My dad left when I was three years old. I saw him on and off throughout my childhood, but it has been 20 years since I have had any contact with him. Last week I received a phone call that changed everything. If you were here and I had the chance to say to you all the things I have wanted, this is what you need to know.
I have no memories of when you and mom were married. After the divorce you were supposed to have my brother and me every other weekend. It didn't take long before you would call mom and ask her if she could keep us on your weekend because you had a golf tournament or something else more important to you than us. Mom finally told you that she would be happy to have us all the time and you could just call if and when you wanted to see us. Needless to say for the majority of my childhood, the phone didn't ring too often and we only saw you once or twice a year. The weekends at your house were not fun because you married a woman that despised children. You would take my brother golfing and leave me behind where I was either bored or being told to be quiet. The only happy memories I have are the few trips we took to my grandmother's house. She lived in the woods where deer would walk right up to the house. She would cook and sing silly songs. She was a remarkable woman. As we got older and went to high school we barely saw you. The visits were always awkward because you never got to know who we were. They became more and more infrequent and then they stopped. We lost all contact with you and your side of the family.
Despite the fact that I didn't know where you were for 20 years, it still came as a shock when I got the phone call that you had passed away. I still burst into tears as if you had mattered to me. As ridiculous as it sounds, I always held on to the smallest bit of hope that you would come back and apologize and want us in your life. The news shattered that hope. I felt empty and sad. My head was spinning with emotions and questions. It took the medical examiner four days to find my brother as next of kin because we meant nothing to you. There was no trace of us in your house. They gave us the phone number of your sister, our aunt. We both were so nervous to call her because we had no idea what she would say. She was so thrilled to hear from us and we found out so many things about you. However, most of them were bad, and she had no information that helped me understand why you didn't love us. She didn't understand either. She is nothing like you. I came to the conclusion that you didn't have the capacity to be a dad and love us. You couldn't even love yourself.
Over the years sometimes people would ask about you in casual conversation. I would tell them I didn't know where you were, and that I didn't care. But I realize now that was a lie I told myself. I did care. I always cared. I always wanted to have a dad that loved me. I have spent my whole life wondering why you didn't want a relationship with us. At every wedding I have ever been to, I would cry watching the father/daughter dance. On every Father's Day I would feel the void of what I wasn't celebrating. I often watched dads interact with their children and felt that twinge of pain. It didn't consume me, but there was always a nagging tug on my heart. In case you were wondering, my mom did an amazing job raising us. There were times she worked four jobs to make sure we had food to eat and clothes to wear. She always wanted to be a mom, so she made up for all that we didn't get with you. I guess you never wanted to be a dad. It was your loss and you missed out. I grew up to be honest, loving, funny, empathetic, passionate, and respectful. I am a dedicated and amazing mom. I am everything you were not.
When I became a mom, I felt sorry for you. Now I had a child that you would be missing out on too. They say you don't know real love until you have a child. I know you don't know what that felt like, but it's the best feeling in the world. My son is a piece of my heart that walks and talks and laughs. He constantly makes me a better person and I seriously don't know how I would go on if something happened to him. Maybe if you had spent time with us, you could have been a better person too. Children have a tendency to do that. I don't know how you went through every day knowing we were out in the world, yet acting like we weren't. My husband is a wonderful man and an amazing father. He will teach my son how to be a man.
When people have asked me how I am over the last two weeks, I just smiled and said "okay." How do I explain someone like you? How do I explain what you've done? It's a conversation I didn't want to have over and over again, so I just pretended I was okay. I know I need to forgive you in order to heal myself, but it's going to take a little time. I won't share everything I found out about you, but I'm angry. You stole money from your own mother. Who does that?! You lied to everyone. You told them you had a relationship with us when you didn't. Every time they would ask you for our contact information you would tell them you would get it to them but you never did. I don't know how you looked at yourself in the mirror. Your choice to avoid us was yours, but you didn't have to keep us from the rest of your family. Your secret is out. We know the truth now and we will help each other move on. Did you feel guilty when your mom passed away and you knew we wouldn't be able to come say our goodbyes to her? Did you ever think twice before you lied to your family? Did you ever start an email to us and then change your mind? Did you ever care at all? I'll never get the answers I need, so I'm going to have to let it go.
I have spent the past few days getting to know my aunt and my cousins. They are awesome and we are all so disappointed that you kept us from each other. But don't you worry, we will make up for lost time. We are already planning visits and we have been in touch every day.
After a few days of reflection on this loss, and so many emotions, I know eventually I will be okay. It will take time, but I will get there. I lost my childhood best friend to cancer at age 20 and a couple of other people that meant far more to me than you. This process is not new to me, it's just different this time. I am not mourning you, I am mourning who you should have been. What I have realized since that phone call is the only thing I lost was something I never had to begin with. And what I have gained is more than I could ever hope for with the amazing family you left behind. I now have a new aunt, three new first cousins, and ten new second cousins. You took so many years from all of us. I have closure knowing you can't ever take anything else from me again.
Please join me in thanking Tracy for sharing her experiences, feelings, and insights with us.