When a parent chooses to leave a child, it leaves a trail of devastation and a lot of unanswered questions. For some people, the pain is simply too much to bear.
But there is a different way to think about a parent’s departure—painful as it is.
“Thank you” are two words I never thought I would say to my father. Some people might even say he doesn’t deserve my thanks, but I have a different view.
My father left when I was three years old. I don’t remember when my parents were married, and I don’t remember what it was like to have him in my life in a “fatherly” way.
Instead, there are cobwebs shielding memories that are oftentimes too painful to revisit. There are photos of memories that I don’t even remember because I was too young. There are echoes in my mind of the times I felt loved by him that make me wonder if I was dreaming because the overarching reality is vastly different from the echoes.
There’s so much that could be said of the aftermath of abandonment. When a father leaves, young girls end up having difficulty choosing a romantic partner. Young boys lack the male role model who they so desperately need.
Both genders end up with self-esteem issues that only a lot of therapy or introspection can fix.
And some wounds can never be fixed, depending on how deep they cut. At that point, we can either succumb to
your wounds or heal them.
I chose to heal them. I took my mother’s maiden name when I was 21. I cut the remaining contact with my father at that time. When I did that, my life began to change.
Instead of asking myself, “Why wasn’t I worth staying for?” I began to tell myself that the person who leaves never deserved to be in my life anyway. Instead of wondering about my value as a person, I began to treat myself the way I expected to be treated by others.
Stepping out of situations that are hurtful is the only way to grow. I am a more confident woman, now, in every respect. I am now able to write again, after years of doubting my abilities.
Then one day someone said to me, “You know, it is good your father left. Your life would be so different.”
At first those words shocked me, but then I realized how true they were.
Had my father stayed, I would have witnessed more fighting, more arguing, more conflict. Without him in my life, I can live freely and for myself.
Had my father stayed, there is no guarantee that he would have stepped up to be a good role model. If his leaving says anything, it says that I would have dealt with the same issues, just on a larger scale.
Because my father left, I had to fend for myself and make wrong choices in love and in life.
Had my father stayed, I wouldn’t be the person I am today—and I love that person very, very much.
In the end, perhaps his leaving was the most loving thing he ever could have done, and if my father was in front of me right now, I’d say “thank you.”
Thank you for leaving. Thank you for the life that I have now.
Author: Stephanie Longo
Image: James Garcia at Unsplash
Editors: Renée Picard; Sarah Kolkka