Guest Author - Cynthia Parker
There once was a young woman who, after not speaking with her father for twelve years, decided to contact him on her own terms. She felt frightened at the prospect of seeing him again and yet she knew that it was the only way to obtain answers to her questions. Her father had left his family when she was only four years old. For two years he would periodically visit her, taking her to the home where her grandmother lived and sometimes spending a weekend with her. But the visits became more sporadic and soon they happened only occasionally. He would promise that he would come to pick her up and she would sit patiently, her overnight bag at her feet, until it was time for bed. Her mother would have to coax her to eat supper on that night and finally insist that she curl upon the couch to sleep, for the little girl was so determined that her father would keep his promise. On occasion he would send her grandmother or his girlfriend to pick her up when he professed that he could not. But it was her father with whom she wanted to spend time and while these women were very nice to her, it was not the attention for which she sought.
When she was about nine years old, he stopped by her home with a new girlfriend to introduce to his daughter. It was the first and last time she ever saw the woman. She did not hear from her father again for over a year. That phone call was very short and afterwards, she did not hear from him until she was thirteen. Then he promised her a pair of diamond earrings for her birthday. She told him that she did not want diamond earrings, but he kept insisting. Of course, no earrings ever materialized. The next call was a week after her sixteenth birthday. He wanted to know who she loved the most – him or her mother? How could she answer such a question? How could he ask such a question? Her mother walked into her room to find her crying uncontrollably. The girl handed her the phone and asked her to tell her father she never wanted to talk to him again. When the mother asked her father what had happened, he told her, “Nothing.” It took three days to get the story from the young girl – it was terribly painful to her. Along with the truth of the phone call came the pain of abandonment, longing and lies. The girl was terribly upset and repeated that she never wanted to talk to her father again, but the mother insisted that if that was how she felt, then she had to tell her father than herself. She encouraged the young girl not to burn any bridges.
The advice and the decision did not matter, however, for the father did not call again. And thus it came to pass that when the girl was grown, she decided to make contact herself. The man who was her father did not recognize the grown woman standing before him. When she revealed her identity, he was surprised and invited her into the house to meet his new wife and his step-son. The boy was older than the young woman and called her father, “Pop.” This was painful, as the daughter did not know the man as a father and yet this boy, who was not his son, called him an endearing, fatherly name.
The young woman was surprised that there were photos of her all over the living room walls. She realized that her mother had been sending her father pictures of her throughout her life, even when he refused to maintain contact. It brought a tear to her eye. Her father was very nervous with her in the house, but seemed genuinely pleased to see her. They talked for almost an hour, but he asked very little about her and her life. When she left, he told her that he loved her, but she could not say the same. How could this man who did not know her, love her? And how could he expect her to love him, when she did not know him? True enough, he was her father. But blood does not always equate family.
He called her two weeks later and she asked him to wait until she could sort out her thoughts before talking again. She told him that she would call him when he was ready. Two months later, on Father’s Day, his new wife called her and told her that she should call her father, it would “make his day.” Why should she make his day? Did he not know of all the times he had hurt and disappointed her? Did he not remember all the times he had left her waiting for his arrival? Yet this new wife acted as if the young woman ‘owed’ this man recognition on Father’s Day. In the young woman’s eyes, he did not know how to be a father. Yet, she had been taught to consider the feelings of others and not to harm intentionally, so she called. They talked for only a few moments; it was all her pained heart could bear.
Still she struggles with the existence of her father. Still she wonders if talking with him further will clear up the confusion or only increase its intensity. She struggles with her own self-worth, her own confidence, as she rationalizes her worth against her father’s abandonment of her. Didn’t he love her then? How can h e profess to now? Wasn’t she of enough value to him to stay in touch? To keep his promises?
She is a young woman seeking her way in a hard and confusing world. Unfairly, she must also contend with the confusion that was created by her father’s abandonment. If her own father could not love her, then how could anyone else? Then how can she love herself? And yet her mother continues to insist that she is lovable and worth more than she can imagine. How can she reconcile these two thoughts in her own mind? She will continue to struggle until one day – hopefully – the truth will fall into place.