The hardest lesson I ever learned took me well into my adult life, after my children were grown and on their own.
My father was a good man who provided for his family, but would have preferred to be, as he described himself, a hermit. Growing up I thought all children felt like I did about their fathers, mostly indifferent, but given the choice would prefer anything other than spending time with them. As I grew older I realized there were other girls who were "Daddy's girl" and they had very close loving relationships with their fathers. In fact, my girlfriend's dad took me under his wing, and treated me as I saw him treat my friend and her sisters. I began to wish my dad was more like this man.
Then, at some point, I began to will my father to change. Eventually I resented my father for not being the kind of father I wanted, indeed believed I needed him to be. This went on for many years.
Finally, once my own children were out of the house themselves, I realized my father did the best he could for who he was. He was not capable of being the kind of father I expected him to be, but he was the best father he could be. A few years before he passed away my father and I made peace - correction - I made peace with myself. My father and I were able to have candid conversations about my unrealistic expectations of him and how I finally accepted him for who he was and realize he did his best.
In the final weeks of my father's life my siblings (6) and I spent time with my dad and it dawned on me that not only was I at peace with who he was, but he was at peace with it too. I think on some level he was uncomfortable holding up the wall he had erected between himself and everyone else. He knew the struggle was coming to an end. I am glad I finally accepted my dad for the hermit he was and stopped trying to make him into the warm fuzzy I wanted him to be. To be honest, I don't think I would have felt comfortable with the change. He had always been a hermit, I just needed to open my eyes and see it.