I had written this piece some time ago for a friend’s blog and I am sharing it here today, in the hopes that someone will be encouraged by my story.
The baggage I left behind
I am certain there are others like me, which is why I share my story. Most close friends, relatives, and in-laws cannot relate to my experience and are quick to make easy judgments. You see, I have a biological father who is just that. To me, a father means protector, nurturer, spoiler, provider, but this was not the case for me. We had none of that. In fact my father had no close relationships with anyone in his life, not even his own parents or siblings.
I never knew of any close friends he had. When he met my mother he saw in her a warm loving person who would meet his every need and wait on him. Children were just a nuisance who messed things up, and he never really cared about us and resented my sister and I. However hard I try, I have no memories of him being a father except for two. When I was 7 years old, he fed me a piece of chicken and said it was delicious crab, and at 10 years old we sat together on an old orange sofa and watched a cricket match together.
He was a selfish miser; there were no trips, no vacations, no restaurants, no cards, no gifts or treats. Birthdays were always a miserable time because we always heard arguing with our mom; he did not want to spend the money on a party. Most often my maternal grandparents would step in to give us extras and buy clothes and have us do extracurricular activities.
When we got sick he was fearful he would catch something, so most often a grandparent or friend would drive us to the doctors. When my sister had complications from her pregnancy, he refused to take her to the hospital saying it would cost too much in gas money.
To the outside world he was different. He was a popular news anchor and radio personality, the life of the party. He had fans and even fan mail and even a Wikipedia page! On the side, he was a charismatic born again preacher in the church and loved by all. He would love to show us off as his possessions and pretend he had the perfect family life that the church desired. In public, he smiled and even patted us on the heads. No one believes a preacher can have an imperfect life right?At home he was irritable, hated when we laughed or played music and was always in a bad mood.
By 16 I was angry, angry at how miserable my mom was; she spent her life fighting for our rights. I also met my future husband at this time and my father did not care that I started dating, he cared about what the church would say. I meanwhile found my voice and used it. He hated that I rebelled. I got hit many times by him; once for not bringing him a glass of water. Here’s a vivid memory I have, when I took my mother’s side in an argument, he slammed my head between a door and a wall and kept trying to close the door on my neck and I assume was trying to do real harm. I never raised my hand to him.
I was strong and I survived it all. I could not wait to get out of the house. I used it like a bed and breakfast, escaping to my friends’ houses who had seemingly loving fathers that I was jealous of. I am a free spirit and I mostly healed myself with humor and the wonderful friends I had.
By the time I married I had no relationship with him and my parents were on the brink of divorce. He never walked me down the aisle but was present at the wedding because he was all about appearances and left early as he said he had an early morning call at work . He could not stand that I was marrying outside his faith and was ashamed of what others would say. My husband and I sponsored our whole beautiful wedding by the beach.
By the time I was in my thirties I had shelved the past and after 23 years of marriage, my parents finally divorced. It was a relief to us. Because of his local celebrity status, the courts painted my mom the villain and she got no settlement which he was thrilled about I am sure. But it was peace of mind to me– it was finally over.
When my children were born, new emotions showed up .They should know their grandfather, I thought to myself; he surely must be given a chance to redeem himself.
So after almost 7 years, I arranged a meeting. Instead of the grand moment I was hoping for, I felt like I was a character in a humorous skit. He kissed me on both cheeks (I felt nothing) and patted my kids on the head like puppies. It was cordial, we ate a meal together, I hardly talked. In a surprise move, he gave me the equivalent of $10 to buy gifts for the kids. He smiled like nothing had happened and promised to keep in touch but never did.I felt sick inside all the while. I had tried and failed, but I never had high hopes anyway. This man has no idea how to be a father or grandfather. He is missing out on a beautiful family
Today we are estranged .I don’t know where he is or what he is doing. I have no emotion toward him and wish him no ill. People cannot understand and say “but he is your father”. To me, father is not him. Father, is Steve Martin in the movie father of the bride, father, is Barack Obama cuddling his girls, father, is Mufasa in the Lion King!
I am at peace, knowing I have no grudge toward him. I have forgiven him and blame his family background, his genetic makeup, or whatever excuse I can come up with because I need to move on happily in my own life which I have done.
Dwelling on things that will never change is pointless. I have no grudge and no hatred towards this person who gave me life. I don’t ever want my childhood experience to affect how I act, and live my life now, as a mother and a wife. I see my own husband with our children and I am glad my children know a different type of loving, protective, providing father.
Unfortunate things happen to good innocent people all the time. It should not define how you live your life in the future and I know to put it in it’s place.
So although I will never know what “daddy’s little girl” will ever mean, I choose joy not regret. I choose laughter not tears, and I choose to leave my old bags behind and pack a new bag that hopefully will be happy baggage.