My parents split up when I was around 3 years old. There were 3 of us and my mom was pregnant with my brother, when we left our sperm donor. That was it. He never wrote, called, showed up to court, never gave my mom a cent, etc. Nothing. 4 children that were half his and he couldn’t mail a damn birthday card. Jerk.
When I was 17 years old, I was on meth and a mess. I moved away to my aunt and uncles to get some help. I started to see a counselor. Her name was, “Judy.” She was lovely. I remember our first session she asked me what my first memory was. I remembered being in a crib. I remembered playing and trying to get a tooth brush (I think) off the bed next to the crib. I remember my father yelling and smacking my hand. I remember him leaving and never seeing him again. I never knew how that one moment would define so much of who I am. I didn’t want people to leave me. I didn’t say no to anyone. I didn’t fight. I was fearful. I was a pleaser. I would let someone take my soul and not say anything. The list could go on and on.
It’s funny how our heads work. I have a wonderful mom. She’s been there from the begining. Loving, playful, and full of fight for us. Why couldn’t my first memory be of playing with my mom? What was it about this one memory that made it stick and be first? Why? I’ve often wondered why I was left with this memory instead of him just not existing to me. I’ll never know. Just like I’ll never know most answers to questions I have about him.
I honestly don’t know if a child will ever get over being abandoned by a parent. I don’t know that there’s anything that will ever fill that void or answer so many questions that being abandoned brings. We had a good family that helped raised us and loved us. A power house mom that somehow not only survived, but thrived with all 4 of us. We were never without. I mean, we grew up with a lot less than most. We struggled to make ends meet, but we were never without. We always had clothes, shelter, food, etc. We could have everything, but we still didn’t have a father. Well we did have a father. We’ve always had a father. He may have been a horrible father, but he was ours.
He ended up getting into a horrible car wreck and survived years later. He was paralyzed, and could barely talk, but he was alive. We received a letter some time after the accident. My mom told us there was a letter for us to read, when we felt ready. A little bit of time passed and I didn’t read it. One day I was high on God knows what and went looking for that damn letter. Big mistake. I read it and put it back like I had never seen it. Boy, I was livid. Before I was sad, hurt, confused, maybe even a little angry, but now? I was shaking in anger. I kept that a secret and just held on to it alone. Never told anyone I read it. He ended up dying.
My mom asked us if we wanted to go to his funeral. She left the choice to us. My brothers and I decided to go. So we made the trip to Mexico with my mom. I remember my heart racing as we stood in front of the church. I remember being scared. I wasn’t scared of what I would see or the people. I was scared I wouldn’t be able to control myself. I was scared I would go kick the casket over. I was scared I would start screaming in anger and not be able to stop. I saw people crying and mourning this man that I had mourned my entire life. I was so confused. Could a man that abandons 4 children be lovable? Could that man be someone that made people happy? There across the aisle sat a girl with her mother. The girl was sobbing uncontrollably. The girl looked like me. That girl was his daughter. He was a dad? She knew him? Why? Why her? How could she love this man? I was so angry and so jealous. I knew he was a piece of crap, but I was still jealous. Why was she ok to love, but not me? We made it through the funeral. I didn’t kick the casket. I didn’t scream. Instead, I walked up to his daughter and I told her I was sorry for her loss. I gave her a hug and told her I was so so sorry she lost her dad.
I read that letter again eventually. Years later. I read the letter sober and as a mother. You know, I like to believe that I’ve done a lot of work on myself. I’ve worked hard to try and get over my shit. Reading the letter again, I still have anger and confusion. It no longer consumes me, but it’s there. In the letter he had said that we weren’t his kids. We were my mom’s kids. She raised and cared for us. The thing is that’s not how this works. When you have a child, that is your child. No matter what, he was my father. I was his child. He had that role whether he wanted it or not. I am a mother and I am responsible for the type of parent I am to my daughter. If I were to leave her, she suddenly wouldn’t stop being my daughter. He was a coward and in the letter I felt he was still trying to avoid responsibility. My aunt asked him what he wanted to say to us. He said, “I’m sorry.” My aunt had asked him if he loved us and she said, “He yelled at me as he was pounding his chest, “aquí los llevo!” (“I have them here”). Reading these things in the letter I felt as if I was being lied to. I wondered if a person that can abandon four children and never look back can even feel remorse. He was sorry? For what? Years and years and years and yearrrrss went by. Where he could’ve talked, written, etc. Now he was dying and he said, “I’m sorry.” It just wasn’t enough for me, but it’s all I received and have.
I never asked any questions I had. I never screamed and let it out. I never attacked him, while I sobbed as I had envisioned so many times. I realized I had everything I was going to get from him. Long lashes, issues, and my brothers.
He had substance abuse issues (alcohol and drugs). He was a liar. He was abusive. He was selfish. He hurt my mom. He hurt my brothers. He hurt me. He hurt everyone. It would be really easy for me to be just like him. I can’t tell you how terrifying that is. I have everything inside of me to follow lead. I have to fight like hell so that side of me doesn’t win. Today I write this as a 32 year old that is still angry and hurt. My father died and we never made peace. I was never given the chance to love my father. I feel like that will probably be with me forever. Just like he’s always been with me forever. Whether he wanted it or not. He was there.