#growingupwithoutafatherthewayitwas


I long for the days, when the only decision I had to make, was which dress to clothe the one doll I owned. Life was different then. Carefree. I am a 70’s baby.  Busy doing what kids do. I did not “notice” my father’s absence. You can’t miss something you’ve never had. But children grow up. don’t they? Become aware of things. Ask questions. I did. Like why mom was always working. Who was my father. Why he didn’t live with us.

At the age of 10, the awareness began to take shape. I began to feel a sense of loss. By then my responsibilities had increased tenfold. My sister came along. I took care of her. A lot. Life changed. Dramatically. I remember seeing fathers walking hand in hand with their young uns. Teaching them how to ride a bike. Giving “piggy back” rides. Little girls my age, showing off christmas gifts given to them by their dads. My sister’s dad coming to visit. The cousins with dads at home. Back then, my under developed thought pattern, could not formulate a logical explanation for my father’s absence. My mother never offered one. And I was afraid to ask. At the time.

The high school years were the roughest. We were dirt poor. But then again, who wasn’t?  On multiple occasions I went to school with only a hope. That one of my friends would share their lunch with me. Bus fare was all my mother could afford. In the third form, I wore the same pair of shoes until they had holes in the soles. And then some. Students made fun and snickered. Of course. They had no idea.  A roof over our heads was priority. All these experiences and a lot more contributed to the stifling resentment which began to stew. Towards a man I never met. One that would slowly simmer beneath the surface. For decades.

More than a decade ago, I immigrated to the USA. One day while channel surfing, the Maury show caught my attention.  I stared at the screen. Captivated. On this particular episode, a young woman obviously in pain, bravely shared her story. Desperate to find a father she had never known. After searching for decades, she contacted the show. I saw in this stranger a replica of myself. Someone who wanted closure. A beginning to an end. A face to the name. To have what so many take for granted. Their father’s identity.

A storm was brewing in me.  My heart was heavy. The heaviness got worse. After several minutes I gave up trying to focus on the screen. I decided to listen instead.  The tears which were threatening to fall, did. Unchecked down my cheeks. I didn’t think it was possible to cry harder at that moment. The DNA test revealed the man was her father. The search was over. She said her life could begin. The first meeting between father and daughter was nothing short of phenomenal. Days later, I cultivated the idea of taking similar actions. The thought passed. Let sleeping dogs lie. I reminded myself. You don’t know if the man is dead or alive. He could be anywhere. Really.

I always dreaded Fathers Day! In my church, its tradition to recognize the contribution and role of fathers. There are talks. Special dedications. Even small gifts in some places.  No other day in the year ever reminded me of my situation than this day. Unable to sit still and listen, I left the room on many occasions. How could I explain to my friends why I was crying? One year I decided to boycott the meeting altogether. It was too painful.  I didn’t have a father in the congregation to walk over to. Give a hug. Or kiss. And wish him happy Father’s Day. Dark times.

Today, I look back and wonder about many things. I don’t have all the answers. Sometimes I think I am better off not knowing everything.  Would it change anything at this stage of my life? I remember getting the same answers from my mother when I asked where he was:” We did fine without him. You are better off without him now”. Was I really though? I was not. I know this now. But too little. Too late.

Childhood impacts almost every aspect of our lives. Visit a psychologist with any problem, and they will enquire about the circumstances surrounding your childhood. The remaining scars. Which affect your decisions to marry. Have children. Your relationship with friends. Even family. Fortunately, these scars don’t have to rule our lives. Change is painful to come by. But it’s not impossible. No one’s childhood was perfect. We don’t have to become a victim of our circumstances. It’s been a long journey. It’s not over.

I am grateful for a mother who worked tirelessly to support us. Made unbelievable sacrifices. Taught me the value of hard work. To never give up. My life could have turned out differently. In so many ways. I no longer wonder about it. It’s not healthy. Things are the way they are. As the Brits love to say : “Sometimes, you just have to get on with it” 

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

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