Thoughts about My Father

My absent father was a key central figure in my life, in a much bigger way than he might have been if he had been there all the time. Because he wasn’t there, I obsessed about that hole in my life. Through a process of continual questioning, I learned that he loved us kids and had been committed to us during the time that he lived in New York. He had divorced my mom before I turned 2, but he had stayed close to us, they would say.

Yet, I remember that on one visit when I was about 6 years old, I could not recognize him. He had seen me just a few weeks before this visit, I was told, but I couldn’t remember his face, and I was a little afraid of this stranger before me. How had I forgotten him? I felt so lost that day, but he was kind, and we had a great experience at the theme park where he took us. However, after that visit, I don’t remember any others. In fact, I have only fuzzy, several seconds-long memories of my father even on that single day of his visit.

Where did all the memories go? I never understood why I kept forgetting this man who filled my imagination with exciting dreams. The dreams were typical: One day, my daddy would come for me, apologize to my mom for ever leaving, and take us somewhere to live in a house on a lovely, grassy piece of land with trees, babbling brooks, and bright sunlight. We would be happy there, and I would finally have my own mom and dad.

Growing up, I felt aggravated at the thought that there was an image of my father somewhere in the back of my mind that I couldn’t access. In fact, there were years of experiences that had been erased from my memory banks. I knew that bad experiences could cause amnesia, and it made me wonder. Could some trauma have caused his image to be removed from my mind? I didn’t want to believe that my father had abused me. My family assured me that such a thing would never have even crossed my dad’s mind. Okay, so maybe it was some other trauma, I reasoned. But another thought niggled in my mind: even if he had been a perfect father, where was he? Still, I prayed all the time that God would give me the chance to meet him.

Every night, I prayed for every one of my family members by name. My grandfather had taught me to group the aunts in order by age and then to follow their individual family trees beneath them. My dad came under my mother, but I was listed under my grandparents with my oldest biological brother whom they had also raised. I grouped my other biological brother under the aunt who raised my brother.

My aunt’s house was another fun place for me. The basement was filled with toys, all crowded into built-in wooden chest benches that lined the walls of the large room. They had a traditional family unit of a mom, dad, and three kids in a two-story house in the suburbs. I loved my time there, and I dreamed of staying and living with them.

My prayers for my dad had evolved through the years, but the first time they shifted was at the age of 11. I remember being rejected by a boy named Kenneth. It was then that I realized that I was going through an awkward stage, and in that moment, it felt like I was going to be ugly and unwanted forever. Yet, my family kept promising me that this was only a short stage, and that of
course I was still beautiful.

“Lord, please wait until I’m pretty again,” I remember praying. “Don’t let him see me now. What if I make a terrible impression on him, losing my chance with him forever!”

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