The first memory I have of my dad is in a court room. The judge was deciding who was going to win the custody battle when my mom passed away in 1987 and before she died, she’d given my aunt my brother, sister and myself to take care of. My father wanted custody of me and all I wanted was to be with my aunt, brother and sister.
Ultimately, the judge ruled in favor of my aunt, who I identify as my mother and my father was granted summer and weekend visitation rights. I never wanted to go. I remember it just being such a heavy feeling in my heart that had me in tears each and every day I spent at my father’s house in Winston Salem, NC.
The older I got, the less frequent the visitations and by high school, there were few and far between phone calls. Fewer and far between Christmas and birthday presents and by my senior year, all those things were extinct. So when he called me to tell me he was coming to my graduation, I wasn’t sure how to feel. One thing I wasn’t, was excited.
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Seeing him with his whole new family–my step-mother, a little baby brother, 2 baby sister and she was pregnant again–it hurt. And there I was, standing in cap and gown without any real attention or contributions from him. I was never really able to call him daddy. It tasted sour on my tongue, so I preferred not to use it. Using my words wisely so that I’d never have to stumble over it. Graduation went fine because after the ceremony, I ran off with friends, unapologetic that he drove himself and his whole new family four hours to be there.
College was non contact. I even managed to graduate without him. I stayed around through the summer, and headed out in a U-Haul to New York by September. I can’t remember if I let him know I’d decided to move, but we barely had any contact through my hardest years in this jungle of a city. I came of age in a place that eats people’s souls for every meal and I didn’t realize how much I needed my daddy until 4 years in.
After several failed attempts at relationships, I knew the root of my problem was the lack of a relationship with my father. I finally started having more feelings toward him than resentment. I just wasn’t sure how to reach out to him. One day at the gym, I was well within my warm up on the treadmill and my phone started to ring. It was my dad. I couldn’t believe it. I had to stop, compose myself and answer. I was still out of breath when I picked up, “Hello?”
“Oh, hey Dani Poo!” my dad was so excited that I picked up the phone and our conversation was fluid, cordial and after about 15 minutes, I hung up feeling like I’d let out the biggest sigh of relief. Without having to say the words, I’d forgiven my dad for never being there and I allowed my heart to open up to him and for the first time in a long time, I really loved my dad and had no problem saying that or even calling him dad. Our relationship isn’t 100% perfect, but it’s growing and I love that we’ve both found it worth it to be in each other’s lives.
If there’s a possibility that you can connect to your father after never knowing him or knowing him and never speaking, I suggest you try. lIt’s always going to be worth it. Happy Father’s Day!
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