Katie doesn’t have any experience with this topic—that’s why she’s opening up to all of you in hopes of learning more!
I have had bad anxiety all week. It might be directly connected to the fact that I knew I had to write this article. I never had this much anxiety about writing any of my other articles; must be the subject matter.
I wonder if I am more nervous to tell you the truth about my feelings than the truth about what happened?
Like I said last week, I am going to start telling you stories about my father. He passed away a few years ago and while a lot has been unveiled and discovered, not as much as been dealt with on my end. Why now? Why start this now? Maybe I’ll tell you in a little while—that’s going to take more courage than I have right now.
Let me tell you the story of my wedding:
Plans for our wedding went pretty smooth. But there was one thing I avoided for a while. I knew that I didn’t want my father to walk me down the aisle. I wanted my cousin to walk me down the aisle and when the officiate asked who was giving this woman away, I requested he say, “my family and I.” My cousin walked my mom down the aisle when she married my step-father, in the same church I was getting married in, so that felt special to me. It also was important to me that every part of our wedding be real and true. Which meant that deep down, I knew I wouldn’t feel right being walked down the aisle by my father. I contemplated how to tell him, what he would say, things I might regret about the decision, backlash I might receive, etc. But every time, I went back to thinking why I would have a person ‘give me away’ that never wanted me in the first place. I just couldn’t get past it.
One morning I remember laying in bed and some wave of bravery came over me and I emailed him (we mostly communicated through email and text—he had a hard time hearing on a phone call). In the email, I tried to be as respectful as possible and also tried to explain another main reason (not the real one, though) behind my decision—
My step-dad entered my life when I became a teenager. When I tell you all that this man has more patience than anyone I know, I am not kidding. I tested and tried him and he never faltered; he always showed me how much he was committed to our family. It took some time, but he soon became a rock and a constant not only for my mom, but for me, too!
So, I have a biological father who I felt was on one end of things and a step-dad who was on the other end. I didn’t want to make my father uncomfortable by having my step-dad walk me down. (I never worried about how my step-dad felt. I knew he would understand and support me no matter what. See, an amazing father figure!) So I decided my cousin would be the most special and neutral choice.
Unfortunately, telling my father didn’t go very well. I remember part of his response was, “Traditionally, the biological father gives the bride away.” He was a calculated man and this seemed like such a calculated response. I don’t give a damn about traditions. More words and thoughts were exchanged and only some were heard.
I sent a final reply opening up about the real reason I was asking my cousin and not my biological father. I knew that it hurt him because he immediately fired back with some of the most insane accusations about my childhood. This behavior was expected though. I didn’t respond back after he started making these claims.
He chose not to come to our wedding at all. He said verbatim, “I do not wish to subject myself to the embarrassment of not walking my daughter down the aisle.” I sent him some pictures.
We got married in Oct 2018. He passed in March 2019. The email thread was the last time we spoke. (Ironically, the first time we actually spoke, too. You know, like, really talked about real stuff).
I think back to that email thread often. I don‘t have the email thread anymore and even when I did, I didn’t reread it. I didn’t need to because in all the words that were exchanged, one thing was missing — “I’m sorry.” He never apologized to me. He never apologized for his actions or worse, he never realized or accepted how much his actions affected me. I know that he knew things weren’t well between us because he talked about it with everyone else. And then when they would try to defend him to me, they would say, “he loves you in his own way.” Okay—whatever that means.
There are a lot of reasons to use the saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” But let’s not forget to use our words, too. I just wanted to hear my father say he was sorry. I just wanted him to acknowledge that he wasn’t perfect and neither was I, and we both had work to do if we wanted to mend our relationship. I remember emailing the words, “I want nothing more than try and start over with you.“ Regardless of what he may have told everyone else about mending things, he never told me.
Obviously I am coming from a rather biased perspective. I know that his perspective was valid and I know that being a parent, and a human, is hard and we make mistakes.
I think that’s what I’d like to emphasize the most here. I am not mad or upset at his absence in my childhood. I just wanted an apology when I finally addressed it. Instead, I was told I had been brainwashed by my mother and my mother’s family and that they wouldn’t let him see me. Y’all, that just wasn’t true. My mom is the only reason I stayed in contact with him anyways.
I notice myself saying more words to people instead of just assuming they know how I feel. I want people to hear me tell them I love them and that I care for them. I want those people to hear me say that I am thinking about them and want what is best for them. And consequently, I want those people to hear me apologize when I mess up. I want them to know I’m sorry and will try better next time.
Actions may speak louder than words, but don‘t let your voice get covered up by your actions, either. How many times have you said yourself or heard someone day, “I really needed to hear that.”
I don’t regret saying what I needed to say to my father. I regret the conversation was so short. And I regret not getting the chance to try again. But a real relationship takes two people being honest and we just weren’t there, yet.