Oh Father Of Mine...

My fingers awkwardly hover over these well-used keys, knowing the feelings they want to share but frozen because they know these feelings they want to share. I wonder, if this is how it felt for my mother to have to beg my father for child support, for paternity testing, for any recognition that he helped create a life. A life he could care less about. I wonder if she felt frozen and confused, full to the brim with emotions but empty at the same time, not knowing if she should let it all burst out or continue to compartmentalize it into 'what-ifs' and fairy tales.

I wonder if she ever had a feeling of absolute let down when he never showed up. When he ignored the certified letters informing him of the court dates. Or if she was not let down because she knew deep down he was a piece of shit.

Oddly enough, for a good part of my life, I held no ill will towards my father. I did not miss him, I did not crave him, I was not jealous of the other children who gallivanted around with their daddies, I really was pretty dang cool with it. Oh I was angsty, but not because of him-directly at least. I was angry and pissy because we were poor, I was annoyed that we had to accept charity, that we did not have a car, that we started the month okay and ended it with spaced out meals of ramen or food pantry donations. I just thought he was one of those guys who flitted through life and loved and left women and never stuck around.

At ten, you should have no thought process of how men and women act as adults and wonder if they are lovers and leavers. But I did. I was a weirdly adult child. But when you grow up in a single parent home, with sparse amenities and abundant stress, you tend to learn the realities of life a little earlier. You get lectures about what men really want and how to protect yourself while you are trying to make a flower on your second-hand lite-brite, while taking a bath you hear a constricted voice defend their life choices and trade away their pride asking for money for necessities, and through the paper-thin walls you hear your mother, the love of your life, berate herself for falling for illusion of love and not being able to provide for her family and cry herself to sleep.

I still did not blame him.

I did not hate him. I did not understand him. I did not know him. How could I hate someone I did not know? How could I feel any emotion towards a man who was a ghost? An phantom? A non-entity that I had no memory of?

For quite some time, he managed to stay on the cusps of my realities. I was sure he existed in the way a million dollars exists, definitely there just nowhere within my grasp.

When I was twelve, I met him in the most absurd, appropriate setting. At a local fair. With arts and crafts, the stench of beer and fried foods saturating the senses, cheap rides, disorienting fun-houses, and neon lights is where I met my father for the first and last time. While my mother and I sat at the peeling green picnic table, her sharp intake of air interrupted her mid-conversation, leaving me to follow her petrified gaze. A gaze that was marinated in anger, confusion and indignation and given the opportunity to stew for many years. Immediately, tears welled in her eyes, while anger and pain shot accurately at the short man laughing loudly with a woman affectionately holding on to his arm.

And I knew that was my father. Looking at my mother directly, through her pain, I asked if that was my father, her shaky voice could barely get out an audible yes but the barely nodding head and the pulsing electricity coming off her in waves told me all I needed to know.

For the first time I could remember in my life, I felt anger, I felt disgusted, I felt rejected. I wanted to wipe that offensive, smug smile off his face and quiet any laughter from his wicked mouth. I marched, against my mothers protests, to this man, this stranger, this sperm donor, this father of mine, and confronted him. Point blankly, I asked him if his name was Peter LastNameHere. He was bemused at this cheeky child coming up to him out of the blue knowing his name, looking oddly familiar but he could not place her...but only for a second, because the next question I asked knocked the air out of smirky, stupid face, I asked him if he knew my mother, I said her full name and watched the color drain out of his face and the fear fill his eyes. The lady he was with, his wife I later learned, looked at him then me, trying to put this awkward puzzle together.

His eyes begged my sentence not to be uttered, but I could not help it. It came out like a freight train, almost knocking me down with the power behind its expulsion, "Nice to meet you, I am Jennifer, I am your daughter". He dropped his beer which was barely being held in his grasp and his wife appeared stuck on glue, waiting for some punchline, some joke that was never coming. Staring at him, staring at me, seeing eerie similarities, questions and worries building in her frame. I think I asked for his medical history, making it quite known that was all I wanted from him, when my mother finally rushed up behind me as did her friends that were with us that day.

Two young ladies, close to my age, came up to us, to this commotion, with big eyes staring and wondering what was going on, asking their dad who we were. Girls with a little darker skin complexion, but who's resemblances to my own could not be denied. His horrified wife, to this day I cannot imagine the thoughts going on her head, looking back and forth between everyone and everything going on. Needing to sit, needing to breathe, needing to take in this surreal scene in front of her. He said nothing, as I was ushered away, by family friends. My mom and his wife talked and she took my moms information, while he said nothing. Did nothing. Made no move. He just stood in his stupidity. He made no denial. He made no move towards me.

