You don’t cross my mind much anymore, not nearly as often as you used to. But that doesn’t mean that the pain of your memory is any less excruciating. The lump in my throat swells each and every time I am reminded of you, and I fear there will never come a day where I won’t have to excuse myself to the restroom because I can’t hold back the tears. Maybe it’s because I still just can’t wrap my mind around it, you were my Daddy, you should’ve been here.
When you and mom first split up I don’t remember feeling much emotion about it at all. I still got to see you every other weekend, and you made sure to see my sister and me on holidays too. I remember one Christmas we spent with you, you went out and bought all three of us matching overalls, and we couldn’t wait to go to the mall and show them off to everyone. As the years went by, I saw less and less of you. If I was lucky, whichever girlfriend you had at the time would make room for me on her couch, so that I could come spend the night with you. You always seemed genuinely happy to spend time with me which made it even harder to understand when you just stopped.
I tried my hardest for years to make excuses for you. I’d tell myself you were probably just working and didn’t have the time for my sister and me to visit. Of course, jealousy boiled inside of me that your girlfriends daughters got to have you to themselves. It made my stomach drop to watch you play with them and hear you tell them how beautiful they were. You’d go on rants about these girls’ fathers; how horrible these men were for never being around and being a father. Perhaps you felt you could pass these judgements because you stood in the place where he should’ve been, and paid no mind to the place in my life that you’d left vacant.
As I grew older, the gap between you and I grew as well. I didn’t see you every other weekend. I didn’t even see you every other month. I’d get a few hours with you on holidays if I was lucky. I remember begging my mom to let me call you so I could invite you to my softball games. On the rare occasion that you did pick up you’d promise me you would come and watch me play. I was overcome with nerves; I had to impress you. As the game neared its end, I continued to search for your face among the other parents on the bleachers. What if I had told you the wrong time or the wrong field? That had to be it. You told me you’d be there. The game concluded in another win for The Lady Rockets and I made my way toward my mom to ask if she knew where you were. Nothing. When I called, you apologized. Something had come up at work and you couldn’t make it, but you promised you wouldn’t miss the next game for the world. So on went these empty promises until the season was over; I made no effort to invite you to come watch me every season following that one.
When I stopped calling, it was like you disappeared. No effort was made unless it was by me. I remember the first year you forgot to call on my birthday. I remember the way my heart shattered in my chest and my mom holding me and telling me it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t believe her. I had to have done something to scare you away; dads aren’t supposed to just not love their daughter. I wanted you back. I needed to show you I was worth loving. For months when I prayed at night, I’d promise God that if you came back I’d be the best daughter in the world to you. My prayers went unanswered.
In your absence I strived to be the best I could be, maybe that would impress you. I won multiple spelling bees, was accepted into the gifted student program, won science fairs, received perfect scores on standardized tests and perfect grades to match. The accomplishments went unnoticed by you. I yearned to hear you tell me you’re proud of me, just one time. Even now as a freshman in college, the only person from my father’s side of the family to ever go to college, I have not had the satisfaction of you telling me you’re proud.
The hole you left was as empty as ever, and I was so fixated on earning your love and presence that the idea of another man filling that hole had never crossed my mind. Then came Bryan. The first time I met Bryan he had come along with my mom to my softball game. Not only did he show up on time, but he brought a packet of Big League Chew and a blue PowerAde to give to me before the game. I did not know this man, and he didn’t know me, yet there he was doing everything I’d wished from you and more.
It was strange to me how easily I had won the affections of Bryan. He barely knew me, why would he give me all of this praise and attention so openly? But I wasn’t complaining. I wallowed in the joy given to me by my new companion. He taught me new things, took me new places, and gave me a new life. Nothing could’ve made me happier than when he decided to become part of our family. This meant he wasn’t go to disappear the way you did.
Bryan took me in and loved me like I was his own flesh and blood. I didn’t have to beg God to make him love me, he just did. He always reminds me how beautiful and talented I am, and I can tell he truly believes it. It still astounds me that such an amazing man could love and care about me so much, a man who has no obligation to me.
Bryan has given me peace in knowing that I am not unlovable. I will never know why you’re unwilling to love me. I’ll never know how the thought of me doesn’t make you wince the way I do when I think of you. I forgive you for choosing not to be my father. I thank you for making room in my life for a father who wanted to love me. I used to feel so guilty for having to miss out on your life, but now I pity you, for you have no idea what you missed out on. You were the man that should have been here, but apparently God felt I deserved better.