You may not remember me, but I remember you.
You’re the one I dreamed of as a little girl, and in my dreams, you were big and strong and full of endless praise. I stood on your shoes with my blond pigtails bouncing as we danced circles on the kitchen floor. You were there for birthday parties and Christmas mornings, always with a wide smile on your face.
But we both know those were just dreams.
Science has a lot to say about what growing up without a biological father does to a kid, but I don’t need to read those journals to know the weight of your absence. For years, you were my secret bruise—that abandoned, hidden place inside of me that wouldn’t heal.
Still, I’m not writing to you to tell you how much of a failure you were. I suspect you have already felt that guilt a million times. I want you to know that my wounds healed long ago, and that now I feel only pity and compassion for you.
You are the one who was absent when my grandpa took me on tractor rides and taught me to see the beauty in the flowers and insects of his garden. You didn’t get to show me how precious life is, but that’s all right. He did.
I’m sorry you were gone when the neighborhood dads played baseball with us on Saturday afternoons, then jumped into the community pool with us in lieu of showers. They showed me that being an adult is all about balance, and that laughing and playing should always be part of life.
You missed out years later when my stepdad and I went for long car rides and sang along to Solid Gold Saturday Night every weekend, and when he gave me advice about sports and friendship and boys, and everything in between. I know that if you had been there, you might have tried to show me what it was like to love someone unconditionally, but he showed me instead.
What fun it would have been for you to see me pitch all-star softball at the nationals! But it was okay, because my coaches and plenty of other team dads were there to cheer me on. They taught me the importance of working hard for something I wanted, and they also helped me learn that winning isn’t always about what’s on the scoreboard.
And when I married, had you been a bigger person, I’m sure you would have walked me down the aisle. I’m sorry you missed out, but my brother did a fine job taking your place.
I’ve done so many other things you could have been proud of. I’ve spent sunsets on island beaches, been caught in storms in the African bush, and climbed the stairs of the Eiffel Tower. I’ve connected with people. I’ve been a good friend and mother. I’ve accomplished things I never would have dreamed I could.
I don’t know that I could have done those things, had it been you trying to teach me instead of the men who were there for me.
I am enough. I know now that I always have been. I’m just sorry you weren’t. And I’m sorry you missed out on it all.
I wish you happiness, and I wish you peace.
— The Daughter You Could Have Had
Author: Amanda Christmann
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Tony Alter/Flickr