Another Father's Day Without My Dad

The daughter of a "runaway husband" speaks out.

Posted Jun 22, 2020

Lisa Fotios/Pexels
Source: Lisa Fotios/Pexels

I received this email from Tiffany Scott, the adult daughter of one of the moms in the Runaway Husbands community. I was so moved by it that I asked her if I could publish it. She wrote back and gave me the green light, but asked that I not publish it anonymously. She felt that after years of hiding, she now wanted to claim her story and share it with you under her name. She's just started a blog on the topic.

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I was returning from a business trip and called my mom, as usual, during my commute home. What I expected to be an uneventful call would instead begin the chain of events that ultimately became the most devastating difficulty of my life. She told me that my dad said he decided he was going to divorce her.

My parents divorcing was unfathomable to me. My parents led the marriage ministry at my church and had done so for nearly 20 years. Growing up, they were notoriously flirtatious. My dad’s playful nature and affection for my mom were regularly on display.

They’d stroll through the mall food court (where my sister and I worked as teenagers) with his hand in the back pocket of my mom’s jeans, prompting us to roll our eyes and murmur, “Ewww gross,” as they passed. Even at home, he’d glide over to my mom as she stood over the kitchen sink washing dishes after a nightly family dinner, wrap his arms around her, and initiate a dance, sometimes silly and funny, sometimes slow and romantic.

My dad showed his love for my sister and me, too. He was an involved father: coaching our sports teams, teaching us about his outdoor hobbies, using lunch breaks to attend school talent shows, concerts, and assemblies. When my sister and I moved away after college, our visits home began with his usual silliness like him picking me up at the airport in a suit and chauffeur’s cap, holding a sign with only my last name scrawled on it as though he was working for a private car service, or meeting me at his front door of the house doing a short choreographed dance, more than a decade before TikTok, chanting that he was so happy because I was back home. The visits always ended with long hugs, smiles, and an invitation to move back home anytime, because he missed us so much.

My dad and I spoke weekly. He spoke with my sister daily and bonded with her on their shared love of our hometown sports teams. Neither of us would have ever, ever, ever guessed that he would ghost us.

In the middle of the morning, my dad went to the elementary school where my mom worked to tell her that he had just moved out of the home they shared for 29 years. A day later, he sent my sister and me a text to tell us he had left and asked us not to contact him, because he would contact us in a few weeks. A year and a half later, he called, announcing he was ready to “put this in the past.” He called for two days straight. Despite me reaching out and his impeccable reputation for expeditiously returning calls, we haven’t spoken since. It will be three years in September.

Although I am devastated that my dad chooses to stay out of my life, my pain was more severe for my mom and the emotional, social, physical, psychological, and financial hardships she endured because of my dad’s abandonment. I was relieved to learn that her story is not as unique as it seemed at the time; that there are other runaway husbands who disappear without warning or valid rationale.

Now as I approach another Father’s Day without my dad, I wonder if there are others like my sister and me, adult children of runaway husbands, trying to figure out why other divorced dads maintain a relationship with their kids, but our dad chooses to stay absent from us and his grandchildren. Why we find ourselves in a unique place among adult children on Father’s Day. 

We are not quite like those who have grown numb to the annual celebration because of decades of disappointment stemming from childhood. Nor can we claim the intense grief and sorrow that I can only imagine comes from a beloved father who has passed away. We are navigating the mix of disappointment and grief by trying to understand why he abandoned us. We assume the reason is shame. He was a man who flagrantly dismissed parents for walking out on their families. Now he is that parent, and Father’s Day will never, never, never be the same again.

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I (Vikki) am working on providing services to the adult children of dads who left. If you feel your kids may welcome connecting with others who have gone through the same thing or receiving help from me, please email me.