I wasn’t always estranged from my father.
In fact, I used to consider myself quite the daddy’s girl. I was also a grandpa’s girl – but that’s a whole other story. I always just thought I got along better with the men in my life. Heh. My parents divorced when I was very small. I don’t remember them married, I know that when I was two I went to live with my grandparents for the summer while my mom got back on her feet after the divorce. All the details of selling the house, moving and switching jobs (she was still working for the military then) were a lot to handle with a toddler. Throw a divorce into the mix and… Well I suppose it was just easier. She said that was one of the loneliest times of her life.
Anyway, I remember my father being a part of my life when I was young. He rode a motorcycle and I had a seat on the back and a tiny helmet. We drove to my daycare / pre-school on this road that had an underpass. Small things. His apartment complex had a pool. In fact, that is a recurring theme – he and I shared a love of the water. He wore a mustache and had those 70’s style brown tinted sunglasses. Ruddy cheeks like mine.
Sometime before I started school my father relocated to Mississippi, where he remains to this day. (I know he’s still there because I did a Google search for him and found the white pages listing for him and his current wife. I’m human.) I went out to live with him in the first grade but I had been out there to visit before. I’m fuzzy on the timing… He was remarried at this time. Wife number three (my mother was number two – that’s also a whole other story), her name was Connie, and short of my mother she was my favorite of his wives. We actually got back in touch several years ago but have lost touch again.
That year in Mississippi was probably the best and worst year of my childhood. I remember feeling conflicted – though I didn’t understand that’s what I was feeling. I would be so elated to be with my daddy and yet… Somehow it wasn’t right. I missed my mom terribly but I was desperate for her to think things were great because I didn’t want to leave. I remember feeling guilty for thinking maybe I loved my dad more than my mom? How could I have thought that at so young?
I did horribly in school that year. I had my own special desk outside of the classroom because I was constantly in trouble. There was a woman across the street that had three daughters and would watch me after school but she ignored me for the most part and I was terribly jealous so I bit her daughter HARD, the one closest to my age, one day in the van on the way home from school. I drew blood. The woman spanked me and then dropped me off at the house and refused to watch me anymore. I didn’t care. I just wanted to spend time with daddy. I remember not understanding why I had to go to school and why he had to go to work. I remember resenting Connie. Until she bought me a dog. Then I remember thinking she wasn’t so bad.
Was that the year Mary Lou Retton won the gold in the Olympics? I ask because there is a picture of me in my Team USA gymnastics leotard outside of our house there in Pearl posing. Just like Mary Lou. She was my hero. I don’t even know where those pictures are anymore… I hope I just boxed them up and stored them. I have a sneaking suspicion I may have thrown them away.
After that year was over I moved back with my mom. I think she was in CA at the time. Maybe even Bay Area. I moved a lot so I’m slightly fuzzy! It might have been Oregon and then California… I’m not too sure. But anyway I was back with mom. And I sobbed the whole flight home. Uncontrollable, ugly, body racking sobs. I remember people staring. I was so sad to be leaving my daddy. And yet once I was home and the sadness had passed I realized how nice it was to be home with a parent who had discipline and home cooked meals and knew how to do laundry. Where I had a proper bed instead of a folding pallet/chair/futon thingy in the corner. My own room. But I still felt guilty… Like maybe I did really love my dad more?
I went back to see my dad every summer. Generally he would take the time off while I was there. If not all of it at least as much as he could. He would plan things for us to do. Rapids on the Reservoir was a local water park that I loved. We went to Florida. We went to the park on the river. There were always big lunches after church. Late night runs to DQ for a dip. Roller skating, fire works, and lots and lots of swimming. I definitely inherited my love of the water from him.
Every time I would leave my mom I would be filled with anticipation and excitement to go see my dad and every time I would leave to come home to my mom I would be devastated. When we moved to Texas I thought it would be better because, well, you people own a map, Texas is closer to Mississippi than California! I’d get to see daddy even more!
Somehow this is not what ended up happening…