Sometimes you would send me a birthday card with a five dollar bill. I never understood you then and I guess I never will. Daddy gave me a name. My dad he gave me a name. Then he walked away.- Everclear
The days after my father left were a blur. I was devastated. Another person in my life gone. What did I do wrong? What could I have done differently? How could he leave us? Didn’t he love us? So many thoughts swirling around in my mind. Clearly, my mom was also upset. She would say how awful my father was to whomever would listen.
However, she never spoke ill of him in my presence. She never did say what happened between them. But I would overhear her on the phone all the time, saying “How could he leave me?”, “After all I did for him?”, “He left me with his kids. Now I’m stuck with them.” I was mad when I heard this. Here we are again with her saying that she didn’t want me. (Like she did when I was 10). I was so angry at her for saying these things and I was angry at my father for leaving. How could he do this? Hadn’t we been through enough?
Looking back and gaining perspective on my past I have realized that my father was never really present in my life before he left. He was always there in the background but was never in the forefront. He just fell in line with whom ever was in charge at the time. I was too young to remember when my real mother was alive. But I remember her always being the one to make disciplinary decisions. He was never home for that. And when she passed away, my biological grandmother (on my mom’s side) was living with us, taking care of us. He was hardly there. My aunt was also there taking care of us from time to time. And he still wasn’t there. And even when he met and married his second wife, still not there.
He worked a lot. Or so I thought. He was also in Atlantic City a lot, or bowling or delivering newspapers. All this before he met my step-mother. Once he was with her he was around more, but again, never the authority or loving figure you would imagine a father to be. He basically took a back seat and let my step-mother set the rules, which we all played by.
But I loved him. Loved him like a daughter who looked up to the first man in her life should. I made him pictures and cards. Asked for his attention constantly. But looking back, I realized I never received it in return. Because even though he was there physically, he just wasn’t “there”.
I’m not sure why he was this way. I know I’ll never have the answers and I’ve accepted that. Because I’ve come up with an explanation to justify his behavior. He was an only child growing up and from what I’ve been told he was spoiled. Had no responsibilities and got whatever he wanted. He didn’t have to take care of anyone but himself, so that made him selfish. And when he married my biological mother, she did everything. He only had to work. She took care of the house, us kids, the bills, etc.
I do know that he adored my mother. She was his forever. And when she died he was completely devastated. And I think that’s what did him in. He didn’t know how to function without her let alone function as an adult or a father. He had no way to cope. So whoever stepped in and helped, he was fine with just stepping aside. And as for not having a true relationship with me or my siblings that was his defense mechanism. Not getting close to us would be less painful for him in the long run. And it seemed to work out just fine for him.
But I never thought he would leave. I’m not sure why I thought that considering what happened with my sister. Part of me has thought that not only did my father want to give up my sister, she wanted him to. So maybe it was both their decision to split from each other. Whereas in my situation I had no choice. I had no voice in the matter.
In the weeks that followed his departure, it was business as usual. About two weeks later, my father came to our house. To explain to my brother and I that he and my mom were separated. She agreed to visitation. Sporadically it seemed. Kind of hard for my father to take us for a weekend when he was living in a hotel room. But he did take us once. I remember my mom telling me to be bad. Jump on the bed, throw temper tantrums, make the place dirty. So that he wouldn’t ask for us again. This confused me because 1) It wasn’t in my nature to misbehave. I always “fell in line” and 2) I had overheard her say that she “was stuck with us”, seeming that she didn’t want to be. But I never said anything. I knew better. And I always did the right thing. Or so I thought. The weekend was uneventful. I behaved. Because that wasn’t in my nature. I really didn’t know how to misbehave.
And after that I didn’t see him again until I was 22. He didn’t call. If he did, no one told me about it. He sent birthday cards and I believe Christmas cards. But eventually that stopped. Until there was absolutely no contact at all. I know my mother was in contact with him for the divorce and child support issues, but that was it.
One of the worst things about him leaving? My mother was incapacitated from her accident. She couldn’t drive yet. But still had various doctor appointments and therapy. Not to mention my brother and I also had doctor appointments. We were lucky enough to catch the bus to school near our house. But to get anywhere else? We were out of luck on that. Somehow we managed. Thanks to some of my mother’s friends and taxi services.
My mother was upset by all of this and rightly so. What husband leaves his disabled wife with two young kids to fend for and figure things out themselves? Her attitude and behavior towards us, me in particular, was a constant change and struggle over the next 10 years.