When you and mum split up, I was just a baby and don’t actually remember you ever living at home with us yet your presence, or lack of it, has still managed to affect my life greatly and I want you to understand how your actions have ripples throughout the family you walked away from.
For a girl to grow up without a father who cares, or even a father figure, it is tough. No matter how strong I think I am, there is always a part of me who is a frightened and sad little girl who just wishes her dad loved her.
There is a photograph of me as a small child, I am sat in the bay window of my childhood home with the sun shining through, dressed in a cute 80’s outfit and sporting a dodgy fringe (thanks mum!), it is a lovely image yet one that is tainted with bad memories. For when I look at that photo, the memories of sitting and waiting for you to turn up to visit come flooding back. With my bag packed and hair brushed, I would sit and wait for you to arrive, looking up and down our quiet street, listening out for the knock on the door, but so many times that knock didn’t come. You let me down so many times that I lost faith in you.
Then there were all the times that I was brought to your home by my eldest sister, taking on, as she has all her life, the responsibilities that did not belong to her. She would take me to visit your new home, your new wife, your new daughters. Everything in your life was shiny and new, not like the tainted old daughters you left behind. Your second wife was very kind, she had to be to care for me during those visits, the times that I was supposed to be spending time with you was usually spent with her. And years later as I stood by her coffin alongside the half sisters I hadn’t seen since childhood, I would tell her a silent thank you for the care she gave to me. As yet again, the women in my life picked up after your failures.
When I was a kid, this mean girl in my class told me that I must have been so ugly and bad as a baby to make my daddy run away.
Doesn’t that sound like a throwaway nasty comment? A spiteful child’s bullying words.
Yet on those dark days when the demon voice inside starts to tell me I am not enough, it is those words I still hear. As a little girl I believed it must be my fault, perhaps if I were better, quieter, whiter, more like your new daughters, maybe then you would love me?
Don’t get me wrong, I am not the sort of person to allow my past to ruin my future. I am a strong and confident woman who is happy in life, but these things from childhood do run deep and I still find myself wanting to please those around me in the hope they will love me truly and not leave.
I am a strong woman now despite you, not because of you. You don’t get to take credit for me. And I see you doing that. Telling your Facebook friends, your born-again church about my accomplishments and it angers me because you don’t get to warm in my glow. You lost that right a long time ago.
You soon left another family, leaving more children in your wake and went onto wife number three. She didn’t want us around and so you disappeared. The sporadic contact became nonexistent and I was left bewildered and frightened, wondering what I had done, believing I must be a terrible person for my father to simply go away.
I understand that life is difficult. Relationships change, people face addiction, communication can be tough. But you made choices based on those things that meant I was the one to suffer. I have never known how it feels for a father, or father figure, to love me. Never had the opportunity to be a daddy’s little girl, to have a dad to guide me, worry about me, care about me. I find it hard to trust that men aren’t going to treat me badly, I wonder whether my husband will one day have had enough and leave me. I have a wonderful husband who loves me and our children, who supports and cares for me, yet that demon crops up from time to time to whisper in my ear that if my own father couldn’t love me, how on earth will my husband?
A few years ago, you reappeared. Facebook has a lot to answer for and you got in touch, wanting to reignite a relationship whose embers had faded 20 odd years previously. I decided to give it a go. Not for you, but for me. Because tragically, despite everything, I desperately want to be loved. I want to join in with my friends who talk about their dads who are their heroes, their dads who they go shopping with, who come for dinner, who they holiday with. I wish I had tales of my dad coming to my rescue, of feeling protected and safe when in the arms of dad, of being someone’s special child, a daddy’s little girl.
I tried. I swear I did. I told you about all the pain you had caused me, of how your decisions had broken my heart, I opened myself up and poured out the years of rage, hurt and disappointment. I allowed you into my life so I could show you the emotional battering I had taken because of you. I told how sorry I felt for you, that you had gone through your life abandoning children at the wayside and now in your senior years you were alone. I told you about my beautiful, amazing, intelligent and wonderful children who you had missed out on and that the title of grandfather was one that was earned not given.
You told me “Jesus forgave so that you can forgive”
That was the moment that I realised that you hadn’t changed. You weren’t taking responsibility for your failings, you had just found a way to absolve yourself of your sins and expected us all to rejoice.
I am not giving you that. I don’t forgive you.
The opportunity to tell you all the ways you had fucked up gave me a release, I thought perhaps I could find a way to have some relationship with you, perhaps not as father and daughter but maybe as friends. But I soon realised that you don’t have the credentials to be my friend. You aren’t worthy of me. My friends, the people I have in my life are awesome, they are full of love, respect and loyalty. They are interesting, funny, caring, special and they bring joy and laughter to my life.
You hide behind people and things who allow you to not take responsibility for yourself. Children, women, alcohol, a higher being. But at some point you need to accept that you have wasted your life and the opportunity to have me as a daughter.
Because I am fucking awesome.
In the end, I walked away not through hate, not through pain, not through fear. I walked away because I couldn’t find the passion in me to hate you or love you. I had no feelings, a numbness, a malaise, a disinterest. There was nothing about you that was intriguing or interesting, I didn’t want you as a father or as a friend.
This is me drawing a line in the sand, I do so without the shame or embarrassment that I usually feel if I think I am letting someone down. I am always trying to make people happy, yet teaming that desire with a hard shell. This interesting mix of wanting to please yet feeling I have to be defensive and ready for disappointment.
I am giving myself permission to move on, to not look back and to be happy as a fatherless woman.