This something I’ve been meaning to write forever. It looks like I first tried to write this last June and I’ve come back to see that I only wrote two sentences (and I’m not even going to use them). I want to write more about fatherhood in general, but I figured it would make sense to start with me and my father’s story.
But it starts before I even got here. My mother and father don’t agree much on the details of how they met but from what I can gather, my mother came to California, met my father and they fell in love. Like for real love, they got engaged and bought a house. Then my father messed up big time (“groupies” according to my dad and drugs, bad combo) and my mother left him. After she had me, she moved back to Connecticut. And since my father loved both of us, he followed. Since he didn’t know anyone in CT, he couldn’t get drugs and so he got clean.
For a while we all lived together with my grandmother. My mother’s work required her to travel a lot, so I spent most of my early years with my father and my grandmother. Eventually my mom was able to spend more time in CT, enough to buy a house and we were a “regular” family. I’m not sure what happened, but my father moved out but we still hung out all the time. I was the ultimate daddy’s girl and it was awesome. He spoiled me rotten and I loved it. Whatever I wanted I got and I got used to it.
When I was nine, my mother told me she was going to have a baby (with her husband, not my dad). That’s when my father decided to tell me that he had just had a baby with some woman I never met and that I had a six month old brother.
Somewhere along the way my dad started doing drugs again. His visits became more sporadic and when we hung out it was sometimes with real shady people and sketchy situations. I was also getting older, so I was more aware of what going on, but for the most part everything was cool.
Then my dad started going to jail. The first time was devastating. I remember hiding in the closet and crying. But after that, I began to look forward to my dad going to jail because when he was in jail he called and wrote all the time. And when he was out, he was gone.
During another stint in jail, the woman he had my brother with had a little girl. She was born addicted to crack and was placed for adoption. I only met her once, the day after she was born. And then she was gone.
Though I was getting frustrated with my father around this time, I was not done with him. I figured eventually he would clean up and get his life together. He had kids and all these mistakes had costs. But my father couldn’t clean up. My breaking point came when he missed my high school graduation. Later he told me that he was high and didn’t want to see me in that state. But I didn’t know then and that was the first time I cut him off.
Through all of this, mother has always remained calm. She never says anything negative about my father and his shenanigans. And whenever I talk crazy about his, she reminds me that he is my father. I’ve always admired this about her because if some man was driving my children crazy, it would be all over for him.
I don’t remember how, but we reconciled. I didn’t trust him and I barely liked him but I still loved him. My mother made me invite him to my college graduation. He came and was so proud you would have thought he had anything to do with my success there. It infuriated me.
The next few years were strained. I was going through my own stuff and didn’t want to deal with my father’s. I can’t remember now what happened, (I’m sure it had something to do with the truly awful man that I was dating) but I decided that I needed to deal with my father and our issues before it ruined any chance I had at obtaining and maintaining a function romantic relationship. So I wrote him a letter. It said three things: 1. You don’t know me, you haven’t made an effort, so I’m going to tell you who I am, 2. You’re either in or out. I’m not going to continue to chase you around and beg you to act like a father. You either do it on your own and leave me the hell alone and 3. You are not going to be the reason I don’t get married.
To be honest, I didn’t expect an answer. But my father, ever full of surprises, wrote me back and sent a packet of other stuff. He said he was sorry. He said he had been clean for a year and was diagnosed with PTSD. He had been in therapy and was back to drawing again. He sent me all the information he had about my sister. He sent me info about veteran benefits for children (way too late as I was 25 but it would help my brother). And he said I was right. I was finally able to forgive him.
He started to call me. If we had plans to meet, you better believe he was there. And for that I am grateful.
Our relationship now is not perfect but it’s much better. I have accepted my father for who is. I can see who he is. And I am ok with that. He’s never going to be Bill Cosby. He’s never going to be the man to financially bail me out of situations. But he is the man who will come down to to New York year after year and move me to different apartments, even mice filled ones that scare both of us. He’s the man that tells me I’m beautiful, smart, funny, insert positive adjective here when I need to hear it. He’s the man that helps me calm down because he’s incapable of not seeing the bright side to a situation. He’s the man that makes me laugh. He is my father.