I don’t have cable, so I didn’t see the whole show, but I saw a clip online of Oprah’s Life Class. Iyanla Vanzant was on it, and they were discussing how to heal after being abandoned by your father. Just reading the title took the breath out of me.
There is part of my life that very much defines who I am that I don’t talk about very much. My real dad. I remember my real father. In fact, I just spoke to him for about 24 seconds the other day when I called my grandmother. He’s very much alive, but I have only seen him maybe a dozen times in my life. Is that truly being abandoned? Probably not. He was very absent, though, and it hurt me in ways I’m sure I haven’t even discovered yet. I’m not sure I even know the whole story. I’ve gotten pieces of it from my mom broken up over the years, but that’s only one side of the story. There are always two sides. I’m not going to go into detail about the…well, the details, because there are some things that really should remain family secrets, and they’re not relevant.
The thing is, what I remember is hearing from him from time to time. Maybe a phone call. Maybe a letter. Maybe he even came to visit if his girlfriend at the time had a car. I would hear from him, and it would make my heart leap for joy. My daddy was thinking about me. My daddy loved me. He wanted to be part of my life. He would always tell a funny story, or at least a funny excuse for why I hadn’t heard from him in a year or two, promise to call every week from now on, and then disappear for years. I remember that he was supposed to come to my sixth birthday party (or maybe it was just call, I don’t know). He didn’t. He didn’t call, show up, write, send a singing telegram. I just got nothing. For that birthday, being the typical girly girl, I had gotten a fluffy pink ballet tutu. I remember kicking it around the house with all of my might wishing it were him. There was rage seething under the surface of that six year old girl. That moment will always remain in my mind as a reminder of my childhood. Sure, everything was ok. I had a stepfather. I had a mother. I didn’t have any siblings yet, that came later, but really there was nothing “wrong” with my life. We weren’t starving or homeless, and nobody beat me, but I felt like I was worthless because this man didn’t have the balls to call his daughter on her birthday.
I wasn’t important to him. He was selfish.
As a parent now, and especially as a single parent, I can’t imagine not seeing my son every day. I find myself taking out the anger that has been building since the days I assaulted a tutu on his father, who is leaps and bounds better than my own, but still not as good as I had planned for my children. If anyone tried to take my son from me, I would kick, scream, and raise hell until I got him back. I cannot wrap my brain around people who are the way my father was.
Not only has my father influenced my parenting, but dating. I spend entire relationships waiting for the guy to just walk away. I push people away because I anticipate that they will just be gone one day and I’ll be on my own. Do I want to do this? No. I know I’m doing it, and I can’t stop. Incidentally, every one of my relationships has ended this way except the ones I ended because I thought I could see it coming.
I know that my father had his own issues and that chances are, it had little to do with me. All of the advice in the world from Oprah, Iyanla, or therapists can’t get this one single thought out of my head, though. If I were worth anything, wouldn’t my own father have wanted me?
So, I’m going to take what little advice I could gather from the 2 minute clip of the hour long show and see what I can do.