I’ve lived through 9,855 Father’s Days, and I’m not 9,855 years old.

There was that first one, 27 years ago, when he left. I was two months old.

Then there was the smattering of times he promised to visit or call. Those were the ones spent waiting, hoping and, usually, disappointed.

There were the times he showed up, and then I wished he hadn’t.

There was the bat mitzvah he didn’t acknowledge, the 27 birthdays he “forgot,” the graduations he didn’t come to.

There were the times he showed up, and then I wished he hadn’t.

There were the report cards he didn’t read, the friends he didn’t meet, the awards he didn’t know about.

There was the homework he didn’t help with, the “father-daughter” events he wasn’t around for, and the yearly elementary school Father’s Day cards I made for no one.

There was the year he started a new family—and didn’t tell us.

There was the day he called for the first time in three years and then fell off the radar for another two.

And then there was The Last Visit, although I didn’t know that at the time. I was ten.

These were my Father’s Days.

But then there were all the days in between. Endless days of anxious wondering if and when he would show up. There were months of convincing myself that I didn’t want to see him—I just wanted him to want me, and years of wondering why he didn’t.

This was my childhood. A constant wish that he would call, and a simultaneous fear that he might. Years of uncomfortably explaining his obvious absences with “My parents are divorced,” knowing full well that divorced parents can still be involved in their children’s lives.

There was Shabbat with no man to sing Shalom Aleichem and say kiddush. There was Simchat Torah, watching the fathers dancing with the Torahs in the synagogue and knowing there was no one there for me. The sting of watching my brothers looking lost in the men’s section—the only boys on their own—and knowing I couldn’t help them. The longing to join all the other little girls and boys congregating under their I’d see a father playing with his children and feel a deep stabbing pain.fathers’ tallits during birkat kohanim (the special priestly blessing). The menorahs he didn’t light, the Purim costumes he never saw, and the Pesach Seders where I asked the four questions to no one but G‑d—and I didn’t feel too attached to Him, because of all the "G‑d is like a father" metaphors I couldn’t relate to.

And most of all, there was the daily ache.

I’d see a father playing with his children and feel a deep stabbing pain. A friend would mention asking her father for advice, and I’d feel jealousy running through my veins. I could easily end up in tears by reading a children’s book about happy families. I got angry every time I heard G‑d compared to a father who loves His children no matter what, because to me the very premise was innacurate. I lay in bed at night wishing he knew how much he’d hurt me.

I dreamed up ways I could hurt him. I wrote him angry letters I never sent. He occupied so much space in my mind and in my heart, that every day was Father’s Day. But he wasn’t thinking about me.

The knowledge that my own father—someone supposedly biologically programmed to love me unconditionally—had rejected and abandoned me was unbearable. I wondered what could possibly be so wrong with me that he wouldn’t want me. Every day he stayed away, I was abandoned all over again.

But things have crystallized, and it’s time for a change.

I’ve come to realize that he didn’t reject me because I was damaged; I am damaged because he rejected me.

Someone who cares so little, who has spent less than 15 days of my life with me, doesn’t deserve 9,855 days of my He certainly doesn’t deserve to hold so much power over me.attention. He certainly doesn’t deserve to hold so much power over me, my relationships and my self-perception. He hasn’t earned the right to feature in my thoughts, mess with my emotions and interfere with my religious observance.

So this year, I’m observing the real Father’s Day for the first time, albeit unconventionally.

This year, I’ll be grieving for the father I never had and for that important male relationship I’ve missed out on. But he missed out too. He missed out on knowing me—as a child and as an adult. He missed out on having me as a daughter. He’s missed the opportunity to enjoy parental pride, and for that I pity him.

Will I always feel sadness for my fatherlessness? I’m sure I will. But from now on, he is banished from my thoughts, except when I choose to let him in. He’s had too much power for far too long.