was in late elementary school. I remember talking about the Sabbath to a teacher at the Christian school I attended and he said that even if the Sabbath was Saturday he would still attend on Sunday as that’s when all of his friends and family attended. I have a feeling this was around the time that my church had a Revelation Seminar and my dad must have been bringing us to that.
I have to wonder if my zeal for the 3 Angel’s Message was because I wanted to make my dad happy. While I know I was indoctrinated as a Christian very young, it wasn’t until visiting Adventist churches with my dad that I was indoctrinated as an Adventist. And at a very young age I felt the Adventist church was THE church and had THE Truth. And this was while I was attending a non denominational elementary and middle school and also worshipping with “Sunday Keepers” up through high school. I was around only Adventist Christians almost exclusively until 2008. Through that time I made a decision to be a minister for the Adventist church and then later changed that to a missionary.
And then I began my deconversion.
I believe it was early high school, that I stopped visiting my dad on weekends and holidays. I remember before my baptism, in 1993, he told me that I was now a 2nd generation Adventist. I told him no, that until he or my mom came back to the church I was a first generation Adventist. He didn’t stay at church for my baptism.
The last time I saw him was in 2011 when my mom died. My brother and I went to tell him. As my brother talked to my grandma I started to cry and hugged my dad. It was awkward. It felt like he didn’t know what to do. He probably didn’t know. And that’s very sad.
The last time I spoke with him was Christmas 2013. We talked back and forth about his mom and what they were doing that day. He brought up church and I just said uh huh a lot and didn’t continue the conversation in that direction.
Yesterday was Father’s Day. In previous years I’d posted something on Facebook to the fathers I know. But yesterday was a bit sad for me. I realized that there really isn’t a relationship with my dad. The idea of creating a relationship with him feels strange as we don’t have anything in common besides being related. He’s also a conspiracy theorist and climate change denier (I found that out the last time we spoke). I wouldn’t be surprised if he voted for Trump. Being about 2,000 miles apart doesn’t add to the desire to build a relationship either.
I wish I had some sort of conclusion that wraps this story up nicely. I wish I felt fully ok with him not having been there or continuing to not be in my life. It feels like it’s one of those incompletes in my life that won’t ever be resolved. And it’s not from a place of hate or anger or anything like that. I know that my no longer believing will come up if I were to reconnect with him. And honestly, I don’t want to have to deal with how he’ll respond. I honestly think he’ll probably respond the way he did when I cried on his shoulder after my mom died. And anyways, I feel like telling him would be akin to tell him all the shitty stuff that I hated that he had done in the past. And in the end that would only be for me and it would crush him more than he already is. Now that I’ve written that out I think that’s the biggest reason I haven’t actually told him anything. I think it would hurt him too much. And I know I do not want to perpetuate and deepen the hurt that is already there, both in him and in me.