Growing up, my dad and I had what could charitably be described as a “dysfunctional relationship.” Hell, it could charitably be described as a “relationship.” We never really got along and as I grew older, it eventually got so bad that we couldn’t even be in the same room without there being some sort of confrontation. By the time I left home at 18, I did so with the intention of never speaking to him again. And while I didn’t quite stick to that, the next few years while I was away at college, and for a couple years where I lived overseas, we barely spoke at all.
I eventually moved home because I met a girl. I was young and in love and soon we were engaged. In retrospect, I should have seen the end of that relationship coming. I mean, all the signs were there. I caught her lying to me multiple times and we fought constantly. Everyone said she was bad for me, but I ignored them and the giant red flags everywhere and kept trying to make our relationship work. When we finally did call off the engagement, I was devastated.
It’s odd that after that, I should turn to my dad for support, but for some reason I did and to my great surprise, he really stepped up. He told me I could stay there until I figured out a new living situation. He offered me work while I looked for a job. He listened to my embarrassingly angsty broken hearted blathering and gently encouraged me to move on. He was kind and supportive and never once felt the need to criticize me or tell me what a mess I was or to point out all the things that I had done wrong and that was most certainly not the man I grew up with. But, honestly, I don’t think I deserved the kindness my dad showed me at that time, but it was that experience that made me realize a few things.
First, my dad actually did love me. I’d never really believed it until then. Second, I’d been a terrible son, and I needed to be better. And third, in life you will only really ever meet a handful of people that you can depend on to always have your back and who truly care about you enough to only want what is best for you. Those people are the ones you keep, no matter what. Figure out who those people are and, then, hold on to them. Do whatever you have to do to make your relationship with those people work, because you don’t get a lot of them. And that was the first time I ever really thought that my dad was one of those people for me.