He was sitting at the kitchen table visiting my best friend's mother. He looked like Willie Nelson with his long hair braided into one long braid that traveled down his back.
My friend's mother asked: "Do you know who this is?" I shrugged my shoulders. He didn't look familiar. Before she could explain who this man was, he volunteered. "I'm your daddy", he said proudly.
My daddy. I had never in my life used the term "daddy" to describe anyone, and yet here in front of me, this man claimed the title. I didn't know quite what to do with this information. After all, it had been sixteen years since my mother and him divorced shortly after I was born. He held out his arms for a hug.. an expected hug.
I leaned over and loosely hugged him. I can't even remember the conversation we had after that. I just know it didn't explain
where he had been all my life.
The doorbell rang. It was our prom dates. Time to go. I said "nice to meet you" to the man I had just met and left, with my address in his hand. Later in the evening, I excitedly told my mom all about prom, with a side note of "oh, by the way, I met my dad today". This is is how it started. The sporadic conversations with my mother's first husband.
He wrote one letter. I responded with the typical confusion of a child. I wanted to hate him for not being there for me, but I wanted to love him also. Most of all, I wanted him to love me.
I didn't hear from him again until I was marrying my first husband. My sister invited him and his wife and her sons to be there. I laughed aloud when she told me he was coming from Carolina to Arkansas to give me away at my wedding. My mother laughed too, and although she had never spoken any bad words about my father, I could tell the thought of seeing him again after such long time, made her nervous.
It was the wedding rehearsal day when I got the phone call. "I'm at the gas station, how do I get to your house?" I handed the phone to my mother. "I think it's dad", I whispered. She did not want to talk to him. I could not believe he was actually here, in my town, where I lived. But he was, and he did indeed give me away at my wedding. We didn't talk much throughout the whole ordeal, basically because I had no idea what to say to him. It had been three years since our first meeting and since my outburst in the letter I had sent him. Deep down, I was happy he was there. I felt validated with my dad at my wedding, and although I didn't tell him then, it truly meant the world to me.
He keeps this strange pattern of contacting me when I least expect it. Sometimes it is a year, or sometimes it is five years. Once, he called on my birthday. I didn't even know he knew the date, and my sister later confessed that she had called and told him. But it didn't make a difference, he didn't have to call, yet he did. I know this is who he is--this man that had two children with a woman when he was young. A man who had not been very responsible, who had made bad choices and who put his friends before his family. It was his lifestyle back then and it took me years to realize how hard he was trying to mend things between us.
You see, I could continue to be angry with him and probe him for answers, but there are no answers. There are simply circumstances. I am okay with that. I don't fault him and although I know my life would have been different with a regular dad around, I am not going to assume it would have been better. I am not going to assume I would have been "daddy's girl" or his "little princess". Sometimes you are just lucky to have a dad.
The last time I seen my dad was when he was visiting his family in the town I grew up. It just so happened I was there visiting my family as well. I had remarried and therefore was able to introduce him to my husband and his two grandchildren. We talked...about the weather and other small tidbits. Nothing too emotional. I met his sisters and his mother. We took pictures. We ate dinner. We said goodbye. That was about seven years ago.
My sister writes him once in awhile and sometimes he will call her in return and promise to come up in the warmer months to visit. He hasn't yet, but then again, he always does things when I least expect it. I'm not giving up on him. After all, he's my daddy.
|My parents on their wedding day|