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United States


Disappointing Dad

alec vanderboom

Put yourself yourself back in time to November 2000. Now imagine getting a call from the president-elect saying "Abby, my dear, this is George. I loved the enthusiasm you displayed while stuffing envelopes at the RNC during the last campaign. You're one of a kind! I want you to be in the West Wing this January starting a new job as my main scheduling secretary. Book yourself a flight down to Crawford this weekend, make sure to bring Jon and those sweet kids, and we'll chat about our next four years together!"

Now imagine calling your Dad in excitement and saying "George Bush just called me! The President-Elect! I've got a job working in the West Wing!"

Your Dad responds "What are you talking about? George Bush isn't the next President. How can he hire you? He's got nothing to give you!"

For the next eight years, as you fly around in Air Force One, greeting Heads of State and organizing Easter Egg Rolls on the White House Lawn, your Dad continues to deny that George Bush is even president.

You never figure out if your Dad's disbelief stems from a strong loyalty to Al Gore and the hanging chads that might have been, or is a sign of early dementia. One thing is clear, however. In your Dad's mind, George Bush is not the President. As a result, his daughter doesn't have a real job.

Imagine the bizarre conversations that you'd have with your Dad over the next eight years.

Maybe one day your Dad calls to say "Honey, I've got great news. Your cousin Chris got a new job managing a bar in Columbus!"

"That's great!" you answer cheerfully.

"Finally, you've got an inside employment connection! Now call Chris up tonight and ask him to hire you as a waitress!"

"Um, Dad. I can't be a waitress."

"What's wrong with being a waitress? You were such a great one in high school! Is there something wrong with being a waitress? Have you become a snob?" your Dad says accusingly over the phone.

"No, Dad. There's nothing wrong with a wait staff job. I just can't be one because I've already got a job. Remember? I got a new job as the Scheduling Secretary for the President of the United States."

"I don't know what you're talking about. George Bush isn't the President of our fine country. Right now, you are my completely unemployed daughter. Working in a bar for tips would be a great step up the career ladder for for you!"

After several weeks of these odd conversations where your Dad suggests alternatively working as a builder on a Buddhist stuppa, or going back to school to get a PhD in French, you decide to take drastic action.

You invite your Father to lunch, get him to shake hands with the President, and then give him a tour of your new office space. Your Dad's only comment is "Wow, this office is pretty small. What are you working in, a converted closet? You don't even have a window in here!"

"Dad, I've got a private office in the West Wing of the White House. The Oval Office is two doors down the hall. I have daily access to the President of the United States! I don't need a window."

"Yeah, I don't know what kind of two-bit operation your working for, but I'd immediately request a new file cabinet and a bigger desk."

Imagine this misconception keeps going on and on for years. There is so much of your life that you suddenly can't talk about with your Dad. And you start getting in trouble all of the time. Because if your work doesn't exist, then you have zero excuses for being absent from any social obligation.

Imagine one day that your Dad calls you up and announces "Abby, I won the Yard of the Month for July! I got you a front seat ticket for my awards ceremony on July 15."

"Dad, I'm so happy for you! All that hard work in the garden this Spring paid off. Sorry about missing the awards ceremony, however. I'm flying to Brussels that weekend as part of the advance team for the G-8 Summit that weekend. Have Mom take lots of digital pictures and shoot some video of your acceptance speech."

"What do you mean you aren't coming?" your Dad says in shock. "Did I mention I won the Yard of the Month! The Garden Club only gives out 12 of these awards each year and I won one!"

"Sorry, Dad can't make it. I've got a work conflict."

"Are you still talking about that imaginary job working for that Texas Oil Man again? What do you do for him all day? Can't you take one day off? Your Sister is using one of her vacation days to fly in to see my awards ceremony. Doesn't your employer give you any vacation days?"

"Yes, Dad. I get vacation days! I just can't use them when I'm needed to help plan a G-8 summit."


It's an odd thing to become a Carmelite when no one in your extended family is even a Catholic. I now serve a King who is completely invisible to my father. Praying, doing the laundry, growing a new grandchild in my womb- those activities don't constitute "real work" in my Dad's eyes.

This Father's Day, I'm thinking a lot about unconditional love.

How I can open myself up to trust in the unconditional love of my Father in Heaven.

How I can extend forgiveness and unconditional love to my Father on Earth.

How can I find peace when the growing love that I have for the Lord, my Husband, and my children lead me to many more "I'm so disappointed in you" conversations with my Dad.