I heard that you called recently. I knew by the halting way she said “you’ll never guess who called me” almost as if she wasn’t sure she should tell me. I felt the bile rise in my throat, body heat seeming to simultaneously drain from my face and leave my chest burning, the unwelcome (unnecessary) tears spring to my eyes, all before I ever heard who, you, had called.
I hate that news of you still affects me that way. How just the thought of you, rising unbidden to the forefront of my mind can make me feel… unhappy, insignificant, unloved. The grown woman in me knows that I am none of those things and yet… I am. I hate that I am the poster child for how a woman can grow up to be relatively well adjusted without the influence of a father. I hate that people come to me for comfort when their own fathers fail in to live up to their expectations. I had no expectations. And somehow you failed to live up even to that.
So I’m getting married. I know you now know. I was relieved that you didn’t ask for details (knowing I wouldn’t, or couldn’t, have you there) and at the same time bitterly disappointed. I’m not sure what I expected. I certainly had no intention of inviting you, a complete stranger, to share in one of the happiest and most intimate days of my life. And yet, I feel the lack of your presence – if not of your presence in particular than a missing element.
You should know I don’t grieve for your absence the way I once did. It’s become more of an ache, something that lingers under the surface, barely noticed for the most part. You should also know that while I have not had the proper love of a father, I have had other men who love me as a daughter and express their joy in having me in their lives. You should know that I still miss you. You should know that I want you to stay gone.
I am relieved to be ridding myself of your name. I’ve been your daughter in name alone for longer than you ever were a father to me. Maybe then, once I no longer have that last lingering tie to you, I will feel free. Maybe then I will cease to think of you, to wonder about your life. The life you chose in place of me.
I found your address on the internet. In a moment of weakness I looked. I’ve had it for almost a year. I have debated about sending you a letter, wondering alternately if it would have any impact other than making your new family angry at the reminder of my presence. Sometimes I want to do it just to make them angry, to share some of this hurt with them. I’ve fanaticized about flying out there, of driving by your house, of having you glimpse me from a distance. Would you know me? Or would there be only something vaguely familiar, something you can’t quite put your finger on?
I resent that you still call her. I know you explained to me how she was the love of your life, how you regret getting divorced, how you were glad to have me as a last link to her. I know that you told me those things but know that I do not, or can not, accept them. Because believing those words you spoke so long ago only enforces what I am to you, nothing.