Saturday, October 31, 2009

letters to an erstwhile father

Dear Daddy,

So, let's start this trip down memory lane with your separation from her mother. She can remember some of that, you know.

She remembers her mother scrambling to find both her shoes -- she was forever losing just one of the pair -- because she was late taking your kids to see you. She remembers her mother saying that since you never wanted to see your kids, she wasn't missing this chance. That if she had to dump the kids on your doorstep, she'd do it.

She remembers her mother taking them by the pizza place where you worked. They stood on the little ledge meant for kids, in front of the window to the kitchen, watching daddy make pizzas.

She doesn't know whether this was before the separation or after, but it seemed that the mother had brought them there to see you -- to remind you that you had kids. Or she was dropping them off at the end of your shift. That memory is a little bit hazy.

But she remembers being fascinated by daddy making pizzas. As if it were rocket science, and you were the most incredible daddy in the world. She could have stood there on that platform, looking in that window at you, forever.

Much later in life, as an adult, her mother let it slip that she'd briefly been in a psych ward in a hospital during that time. That she'd only gotten out because a visitor for someone else turned out to be someone she knew, and that person helped get her released. She doesn't know how accurate that is, because, well...it's mother, and her stories are always skewed to make her seem the victim.

But one thing that has always puzzled her: the mother hinted that you had played some role in her being in that hospital. In fact, she thinks the only reason the mother told her was because she thought it would make her angry with you for 'doing that terrible thing to her.' She laughed inside, because it confirmed what she'd 'suspicioned' all along.

Of course, this confirms that you must have realized that there was something wrong with the mother. And that begs the question: why, oh why in the bloody hell would you leave your little ones with the mother if you sensed that something wasn't right with her?

She's well aware that in the mid-60's, the mother always got custody of the children. That it was generally accepted that children had to be with their mother. But you could have stayed close, visited them regularly, made sure that they were alright. You could have protected them from the mother's mental illness, and the subsequent abuse.

Instead, you chose not only to leave the area, but to move to Canada. So you wouldn't have to pay child support. Which the mother never let them forget. In her anger over having to support her kids completely on her own, she never failed to find moments to tell the kids just how much you didn't want them.

And from the moment you left, you never looked back. No phone calls. No letters. Never once a birthday card. You left your babies. With a woman who was mentally ill. Never an attempt to find them again.

In fact, she can't figure out how, years later, the mother's second husband was able to legally adopt the kids (and wait till she tells you about him, dear daddy). How was the adoption done legally? Were they unable to find you and the kids were officially deemed 'abandonend'?

Or did they find you, and you signed them away with a pen. Wiped away your name on their birth certificates, and put his there. She can't decide which is worse. But as bad as it is, she thinks she'd prefer it be the former, rather than the latter.

When she was very young, she was sure you'd come back for them. Later, it became her regular fantasy -- daddy would find his kids and take them away with him. Only you never did. Her later fantasy was that she was completely adopted, or switched at birth, and her real parents would come and save her one day. That second fantasy got her through lot, dear daddy -- a hell of a lot.

And if she's really being honest, a part of her still wishes she'd been switched at birth. She'd rather believe her real parents don't realize they don't have her, than to believe that one of her parents didn't want her, and the other one resented her.

There's more, so much more, dear daddy, but no time right now. She'll be writing again, soon, with more memories...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

letters to an erstwhile father

Dear Daddy,

Do you mind if she calls you that? It is, after all, what she called you in the beginning. You were Daddy then. Before you left. The next time she saw you, she didn't feel comfortable calling you anything. Calling you by your given name didn't seem right. Neither did Daddy. Or even Dad. 'Cause you weren't either of those at that point. But they were all about appearances in their family -- and she uses the term family loosely. Very loosely. Or maybe not so much about appearance, but about avoidance. Or about doing what's expected. And so, when she saw you all those years later as an adult, she did what was expected -- she called you Dad.

She's wanted to write this letter for a long time. Or perhaps what she means to say is that she's been thinking forever about all the things she'd like to say but hasn't had the courage. Or things she'd like to ask, but doesn't. Because they don't discuss things in their family. They pretend problems don't exist. Outwardly, at least. Perhaps because they are afraid of the potential answers. But these thoughts have sure as hell been in her head for a long time. Forever. Or since she was big enough for her my pint-sized brain to begin to form them. To wonder. It's time to let them out. To give them wings. To watch them soar. To give her peace.

Have a seat, dear Daddy, and get comfortable. This might take some time...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

sit there, and count your little fingers

God, she was having a hell of a rough night. She tried to chalk it up to hormones, of the menopause variety. And maybe it was. But she was overcome with recurring visions of this memory.

Or perhaps, it was the fact that this was the only memory she could muster in which any affection occurred between her and either parent, that was preying on her psyche. That was making it so very poignant.

Try though she might, she simply couldn't bring to light a single memory that involved either parent holding her, hugging her, or engaging in any other parently type of loving touch.

They must have done it sometime, right? That's what parents do. They hug their kids. They tell them they love them. Right? Sure they do.

So they must have done it, and she just can't remember it. But shouldn't she be able to remember at least one time? Just one? Why would her mind unilaterally block every single memory of any loving gesture?

She'd been lying awake at night for a couple of nights now, tears leaking out the sides of her eyes unchecked. Did the hugs happen and she just can't remember? Or were neither of her parents -- not the mother with the borderline personality disorder, nor the father who left and never looked back -- capable of that kind of normal parenting behavior.

Strangely, she felt as though she were in mourning. Little girl blue.