From a “Fatherless” Daughter: The Best Father’s Day Gift Ever.
I haven’t spoken to my father in almost 10 years.
I am not even sure if he’s still alive. I’d like to think that if he passed away, someone would have the decency to contact us, seeing as how my grandmother’s address and phone number has been the same for almost 60 years.
When I was a little girl, my dad hung the moon. It didn’t matter that he was rarely around, or only showed up when he felt like it. I didn’t care what anyone said about him, although my tiny ears should have never heard the things they did in the first place. I loved my father to pieces, loved him fiercely.
I was “Daddy’s girl,” even though Daddy was largely absent.
My biological mother mocked my enthusiasm and preference for my father, sarcastically referring to him as “Mr. Wonderful,” meanwhile quipping how there was nothing wonderful about him.
The things said about my father brought me to tears as a kid. I remember countless holidays I spent bawling my eyes out because I asked for my father and someone made some type of off-handed comment, thinking I didn’t/wouldn’t hear.
I heard, and it hurt.
Little ears have a big capacity for hearing.
I always came to his defense—a child, defending her hero.
The real heroes in the story, my grandparents, put up with the most hateful, spiteful words a child can ever say to their caretakers: “You aren’t my real mom/dad,” followed by the inevitable smashing of some object, door slamming or otherwise destructive act by an out-of-control kid.
(Caretakers/Step parents: If this is ever said to you, please know it isn’t about you. It’s about the kid missing the hell out of mommy/daddy.)
Everything my dad said, I took to heart, and applied it to my life.
Like the time I got suspended from phys ed. in first grade for slapping a little boy across the face with a jump rope, because my daddy said, “If you ever get into a fight, and you can’t beat them with your fists, pick up something bigger and hit them with it.”
When my dad was MIA, which was more often than not, he used to send me cards for my birthday, Easter, even Halloween. I used to run and show my grandma how pretty his handwriting was. I would trace over it, trying to make my signature look like his.
Everyone says I look just like my father. Occasionally, when I look in the mirror, I catch a glimpse of him, and then I quickly find myself staring back at my own reflection, as if I’ve seen a ghost.
I owe my father my life for helping to bring me into this world. But more importantly, I owe my father gratitude for the gifts he has given me aside from the gift of life.
My father stepping aside to allow someone else to raise me afforded me a life he wasn’t capable of providing—a life of stability, of unconditional love, with the two greatest, most beautiful people I will ever know—my grandparents.
I wouldn’t be me if not for the experiences I’ve been through, and I have to say I like who I am, and who I am becoming.
My dad, and the way he lived his life, has lot to do with who I became.
My father is also the one who gave me a name.
He named me after his ex-girlfriend, no less. (I’m told he arrived at the hospital drunk, and I have no idea why my biological mother agreed with naming me this, but that’s neither here nor there).
Furthermore, it just seemed that he and my biological mother were horribly confused, as my name is “April Dawn,” and I wasn’t born in April or at dawn.
I spent a good deal of my life hating my name for these reasons and was even going to change it, until one day, I decided to find out what my name really meant. I refused to think of myself as being named after my absentee father’s ex girlfriend anymore.
I found out that April is actually a shortened version of Aphrodite—the month was named for her. It means “open,” as in flowers blossoming, or “new beginnings.” Dawn also, is a beautiful time of new beginnings—the dawn of a new day.
I came to love my name. I stopped using my nicknames and wrote my name proudly, for the first time in my life, determined to embody the energy of the goddess Aphrodite. I blossomed, I flourished and I developed a new relationship with myself, free of old negativity from the past and negative conditioning around the name I had been given.
Then one day I met a man, whom I now have the most amazing relationship with ever. We both work tediously in our garden(s), watering the flowers and pulling the weeds, and what we have continues to blossom beautifully, month by month.
Because life is funny like that, when I met him, he had his own issues, and was wary of beginning anything with me. But there was something about my name that he took as a sign from the universe—new beginnings, blossoming, the dawn of a new day. Everything about my name whispered “hope.”
When you lose hope, you lose everything.
To have hope, is to have everything.
To be reborn every moment, to realize that every moment in life is a new beginning: this is a gift.
Even if my dad was around, there’s no gift that I can ever give him, no gift that money can buy, that can replace what he has given me: hope, security and love.
I no longer view him walking out as an act of abandonment, but an act of love.
This is how I choose to see it.
“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we would find in each man’s life a sorrow and a suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Some people walk into your life and make it great. Sometimes that means others have to walk out to create space for the greatness that’s to come.
There’s room in your heart though, for everyone.
Dedicated to my fathers—both of them.
Editor: Kate Bartolotta
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