My earliest memories of my father are of him not being there. He had another family, and I guess they needed him more than I ever did. I remember suppers my mum and I ate alone, the food I insisted she leave aside for him, and even though he didn’t show up most times I was always happy to see him. I loved him, and that’s all that mattered.
I rarely saw my father. Most times he would call my mother to meet him outside the house. When he finally came home I remember him so tall over me, car keys in hand, trying to look interested as I ran circles around him and telling him some nonsensical story from school. Or asking to play with his gold watch. His phone. Showing him my books, the food I’d kept aside for him, anything to make him proud of me. Anything to make him stay longer.
I couldn’t stay a child forever and as I grew up, the cracks in our relationship turned into giant fissures. It wasn’t more glaringly obvious than when my father decided to finally come live with us when I was fourteen. I’d gone from the girl with virtually no father to the girl with a hovering father almost overnight. I hated it. We fought over everything. He wanted to assert his authority but in my mind he had none over me. My father had made his choice years ago. He hadn’t been there when it counted, and he didn’t know the first thing about me. How dare he try to pretend otherwise!
One thing about growing older is knowing that there’s a time to just forgive and try to forget, otherwise bitterness will build a fort around you then you’d be stuck. That moment came when I examined my life and noticed the destructive patterns I had all stemmed from the need to find the love and validation I never got from my father. I had to remind myself that this was MY life, and I needed to live it for myself, not as a reaction to something I never had.
For a long time the only things I felt comfortable talking with my father about were school things and official things. It was awkward. It still is sometimes, but he tries. He’s a good father to my siblings and I’m happy for them.
Sometimes I look at him and I get so ANGRY. Does he know he broke his little girl? Does he care? He was supposed to teach me about love. He was supposed to teach me about acceptance. I hear fathers do that.