I am not sure where it came from. My fear that if I told my dad off he would leave forever. I guess it really doesn't matter how it originated, but the fact was if I even snapped a little at my dad I thought that would be the end of our relationship and I didn't want that. At first when my parents separated, he lived in the next town over. I hated everything about that separation because it was so weird going to his new place that never felt like home. Then after awhile, not sure if it was weeks or months, he introduced me to his girlfriend. Well, it was more of a re-introduction because she was a bartender from one of my favorite bars at the time (Harbor Hideaway for you Shelburne people) because of their amazing cheese popcorn. If you find it at all interesting and strangely suspicious that his girlfriend was the bartender of a bar he took me to while he was with my mother, your suspicions are correct and that is all I care to say about that. (Small fyi that we kept the bar a secret from my mother while they were married-how great is that to do to your 11 year old kid?)
Then one day(after they separated) out of the blue he was moving to Cape Cod. He had always wanted to live there. I look back on that and only now recognize how much of an abandonment that felt like. His kids were not enough for him. He had to go lead a different life. I was losing him. Years later I would look back and say that this was so much healthier for me not to have him in my life consistently, but at the time it was heart-wrenching. The only thing that helped was promises of long visits and summers on the Cape.
The problem was that those visits were never about me. They just weren't. Dad never let my visit get in the way of his fun. We went to bars beginning at lunchtime. I always loved a good BLT and fries on the Cape. The problem was that dad loved to sit at a bar and chat with the bartender and the people around him. I was just secondary to this. We didn't have a lot to say to each other. The reason I do not drink soda now except on rare occasions is because I would have sometimes six sodas waiting for him to have his last drink. I was actually sick of soda at age 13!
At night, I often had my choice if I wanted to go with him or not. Often I would go out to eat with he and his girlfriend and then have him drop me off at home. At age 13 here I am on Cape Cod with no friends, staying alone well into the night, while my dad was out partying. What kinds of visits were these? It sucked. It sucked but I pretended to everyone else it was the coolest thing since sliced bread.
The thing that always killed me is on the last day of my visits dad would become apologetic about all the time we didn't get to spend with each other. I always, always said it was okay, but in reality it never was. I didn't think about too hard as a kid because it would have hurt too much, but the time we didn't spend together and the relationship we didn't have was his choice and only his choice. I was always right there ready and waiting. All he had to do was make the choice. The phone calls immediately following a visit would always make me the angriest. "Jen, that was too short when are you coming down again?" As I look back on it now, just once I wish I had said, "Screw you."
But, I never had the guts because I was just barely hanging on to any kind of relationship with my dad at age 15 and I was not ready to tell him he was not doing his dadly job so well. Sometimes a thread of relationship is less scary than the dread of having the thread cut and being left with nothing.