NYT Honorable Mention Winner


Father’s Day is uncomfortable. It felt disingenuous, as I deposited a card filled with semi-feigned adoration onto his lap. The token would be received indifferently, and Father’s Day would conclude.

I had always wanted to communicate with my father—about loneliness, about his tendency to threaten me and my mother with abandonment—yet I evaded discussions time after time with cards vacated of meaning. Perhaps that’s why I feel so strongly toward “Why Would My Father Not Want to Know Me,” an article that finally pushed me to address something I’ve consistently avoided.

Tara Ellison articulates her father’s early absence as “a deep wound that I keep wanting to believe has healed.” Having never seen her father in person, she recalls having to “manufacture appreciation for a parent I didn’t know,” and I am reminded of one of my first cards—store-bought, delicate blue—crammed with daughterly euphemisms. The fabrication of those words was deeply uncomfortable, yet I never failed to churn out a card for several years.

Later, there’s characterization of Ellison’s father as a man with a youth shaped by the departure of mother and sibling—one out of will, the other through death. I am inclined to believe my father’s life similarly plotted with voids that should have been filled by his own father, my grandfather. I remember another card, cheap and cartoonish: it was empty, save for a pre-written message. Knowledge changes perspective. What did I feel? Pity? They were emotions I couldn’t articulate. I left cards blank for a time.

Ellison ends the article with uncertainty; her relationship with her father, Michael appears ever-complex. Even so, there is a consistent pattern of movement towards a more genuine connection with her father, one that comprehends her prior experiences with him, or lack thereof. I had always avoided confronting my father. Why? Perhaps out of fear of losing  normalcy, but I am reminded that relationships arrive in myriad forms with atypicality as the norm. My connections are trending towards honesty, less delusion—my Father’s Day cards more faithful to bettering reality instead of avoiding it.

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