Yes, it is me and my Dad sharing the father-daughter wedding dance. Yes, the photographer perfectly captured the sheer, sweet joy of the special moment. And yes, it remains one of the hands-down most amazing snapshots of my life thus far.
The photo tells a thousand lies by omission. It doesn’t show the years during which my father and I didn’t speak, followed by the years we could only yell and hang up on each other.
It doesn’t show that there were times in my twenties that I would have gotten married without sending my Dad an invitation, and other times that even if I’d sent an invitation, he wouldn’t have come.
It doesn’t show that we had many an Un-Happy Father’s Day, and all the days after.
In fact, if you turned all the beautiful, positive emotion of this image into its exact opposite—that’s how we lived. Angry. Sad. Separated. (Did I mention angry?)
The snapshot fails to convey the years it took to repair our relationship– one halting conversation at a time. The stops and starts–one step forward, three steps back–those are missing.
And the grace we slowly learned to give each other despite our differences is absent, too.
It doesn’t show the day we realized our relationship was more important than the things that divided us, or how we learned steer a wide berth around topics that separated us, concentrating instead on what we had in common: each other.
There are things my father and I still don’t agree on, and we probably never will. But I only have one father, and he only has one me, so we chose to not talk those things…and that’s okay!
Sometimes the greatest gift you can give is silence.
This photo may deceive on many counts, but it is honest where it matters most:
Love is bigger than our differences.
PS: This is the post-it note version of me and Dad’s journey of healing, but I recognize that not all healing looks the same. My friend and author Jim Palmer says it well: “Healing” may not mean your relationship with your father is fixed, restored, resolved or gets any better. Instead, “healing” may mean realizing this is not preventing you from being at peace and free right now.” –Jim Palmer
PSS: I wrote this as a Father’s Day gift for my Dad, but my heart was beating a nervous patter when I called to read it to him. “Wow,” Dad said after a pause. “Publish it. Maybe it will help some other fathers and daughters out there.”
We’ve come a long way.