I’m 11 years old. I am sitting in class with a stomach ache because it is Friday. I stare at the clock wishing it would slow down because I know at 6:00 p.m. I have to do that awkward trade off between mom and my biological dad. I stare at my supper with very little appetite and then stare at my mom hoping that she will say that I don’t have to go. As I climb into my dad’s truck, I look at my mom driving away with a lump in my throat and tears welling up behind my eyes. I can’t let my dad see me cry because it will hurt his feelings, so I suck it up.
It used to be fun. I used to love going to see my dad, but that was before. Before all of the girlfriends that I got close to, just to feel that familiar sting of pain when they packed up all of their stuff and left. Before I stayed up so many nights consoling him about those same girls with no one consoling me. Before I would get dropped off with my grandma for most of the weekend, hardly even seeing my dad because he was off doing who knows what with who knows who. Before the bitter comments thrown my way here and there. The comments that made me feel terrible for simply existing because that caused such a strain on him. Before I understood what had actually happened between mom and dad. Before I watched the videos of my first birthday and my first Christmas and realized that he wasn’t there because he did not want to be. Before I noticed how he didn’t have any pictures of the both us in them until I was 3. Before. When I was ignorant and blissful.
I’m 14 years old. Things are becoming more and more rocky between us. We hardly talk, even when I am there. When we do, it’s short and awkward. He has another daughter on the way that he is really excited about. You were never excited about me. You still aren’t! How many music concerts have you been to? How many softball games? How many volleyball games? What were my first words? When did I take my first steps? I’m in a bitchy, angsty, rebellious stage. I do anything and everything I can to get on his nerves. I color my hair odd colors, I wear excessive amounts of dark eye make up, and I wear clothes that “I couldn’t muck stalls in.” And it works.
I’m 15 years old. My dad and I don’t talk. We make no contact anymore, not after what happened. Not after the hurtful things said. Unforgivable things. Things a child should never hear from a parent. Things that cut deep. It was all his fault. His lies and deceit finally caught up with him, but I am the one who gets the blame.
It’s Christmas day. I am sitting on the living room floor with my sister and her mom, making a quick stop to see them before my biological dad gets back. My mom, dad, and siblings are in the car waiting for me so I can make a quick exit if he comes back. His truck pulls in the driveway, I quickly hug them goodbye, walk out the door right past him without a word, and get into the car, trying hard not to look back to see if he watched me go.
I’m 17 years old. I am sitting in the church at my great grandfather’s funeral. It is awkward. We still haven’t said a word to each other. As we sit down to eat, he tries to start a fight. I don’t take the bait. I give my 2 year old sister a hug, silently collect my coat, and head to the door. He follows. Hatred spewing from his lips until I can’t take it anymore. “I don’t want to talk to you! I have nothing to say to you! I HATE YOU.” I get in my car and drive away unable to control the tears rolling down my face. I get back to my grandparents house where my mom and dad are waiting for me.
My step dad sees me first and hugs me until I regain composure of myself and stop crying. I am so thankful for this person standing in front of me. The man who raised me and yet still holds me when I cry over someone who never wanted to be there. The man who decided to be my dad when he didn’t have to. The man that stepped into the shoes that another man left empty. The man that has been there to support me through everything. The man I said my first word, daddy, to. The man that I love and owe so much to. I am so thankful for the man I call my father.