My earliest memories of my father are all from my imagination. I was told I met him when I was two or three at McDonald’s. I don’t remember it, but I can almost imagine how it went. I probably cried, as this man I never even knew existed up until this point, tried to hold me. I would live the remainder of my life without a father and most of the time I would say; I do just fine.
Father’s Day stirs up a lot of mixed emotions for me. For the longest time, I was hesitant about even writing about my father on Father’s Day. I know quite a few wonderful fathers, my husband included, and I didn’t want to give the impression that I think all fathers are or will become deadbeat dads. I don’t believe that at least not anymore.
Growing up, I never really noticed the difference until I started school. Quite a few of my friends came from single parent households, and I was no different. In school, we made Mother’s Day cards and by the time Father’s Day rolled around, we were thankfully out on summer break. I used to make up stories about where my Father was and why he wasn’t around. I truly believed that one day, he would come for me, just like in the fairy tales. Only instead of hoping for a prince, I wished on a star for my Dad.
I never really asked any questions about my Father. I was too afraid to ask. I was scared that my Mother would get offended or worse yet, that the questions would upset her. Instead, I asked and answered them in my mind. It wasn’t until I was 16 that I finally got up the courage to ask what my father’s name was, I never knew. It was then that I found out that he had kept in contact with my Mother and over the years she would tell him about my accomplishments, but he would never ask to see me.
That fact never really registered with me until now because back then I still lived in my little rose colored world. I believed that all parents loved their children, and I blamed my Mother for keeping us separated. A conversation, I now wish I could go back and do over again or at least apologize for the things that were said, but I can’t.
I was 21 when I finally met my Father. He had some work that brought him to my area, so he arranged to meet me. We sat in a McDonald’s of all places, and he shared with me the photographs of a family I never got to be apart of and never would. Growing up, I always wanted a sister, and I would find out that I had two and another brother. I invited my Father to my college graduation, and he promised he would come.
The day of my college graduation I was so nervous, it was that nervous excitement that you have when everything you’ve ever wished for is going to come to pass. In my mind, my Father attending my graduation was going to make up for all the missed school performances, graduations, and birthdays over the years. I spent more time looking for him through the sea of humanity than actually paying attention to what was happening. I never found him, he never came. I never got an excuse or even an apology. When I asked why he never showed up, it became apparent to me that amidst the longest tall tale ever, the bottom line was he had just forgotten. I wasn’t important. I wondered if I would ever be important to anyone.
Years went by with little to no contact at all until my mother passed away, I was 29. I waited until after the funeral, not on purpose, but because I was in such a messed up haze at the time, it never occurred to me that he would even care to know. For 29 years my Mother took care of me, on her own, with no help from him. She put me through Catholic school and then a very expensive college. She dragged me to dancing school and violin lessons all the while he lived his life and never gave me a second thought. I reached out to him because he was all I had left. Besides my brother, he was the only living family I had, and I needed someone to care. He made a lot of promises that I think in his mind he wanted to keep, his intentions were good. He wanted to help me grieve and give me something to hold on to, but I needed an anchor, and he was never that.
When my daughter and sons were born, he was there both times. He had promised me that he would be a better grandfather than he was a father. He promised to be there for them because my mother couldn’t and he owed her that much. The last time I saw my father my boys were six months old. I’ve tried to contact him, but communication has broken down between us and I’ve pretty much given up. I know that he can’t be there for me in the way that I need. I know he will never be, and I’ve come to terms with that fact that he’ll probably die, and I’ll never know. In some ways he already is dead to me because I have to move on, I have a family to raise.
It should come as no surprise when I say that the man I chose to have a family with turned out to be a train wreck. My children are lucky that they have my husband, who has become more of a father to them than their biological one. My husband has shown me and them what a father should be, he puts me and the kids first every day. He goes out of his way in more ways than they will ever know to protect their little hearts from the disappointment that is their biological father. He never asks for a reward or a pat on the back; he does it because he loves them like his blood.
There are times when I watch him being a father to them and I think this is what I missed out on; this is what having a father is really like. When I was a child, a father was someone who left. He was the man who missed the father/daughter dance, birthdays, and Christmases. Today, I know what being a father means because of my husband. He’s a caring protector who shields his family from the heartaches of the world and gives them a safe place to land.
Thank you to all the amazing fathers of the world, you are more precious than rubies.