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Father’s Day: A Letter to My Sister

Dear Little Sister,

I’m sorry. I’m sorry that he hasn’t been there. I’m sorry I got more time with him. I’m sorry he’s let you down. Since before you existed, he’s been absent. Even when he was around, he wasn’t all there. After the divorce, he moved out of the house, then out of town, then out of state, but emotionally, he’s always been a thousand miles away. Forever self-involved, he hasn’t shown much interest in our lives or anything beyond what affects him. Whether it was work or his shiny, new family, something else has always held priority over us. Something was always more important. No matter how many Father’s Day cards we bought, no matter how many “happy birthdays” we wished him, no matter how much of his DNA we shared, it was never and will never be enough for him to treat us the way a father should treat his daughters. In light of this, I have some advice for you:

Forgive him.

You won’t like this. I feel you rolling your eyes already, but hear me out. It’s not for him. It’s for you. It takes work. Lots of thinking about things you'd rather just tuck away in some recess of your brain, and more than a little therapy. It’s a long road with many struggles, but you’re a clever girl and you’ll get there. You’ll reach a point where your anger doesn’t hold you hostage anymore. Your heart will no longer weigh a thousand pounds once you let go of the hurt and rage that’s stored there. You’ll be able to fall asleep at night without wondering if there’s anything you could’ve done better. There’s nothing you could’ve done. All of this was a result of his shortcomings.

His own lack of fatherly love throughout his childhood left him with a hole in his heart. His family tried to make up for it with as much love as they could, but they overindulged him, the baby of the family. This isn’t to say he’s not to blame. He’s a grown man who should be able to sort through his own bullshit. But if you recognize his faults and the source of them, forgiveness will come more easily.

Art by Kate Saxton

Love yourself.

You are worth more than he’s able to give. Never forget that. In your sixteen years on this planet, I’ve seen who you are and what you can do. You are spectacular. Do not let anyone convince you otherwise. People will try to diminish your self-worth. They’ll try to convince you that you’re not smart enough. Not interesting enough. That you just generally fall short of expectations. You will be so tempted to believe them because of that rejection you faced at such a young age. That you continue to face.

Fuck that. I’ve believed those kinds of people before. They get inside your head to try to make themselves feel big. They’re liars. If you ever find yourself feeling unworthy or unloved, call me. I will remind you what you’re worth. I will tell you till I’m blue in the face how wonderful and phenomenal you are so you couldn’t doubt it if you tried. And it will never be the same as having him there to reinforce it in your mind. It will never undo that first rejection, but you should always know that you have someone in your corner and that you deserve love and positivity.

Be grateful.

You have plenty of people who have stuck around for you. We have an incredibly strong and resourceful mom who not only took on the roles of both mother and father but also managed to provide us with plenty of male role models who have offered us support at every turn. Our stepdad and grandfather have done everything in their power to make us feel loved and cared for, and they do a damn good job. We’ve also been surrounded all of our lives by women who don’t take shit from anyone. Our grandmother and aunts are natural leaders and have set a powerful example of what a woman should be.

None of them are perfect, and they don’t claim to be. They’re willing to admit to their flaws and improve themselves. They’re able to change for the better and not simply do what works best for them, but what works best for the family. All of these people love you so much. I know it doesn't completely fill that empty spot where his love should be, but I find that it’s helpful to focus on what you do have rather than what you lack.

Art by Kate Saxton

Nothing would please me more than to make him show us the love we deserve in the way we need it to be shown. I would love to have an uncomplicated relationship with him. Having him there at important events like graduations and weddings or even just calling him regularly to have a simple conversation would be ideal. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that’s possible. He’s only capable of so much. I doubt he’ll ever figure out how to put anyone else’s needs ahead of his own, so why should we accommodate him? You and I in turn are only capable of so much. We have been raised to have high standards for how we should be treated, and you shouldn’t change that for anything. Not even for blood.

So, Little Sister, I hope you find this advice helpful. Maybe your journey will be easier than mine. I’m still healing from the hurt. Some days I still feel sad and abandoned. Some days I forget he exists. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I do know that you’re in control of how you feel. It may not seem like it sometimes, but you have the power to change your mindset on the matter. You can choose to be bitter and agonize over what could’ve been or you can choose to move forward and find happiness in what is. Either way, I love you and want good things for you. Please never forget that.

With love,


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I love you sister!

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