His wife called many times after that first awkward meeting. Wanting to meet up. Wanting me to meet my sisters. Wanting to do stuff together. It was all her. It was never him. He never wanted to be around. He never wanted a connection. He had a family life. I was just a mistake. A blight. An error he could not simply erase. So he did the next best thing, he ignored me.

Up until that point in my life, I had always thought the man that fathered me just did not want a family, maybe lived far away, possibly died, but no, he had a family and lived one town over. He just did not want me. I was not worthy to be known as his daughter. That messed me up more than anything ever could.

Knowing he knew about me, knowing he never made a move to definitively find out if I was his, the fact he was never the one reaching out, his palpable rejection ate away, feeding new fears of not being good enough, doubting myself and causing me to question myself into tears and confusion nightly.

Not all the love my mom and my aunts gave me could fill that empty feeling, for some reason I needed a man to see me, to notice me, to want me-and I took it any way I could get it. Too many times, I found myself searching for acceptance with older men, wrong men, abusive and manipulative men, at a way-too-young age, giving away a part of myself, a part of my heart, for moments of acknowledgement, which only created more self-hatred and confusion. It disgusts me to admit that part of myself, that part that was riddled with daddy-issues and self-rejection only to be consoled with even worse coping mechanisms was in fact due to feeling rejected by a man I never knew, a man I never wanted to know until I met him and I could feel his rejection.

But I was not even good enough to reject. He would not even acknowledge me I was not even worth a waste of his breath. Instead, he would rather ignore me, pretend I was not in this galaxy let alone only 15 minutes away from him.

It took me a while to get over him, to get over the fact I had half-sisters who hated me. They did not understand I had nothing to do with my conception. They just knew everything in their life was wonderful and fun until I, the ugly proof of their fathers indiscretions, showed her ugly face. When people ask me I have siblings, I say no because I am an only child. The few awkward times we did meet up, it was full of tense moments, anger, and rude remarks and not one ounce of sisterly curiosity or affection. I get their misplaced anger and pain, really I do, but that does not mean I have to subject myself to it. I gave up talking to Tina, my dads wife. She meant well, she wanted some connection, she wanted to make this work but I could not do it. I could not hold on to some delusional reality where we all pretended to be happy when my father would never be there when I visited, when I was on the phone with her he somehow could never say hello, where he literally ran down a church hallway to avoid me.

I know there are abusive assholes who use the word father as a guise when they are truly demons out there and I should consider myself lucky to be left alone by mine. I know there are good guys out there who get the shaft and no acknowledgement for a being a damn good dad. But that was not my story. That was not my father.

The last time I saw him, my hubby (then boyfriend) and I were in a grocery store in Indiana picking up a few things before heading back to college in Michigan. As I was peering at the bananas and apples, debating on what to get, when I felt a red hot stare scald my back, my hairs stood up on my arms, and I knew I had to turn around. Slowly I turned and made eye contact with my father. My older, chubbier, grayer, father. Standing there, in the middle of the produce aisle with tomatoes in his hand. I debated going over to him, only for a second, then gave him an opportunity to walk over to me, to smile, to move, to do anything, but yet he stood there. Still not courageous enough to even say hi, to make a move. So I did the only thing I could, I shrugged, grabbed some bananas and told my hubby that it was time to get out of there.

I wonder from time to time, why he could not man up, why he could not say he hated me, that he was sorry, that he was a piece of crap, why he hid behind women in his life, why he was the way he was. Then I remember, that even though, it took years of self-discovery, even though it took many, many, many wrong choices and decisions, if it was not for him, playing that absent part in my life I would not be who I was today. Even though it stings sometimes, I am okay with who I am and where I am and only have time for those who want to be in my life and have no time to fantasize about those who had no desire to be in the same galaxy as me.

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This week I am guest hosting Sunday Confessions for More Than Cheese And Beer. The prompt is Father.  Please try to stop by the other amazing, brave bloggers who joined up today for today's' Sunday Confessions to tackle the topic father who interepreted it in any way that it inspired them and show them some love. Don't forget to stop by my Facebook page to catch some of the anonymous confessions that father brings to mind. Happy Sunday and happy reading.


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