The Email I DID Send to my Estranged Father: Yikes

As some of you know, I’ve embarked on a rather strange journey reuniting with my estranged father, about which I have numerous reservations. Last week, I wrote a very long and intense letter explaining exactly how I felt and, in true 21st century form, I put it on the internet instead of showing my family and friends. (see it here). I was overwhelmed by the kind words and advice you all poured in and it really helped. A lot. In the end, I considered sending him the long letter, but decided not to. It’s just not my style. I’m not an overtly emotional person. I don’t often explain my feelings. While it may be necessary in this case, and I may regret sending the below email later today when it sinks in, this seemed like the better option. A little tongue and cheek is more my way. So, in the interest of honesty, that’s what I went with.
Thank you to everyone who’s be so nice to me doing this. I was very hesitant about blogging in general, let alone something so private. But, I’ve found this whole process really releasing. Being able to share through anonymity has been a gratifying experience. So, blogosphere, thanks for listening. 
My email:
I know it’s been a while. So, here’s the deal:
I’m really busy and I have a lot going on. I’m also generally terrible about long distance communications. I hope you understand that it’s not because I’m angry or upset with you (at least, no more than I was… sorry, I have to at least give yousome shit).
I wrote a very long letter to you last week explaining exactly how I feel/don’t feel, but I read it over this morning and it’s a whole lot of words and I’m a minimalist. So, I’m going to summarize.
It’s been a really really long time since we had our little estrangement. And as much as it was difficult and I struggled with it, I struggled through it. I’ve grown up and constructed an entire life that is not based on having a father. I got used to the idea that I may never see you again and—as much as I always wanted to—that I may never see my sisters again. It’s not that I prefer that scenario. It just seemed the most likely case. I have an entire life that you’re not a part of. I have my own problems. I’m a real, whole person.
When you were into this whole reuniting deal, I wasn’t really shocked or upset, but more apathetic. I know you’re not a bad person. I remember you fondly, actually. I know you’re not a bad person, but you were bad to me. And that should mean something. What it means for our future, I don’t know.
As a side note, I’m sure you’d like to justify yourself. Don’t. I’m not interested. It’s not about what happened. If we go forward, we go forward. Not back.
But I’m hesitant. I hate to put it in these terms, but I’m not sure what you’re bringing to my life other than an obligatory, awkward relationship. We’re never going to be the way we used to. There’s always going to be hesitation, tiptoeing. There is the possibility that we could make something new and great, but I’m not sure if that’s how this is going to play out.
But, I could be convinced. If you really want to know me–not just because I’m your estranged daughter, but because I’m someone worth knowing–and you can come up with reasons for that, shoot for goal. But know that I want something meaningful. I don’t want to exchange small talk via email. I do small talk in the office. It doesn’t have to be heavy. It doesn’t have to be emotional–in fact, I would hate that. But I need something meaningful to make this work. 
Sorry this ended up being longer than I intended. If you don’t write back, I understand. I know I’m not making this easy for you, but can you blame me? It isn’t that I don’t trust you–please don’t think this is coming from anger or hurt or any of that. It’s just that, like I said, I have this life of mine and it’s already complicated. I’m not sure what the point of this is correspondence, other than to be able to say that I speak to my father from time to time. And I don’t do things just for the sake of doing them. I’m not like that.
But hey, I have a lot friends with great relationships with their fathers. And they seem to think it’s a good deal…

And the email he sent me, to which the above is a response:

Subject: hi

Hi Emily

   Haven’t heard from you in quite some time. Hope all is well.
   I guess my photo was too much a shock….. It is to me too.
   take care and always thinking about you
  luv dad

17 thoughts on “The Email I DID Send to my Estranged Father: Yikes

  1. I feel like you just told a whole other side of my life story. Except, I can never be as eloquent as you, to my own estranged father. He doesn’t believe I can possibly be the whole person I say I am. You got a way with words girlo.

    1. Thanks! It really means a lot that others can understand the weird liminal space these kinds of relationships exist within. It’s hard to understand for me, and I’m living it!

  2. Big step taken. Well done. Don’t over think it. You’ve made good choices in this so far, take your time, there is an awful lot of muddy water around you both whether you want to know that or not. Its not exactly spring in your relationship yet! Wait and see. And of course you can always distract and challenge yourself by blogging!

