Should I call my Father?

A quick background:

My parents split up when I was 7. I am now 28. I saw my Father on visits until I was about 10, then it peetered out. For years, I held resentment and anger towards him for splitting up my family, for hurting my mother (not physically, but he did have an affair), for missing birthday’s and letting out visits die out (the list goes on and on).

A few years ago, I came close to calling him. I was at a local movie theatre when I ran into his step-son (from the ‘new’ family). He told me it was my Father’s birthday coming up, and suggested I give him a call, because that would be “a good thing to do”. I thought about it for a few days, and decided that ignorning my last 24 or birthdays wasn’t such a “good thing to do”, so I didn’t call.

Now, I’m getting a little older and am re-evaluating the situation again.

Should I still be holding onto this anger, or is it better to try and make peace?

My Father, I found out not long ago, is sick. Not terminal by any means, but he has a disease that has a 5% chance at being heridetary (meaning 95% chance I won’t develop it, but 5% chance I could). He never bothered to contact me to tell me about it; should I contact him to find out more information?

Are there any Dopers out there from detached families? What would you/have you done?

Not nearly the same background you have, but I would figure out a way to contact him and get a reply in such a way he can’t track you. Eg., make up a hotmail account and use that for contact or call from a pay phone.

Maybe he is the world’s biggest jerk and you shouldn’t have anything to do with him. Maybe he’s a different person and you’re a grown man now. Regardless, until any new relationship you might have is well established, make sure you are the one calling the shots on contact in case you decide in a mature adult fashion that the guy really is a jerk.

This is probably better suited to IMHO. You can email a mod to move it.

That said, I didn’t have much choice when my parents split up, since I was very young. In retrospect, I would have preferred to live with my father, but c’est la vie.

Surely holding onto all that anger inside you can’t be good. I’d contact him, if only to talk a short-while. You’ve obviously been thinking about him a lot and its better to clear your mind of it, get the load off of your chest. I don’t necessarily think that it would be a sign of weakness or whatever to contact him before he contacts you, but I’d take the first step and maybe your dad will realise his lesson.

I haven’t had to go through what you did, though, so just take my opinion for what it’s worth.

Good luck.

This is really more an IMHO thing, so I’ll move it there.

Yes. You should call him.

General Questions is for questions with factual answers; IMHO is for opinions and polls. I’ll move this to IMHO for you.

DrMatrix - GQ Moderator

. . . unless manhattan sees it first.

I hope you someday get old enough to realie that it takes both parents to split up a marriage. Don’t put it all on your father.
That he tried to keep up for years is enough proof that he loves you. I know that most of the reason he kept apart after that is that your mother made it intolerable for him to continue. Been there and it hurts like hell.

Patch things up! It’s not about your “blood heredity”. It’s about the fact that your father still needs you and you are staying away for no reason. Just don’t bring up his ex and you will get along fine. Trust me. I was a child like you who had absorbed my mother’s resentment. When I threw that off, I found there was none left of my own.

It’s not fair to say that you’ve only absorbed your mother’s resentment, or that she made it intolerable for him to keep up the relationship. I’ve had too many friends whose father went off, remarried, and suddenly seemed to forget they had children from their first marriage. Sometimes he’s just a jerk.

That being said, however, I think it’s a good idea to contact him and hash it out. Until you talk to him, you won’t know why he stopped contacting you. But holding onto anger until after people are gone can lead to a lot of regrets, that are easily avoided by a simple contact now. One phone call won’t kill you, and it might answer a lot of questions for you. And who knows, it might lead to a reconciliation. Or it might not. But it will then be YOUR choice, no longer his, and you’ll be able to resolve your own feelings a lot better. All of this is strictly IMHO, of course.

Not to be combatative, but HE screwed another woman…I’d say the blame is his, without question.

Also, I don’t think he “tried to keep up for years”. We had court-allowed weekly visits, but they soon faded. He would cancel, then re-schedule, then be late, then we’d do nothing special, then he’d cancel again, miss one or two dates, and eventually it stopped altogether. That’s a pretty piss-poor way to keep up with your son.

How can you say that?? That’s a pretty ‘proof-positive’ statement! I believe he wanted to move on with his new family, though that’s just a guess. If he felt like a weasel having to face my Mother after he had an affair, then rightfully so.

Part of me wants to just leave things alone…leave him to figure out his own life and what he wants to do (or not do) with his past.

On the other hand, he is my Father, and we’ve never tried to reconcile. Now that I’m an adult now too, maybe that would make for a better situation.

I’ll often think, “he can make the call if he wants to”, but I get to thinking that I tend to do similar things. I will avoid contact with former schoolmates and such for no real reason. Perhaps this is a trait I got from ‘dear old dad’ and because we’re both doing the same ‘avoidance’ thing is why we’ve never contacted each other.

