It is the first day of fall in New York State where leaves turn to bright reds, yellows, oranges, even purples, like those decorating my oldest daughter’s body.

Over twenty years ago, Erin and I were walking the sidewalks of Ithaca, NY when she offhandedly says, “I need to feel pain.” Even being a Marriage and Family Therapist I am surprised, taken off guard, even dumbfounded.

Erin and I had been to therapy together a few times, attempting to heal the distance between us, created by the mistrust I had created (along with her dad) by not respecting her feelings, she not wanting a recent boyfriend of mine to move in. It was the one time I wanted my ex-husband’s help and support, as to whether to let Rick move in. Rick had been kicked out of his present living situation, me wanting to help, yet was conflicted as to what to do.

Chuck drove 45 minutes, so all three of us could be together to discuss this distressing situation with Erin, whose eyes are drowning in tears. She is 15. I should have validated her feelings as being the priority – but her dad supported me by saying, “Your mom deserves to be happy.” (Maybe he was trying to ameliorate his guilt for leaving his family, to be happier as a gay man.) Therefore, he did not respect Erin’s feelings as most important either. I was a registered nurse back then, not yet a psychotherapist. Chuck was a music teacher.

Still, I regret my decision to let Rick move in, despite my twelve-year-old daughter being accepting. I have apologized to Erin more than once with teary, “I’m so sorry.” But this has not healed her distrust of me, and maybe her dad, who left when she was four, and had been a daily constant love in her life.

Although she has been in therapy and chooses to buy a house in the same city where I live, there is a steady stream of distrust amidst easy hugs, where I love you is not heard from her lips. (Occasionally, I hear love ya, just recently love you as her dad is dying) I tell her “I love you” often when we are together, as I view flowering tattoos extending over half of her naturally beautiful body!