    1. Thanks so much! I’ll keep the blog updated when I hear back and continuing posting my writing/random thoughts. Blogging has been a surprisingly great experience for me. I didn’t expect the sense of community I’ve found. It’s pretty awesome.

  3. Pingback: The Very Inspirational Blogger Award: Very Appreciated | unkilleddarlings

  4. Deb Scarfo

    I too, have been estranged from both of my parents for over five years (they also have not spoken to or contacted my three boys in any way shape or form either, but that’s another whole can of poison). But kudos to you for your honest and eloquent email to your father. That one small step may do wonders for your relationship and if not, it will be healing for you, just in itself. I find if you try to forgive the betrayals (and the ones from parents are the worst kind), then it’s not like you are really forgiving them (and giving them an “out” on their horrible behavior), but allowing yourself to move on whole and without anger. Which, in the end, can kill you! I know!
    I’m intrigued by your blog and am def following! Can’t wait to read more! Keep writing!

    1. Thanks Deb! I guess I always felt like I didn’t need closure from him, but maybe I’m just stubborn. It’s hard to tell when emotions are so jumbled…
      Thanks for your supportive comments!

  5. Pingback: Letter I CAN’T Send to My Lost Younger Sister: Too Real Life | unkilleddarlings

  6. Patty A.

    Wow, I can’t believe someone else has gone through the same thing I’ve been through. The only difference is that you actually had a prior relationship with him.

    My father hasn’t been in my life since i was two. I am now 27. I don’t know who he is (meaning as a person) , what he likes, how he thinks. I don’t know anything about this man and this man doesn’t know anything about me.

    I am close to my half sister by him. And she just speaks so well of her mom and dad and how great he is. It seems he was very supportive and a great father to her. He also seems like a great husband and uncle. She speaks very fondly of him, of course we never refer to him as my father or our father. She says ” my father” and I say ” your father”.

    He can be a great father and an amazing person but I don’t know that. The person she sees in him is very different from the person I can ever see. We have very different ideas of him, I mean, yes, he can be a great father, an even more amazing person to her and everybody else, but he wasn’t to me.

    I am not angry or sad or have unresolved feelings. I am fine. I have no emotions to towards him. No hatred, no love, I feel nothing. Of course, I needed a father and he wasn’t there. Just like you, I don’t want to have a relationship with him. I don’t know how that would go, how awkward and weird. I don’t know a life with a dad, but often wonder if it would have turned out differently. I am very happy how it turned out though, I have a great life. I am very satisfied with the things I have and the people that surround me.

    You do however have a great opportunity to reestablish a relationship with him, of course it seems he came to you and he is making an effort. I am sorry it took him so long. But at least yours tried. Mine doesn’t try, didn’t try and I doubt he will try.

    He has missed so many milestones in my life, graduations, wedding, start of a career, buying a house, car. But like i said, he missed those things because I lived them, I am a complete adult and I am blessed. I might have not had that father (man) figure in my younger life but I was blessed with a great partner (my husband) who is supportive, kind, loving and generous. He is what my father never was to me and still is not.

  7. Candice

    His response to your email was extremely dismissive. It actually angered me to see that the only thing he had to say to your beautifully written, heartfelt email was a few sentences and an “always thinking about you.” I commend you for sending him this email! Regardless of his response, or lack thereof, you were AMAZING!!! *BigQueezyHug*

  8. This has been incredibly refreshing for me to read. I too am dealing with a father who wants to reconcile..and it feels awkward and obligatory…and as dismal as it may sound to say this….unnecessary. I’ve moved on and have my own family and dealings to be concerned with. My family does not seem to understand that my indifference is genuine and not a defense mechanism leading to some grand emotional breakthrough. It’s just nice to hear the pov of a person who actually knows what it feels like to just move on.

  9. Ash

    Wow!! After reading this I could just hit forward to my own estranged father! Fair play! I would love to be as brave as you and send such an email. Although if I had a way with words like you I probably would have sent the first 😉 To really get the point across.

  10. Wendy

    Hi Emily. It’s been 18 months since you sent that to him and I am wondering where things stand now.

    I am the mom of a daughter just like you, in your same situation. Being her only parent, I’ve often wondered how she would be if he chose to reach out to her. So I am watching her life unfold through you. 🙂

    You & my daughter have more than that in common. You’re both excellent writers.