The comes the question of “what am I expecting”. Do I expect a loving relationship where Dad & I can go fishing? No.

I guess I’m interested in the illness thing I mentioned in my OP, and lately I’ve been tracing through my family roots and am curious about my roots on that side.

Has anyone out there contacted a distant Father (or relative?) I’m really interested in hearing your stories.

My story is similar, but my dad didn’t want anything to do with us. He was apparently too busy with his new girlfriend, and subsequently his new family. My mother never said a bad word about him, eventually we just figured it out.

I hated him for a long time. Then I realized that while I putting forth all of this emotional effort hating him, not only did he not know, but he probably wouldn’t have understood. I don’t know that he even thinks he did anything wrong. Now I rarely think about him. I suppose the opposite of love, really is indifference. At this point in my life, if I see him that’s fine, if I don’t that’s fine too. He is as much of a stranger to me as any other distant family member I see only on rare occasions, and I treat him no differently

My dad and my brothers have had more contact, and they tried with him, they really tried. The gap was just too great. So it faded away. Now all of us are pretty much in the same emotional space.

This probably wasn’t much help, but what I’m trying to say, is don’t waste your time spending too much emotional capital on him, he probably isn’t worth it.

I’m semi-disconnected from my root-family, and for good reason. My advice is, whatever you decide to do, NoGoodNamesLeft, do it for YOURSELF. Don’t do it out of any perceived obligation, or because of the opinions of others, or in hopes of a fantasy reunion. Don’t even do it because “he’s to blame for what he did to my mother” or “it’s not his fault what happened to my mother”. Base your decision on YOU and on your relationship with him (or lack thereof).

Similar to light strand above, I feel quite indifferent towards my estranged family members. They had their reasons for being the way they were – I chose to step away and not to let it further affect my life, or that of my children.

Smartest thing I ever did.

Call him, and offer an olive branch. If he takes it, you’ve won big time. If he spurns you, you’re out only the call.

My dad died about 18 months ago. There was a time when I was a teenager to when I was a college fresh out that we didn’t get along for reasons similar to yours. That changed when I got married and had a kid. We never made up lost time, though (you can’t, really).

What eats me up is that he died unexpectedly, and with both of us being alpha male types, I never told him to his face that loved him. We both knew it was mutual, but it was never said. I’d hate to think what I’d be like if he croaked when we were on the outs…

I’m with Portwest. My husband and best friend both have estranged fathers. They were both angry at their fathers as children and teens and the best thing they ever did was to let go and stop feeling like they had to have a relationship with their fathers. My best friend is a much freer person since she made that decision.

My story is very similar to yours, except that my father never tried to see me. I was a “mamma’s girl” and I guess my mother won me in the divorce. My father saw my older sisters a few times, but then that petered out. From age 12 to age 33 or so, I saw my father twice–at his mother’s funeral and by accident at a grocery store. Both times we just talked briefly.

Then, when I was about 33, I ran into him on Christmas Eve–again at a grocery store. We talked for about 45 minutes, mostly about my sister, who was having some marital difficulties. At the end of our conversation, I said, “Do you want a hug?” It was impulsive on my part. We hugged and as I pulled away, he had tears in his eyes. I had only seen him cry once before, at his father’s funeral, which, as I found out years later, was the first time he had seen his son from his first marriage since the son was 2 or 3 years old. For the first time in my life, it occured to me that my father might care about me. Even more shocking was the thought that I might still care about him, this man who had hurt my mother and my family, this man who had left us. I ended up publishing online an essay on this encouter, which gives more background and can be found here.

When I got home, I said to my mom, “Guess who I saw?” She said without hesitation, “Your father.” I never have had much of a poker face.

Months later, I thought I would contact him. My sisters had sort of reestablished contact when they had children, so they had his address. My mother hated the idea, so I let it lay, and life went on.

A few months before my 35th birthday, I decided that my present for myself would be to contact my father. I wrote him a short note, just saying that I would like to see him or talk to him sometime. My sister called and said, “Dad just called asking for your phone number” and sure enough, he called me the next day. We chatted for an hour or so (I am sure much longer than his average phone call), mostly about his relatives, just catching up on the gossip. He called again a few weeks later, and we talked a bit about family history, including his version of the day I was born. We didn’t talk about the divorce, but that was ok. We made plans to see each other when I was due to visit TN in a few weeks.

We met at his hangout, the local Hardee’s, for breakfast. The employees clearly knew him, and they were expecting me. Various ones came by the table on the pretext of refilling our tea, but also to “meet Bryce’s little girl.” He told me he was giving my niece a car for her 16th birthday the following Wednesday, her birthday. I persuaded him to give it to her on Sunday, when I would be with her family for lunch so I could see her get her gift. He readily agreed.

On Sunday, I saw him tear up again. Later my sister told me that he confided it was one of the best days of his life, thanks to seeing his granddaughter so thrilled with his present and seeing me again.

He died on Wednesday–a massive heart attack.

At the funeral, his niece told me about the meeting my father and I had at the grocery store, with every detail in place. She said he had told her about it more than once and that she and others in the family all knew about my visit to TN and our meetings.

I can’t–no one can–know what decision you should make. I know I made the right decision for me. My father was a very flawed person, but I think we would have built a decent and rewarding relationship. I knew by the time I contacted him what I could–and more importantly, could not–expect of him. I would not trade anything for knowing that, despite it all, he loved me in his own way and as much as he could.

I hope if you do contact your father, that things turn out well for you. The only advice I feel I can give is to know that your father, like mine, has his faults. If you expect the relationship we all deserve with our parents, you will probably be disappointed. If you can be happy with what he can give you, maybe you won’t be, and maybe, just maybe, you will find out something as valuable as I did.

Sure, but what are you going to call him?

Try to remember a couple of things:

A) You are obliged only to yourself in doing whatever the He!! you want to.

B) While it may not be the healthiest thing to keep lingering resentments, please recall the void your father left in your life before getting all dewy.

C) Make sure to keep your issues in mind when faced with your father’s own problems.

D) Do what makes you feel happiest. (Including never talking to the cretin.)

E) Reflect upon how you would treat a child of your own and go from there.


[Who will never again talk to his own mean-spirited, unsupportive, falsely accusing, child abusing, philandering scumbag @sshole of a so-called father]

NoGoodNamesLeft, I’m feeling you…

I was born out of wedlock and I have absolutely no memories of my father. I didn’t have anger towards him, but I should have. So, I had to find him first, but I called him and we had a discussion about his health and my ancestry. Those were the two big questions on my mind. Oh, and What Happened, which my discussions with him helped clear up a little. It also gave me the courage to finally talk to my mom about What Happened (even though it was a couple years later when I did that).

I don’t know why he never contacted us, but I’m assuming it had something to do with guilt…it’s usually easier to ignore the fact that you have a few kids living in poverty, which may or may not be fully or partially attributed to you, than to take the steps to fix it. That, and perhaps fear of rejection.

If you have the time/money, you might want to just seek a few hours of counsel from a therapist because they can give you a perspective you might not have considered.

I would say it’s probably worth it to contact him once, removing emotions if possible, to just get some facts that may be outstanding in your mind.

You have a right to be hurt and angry. Maybe it’s possible for some people to just let it go, but I don’t think that’s the solution for everyone.

And don’t worry about looking too far into the future. You may contact him once, talk to him on the phone, get some info, and decide that you don’t want or need to ever talk to him again. You know that the liklihood of having a relationship where you “go fishing together” is slim, slim, and you probably don’t need that. So take it one step at time.

I say go for it. It probably won’t be as painful as you might think, and make sure you do it for selfish reasons…because that’s probably why you never saw him…


I cant really relate to this, but what i can say is that although your father is sick now and it isnt terminal, what if tomorow he developed something that was? or if he had some accident and then you would never be able to make the call? youd never be able to make up for the lost time then, at least right now, you have a chance to make a go of it. And hey from your fathers point, maybe he feels he has left it to long to get in touvh, and maybe the son in law was implying that the father was eager for you all to meet up sometime. just a thought
good luck & take care

pjcroner, I don’t want to sound nasty, but I have to disagree with you. It is not always both parents who break up a marriage. Sometimes one partner says “Um, hey- I’m leaving.” and there isn’t a damn thing the other can do about it. My mother is in the process of doing just that to my dad right now. He didn’t do anything to cause it, either. My mother, much as I hate to say it, has always been selfish and immature. She simply found a man she liked more (younger, with more money) and decided to leave.

As to the OP- I would call him. Let me explain:

My mother divorced my biological father when I was very small. I saw him for a few summers, then he stopped calling. When my mom remarried, her new husband (whom I call Dad) adopted me. I have never heard from my biological dad. I always wonder what happened to him. I don’t know if there are genetic diseases I should worry about, etc. My mom has always made him sound like a jerk, and won’t provide me with any information. Unless I can afford to have him tracked down someday, I will never know.

You know where your dad is. He may be a selfish jerk, but he may be a decent guy. At least you have the means to find out.

Good luck!

I believe that if I were inn the postion of the OP, I’d call, just to satisfy my own curiosity if nothing else. There may or may not be anything to gain, but there’s certainly nothing to lose.

Best of luck.