  11. Jen

    Many of these words are the words I’ve constantly thought. My estranged father of 12 years has recently been contacting me as well. I don’t want anything from him, and I really don’t know what he would even want from me. Thank you for putting yourself out there so that I know that I’m not alone in these feelings. Not everyone gets it.

  12. Unkilled

    Thanks very much for your post Emily Anne. I’m 34 male and I’ve not been in contact with my father for at least 5 years. The last encounter we had was him swearing at me and my wife every curse word in Farsi, then chasing me with a brick! That was the last straw that made me decide it was not worth it to try to have a relationship with him.

    But I’ve grown a lot since then and now realize that I also had my role in the relationship which included not having proper boundaries and thus not enforcing those boundaries to have at least a civil relationship. Before, I was still the kid in the relationship, but now I feel that we might be able to communicate man to man, with a different ensuing dynamic.

    I’ve been seeing that my issues with my father are subconsciously affecting my life significantly, so tonight I started to write a letter to him to organize my thoughts and feelings. As you said, it’s challenging with jumbled feelings!

    So far, I have 2 pages about what I’m angry about, and 1 page about my mistakes, what I’m thankful for from him, and moving forward, combined.

    Although your situation is quite different, I found lots of common themes and it helped me to gain perspective. Thank you.

    I think most people have some type of issue with their parents, and this is a great exercise to resolve some of that, just for our own sake, so we don’t raise our own kids with these things still affecting us, and pass on the subconscious psychological wounds.


  13. Emily – I’m not one for posting on blogs (hell, I can’t even seem to keep mine updated) but I literally did a google search for “letters to estranged fathers” and I saw the link to your blog and felt compelled to read. Thank you for your honesty, your words, and your feelings. All are very much appreciated. My parents divorced when I was 6, I would see my father every other weekend. And be completely miserable. Those visits become less frequent in middle school. He came to my bat mitzvah and made a total ass out of himself, he showed up unannounced at one of my birthday parties in 9th grade – we had just seen the movie, ‘Scream’ (yeah I’m old), and it scared the shit out of us. He took me and my friends out for my 16th birthday, he caught me in bed with my high school boyfriend when I stayed over one weekend and my father had gone to a conference. He was invited to my high school graduation but didn’t attend. I met his son, my half brother, one day after he was born and my father and his horrible wife of 3 years came to visit me and brought my then 1 year-old brother with them. I broke my ankle 10 days before I left for my study abroad in London; it was a weekend I was supposed to see him. I asked him to drive, since I physically couldn’t, and he refused to come see me. I didn’t invite them to my college graduation. I was going to let the past go until he didn’t show up at my grandfather – his OWN father’s- funeral. There’s more, of course, but last year I received a Facebook friend request and a message from my father as if we had talked everyday for the past +15 years. It took me over a year to respond to it. I kept him in limbo, kept him waiting and disappointed the way he had disappointed me for so many years.

    I received a message from his wife 2 weeks ago, inviting me to my half-brother’s bar mitzvah in New Mexico (I’m in California). She told me it was “steam punk themed,” and then, “your brother’s idea!” I asked her to email me the information. I received an email from my father, “Invitation is attached. Let us know if you can make it. – dad, gloria, noah” No emotion. No “it would mean so much for you to be there,” nothing. Maybe he knew in the back of his mind I wouldn’t go. Today is my half-brother, Noah, bar mitzvah and I’ve decided I’m going to send a note to my brother.

    I don’t quite know what to say; as you mentioned, seems pointless to do something just to do it, but it’s not Noah’s fault that his father is a royal asshole, and much like you, I feel nothing at this point but apathy which quite honestly is the true opposite of love. It’s not anger because anger is a strong emotion and represents a connection to the other person. Apathy is the goal of acceptance, forgiveness, and to move forward. “I’ve done damn well for myself,” was indicative of the strong, ambitious, independent woman you are, and I’m very proud to say the same for myself.

    Going to try to muster the courage to write something. Anything. And send it. It won’t be the letter I want to send, but it will be the letter I actually do send.

    Thank you again. You are an inspiration.

    Love & Gratitude,

  14. KellyT

    I am also estranged from horrible verbally abusive “so called) dad for almost 20yrs. I dont ever and will never have anything to do with him. God has to forgive him….I do not. And I will not. He rang my doorbell 4yrs ago and I did not answer. The only thing he very likely wanted was money since he is a chronic gambler. He treated my mom and I horribly, I am glad she divorced him and got away from him.

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