I have been gone far too long. I realize that. Mainly, I realized it because of the effect it’s had on me. I go through bouts where I lose myself, lately. Then something amazing brings me back and I’m left in awe of the little things (and some big things) that can bring us back to life when we’ve begun to wither and lose our capability to move forward.
A few months ago, the ever awesome Wil Wheaton made a post on his blog that jarred me back to reality. At the time I was out to dinner with my husband and during a brief lull in our conversation, we checked up on the internet (to make sure it was behaving, obviously). I was stunned by the raw honesty in Wil’s post about his kids. The post can easily be found here.
As I read it, my thoughts immediately jumped to my dad. My awesomely funny, abrasive, supportive dad. I immediately wanted to run home and write this post, but life and it’s many detours kept me away that night. As more days passed, I faced other obstacles which led to my feeling like, “why should I even post anything, really? I’m new at this. I’m not famous or anything. What on earth can anyone gain from anything I have to say? What right do I have to a soap box.” and I just sank. I stopped in mid-cycle and didn’t move forward for a while. So please forgive the tardiness but allow me to respond to Wil’s post with a post of my own.
Most people who see my parents walking down the street with me tend to assume that my dad is my birth father. They’re always shocked to find out he isn’t. My Aunt Pichy even found that he and I have identical “beauty marks” on the same exact spot of our right forearms. The truth is, though, my birth father is not my father. He never has been and never will be. I was fatherless until I was 5 years old. My mom struggled like crazy to provide me with shelter, safety, love, and food. My mom’s great. Flawed, like any human being, but so great. I honestly never thought I needed a dad. I had a ton of awesome aunts and grandparents, and this totally screwed up but sweet human being for a mother.
Then she met Luis, or Saso as everyone we know calls him. I can’t lie. To me, he was moms boyfriend so I can’t remember much about the time before he became “dad”. But I do remember a few things. This guy DID stuff. COOL stuff. He took me fishing, gave me piggy back rides, made donuts at home, and tucked me in. This guy came to school with my mom to enroll me. He walked me to the bus stop. And when my uber dumb cousin would pick on me, he’d say enough was enough. At the time, he was a total rockstar.
I still didn’t call him dad though. I think I didn’t know how to. I don’t even remember calling my birth father dad. What, between the constant belittling of my mother in front of me and the brilliant disregard he had for me as a little kid, it was amazing I even recognized the guy as a parent.
I don’t know what triggered it. I just remember the moment it happened. It was a slightly foggy day in Massachusetts and ‘Saso’ had walked me to the bus stop. I was wearing a yellow shirt and these blue jean overalls with flowers embroidered on the corner. As we waited for the bus to come and pick me up, he held my hand. Steady, firm, warm. He reminded me about my homework. He told me what he made for lunch for me that day. We got quiet. It was really early and the fog made for a pretty gloomy morning but as he held my hand, and as I looked at his hand holding my own, something stirred inside me and I very carefully, quietly, and with a shaky voice and tears in my eyes, I asked him: “Can I call you daddy?” and he looked at me at first with such worry, some sadness, and very kindly and quietly he squeezed my hand, and as his own eyes teared up he said “Yeah, you can call me that.”.
My dad is no saint. No one person really ever is. We all let someone down along the way. But he’s always been supportive and even when he was furious with me over something, I never once stopped being his kid.
Sadly, from the time I was 12 until I was around 23 or 24, I honestly felt like I had lost my place in my dads world. You see, I was sexually abused as a little girl by my cousins boyfriend (and later he became her husband). For years. When I finally spoke up about it, a lot of things were turned upside down and inside out in our lives. Suddenly, for whatever reason, I felt such a huge distance between my dad and I. I felt like I could do nothing right, except academia, and my anger, frustration, and depression was really screwing that up, too. I was desolate and desperate, angry, and hungry. I was so hungry for anyone to blame for so very many things that I think I pushed people away. Especially, because I felt like I could not speak up about how I felt. My family is awesome but for a long time we were a family full of silence. We didn’t discuss our pain or dialogue our needs, and it corroded us from the inside. My mom stopped doing creative projects. My dad started reaching outside of his family instead of within it. I wallowed and blamed. Everyone, including myself. I ripped my inner thighs to shreds with cuts. I burned myself with matches just to remember I existed.
After an explosive situation with my mom and dad, I realized that I was so exhausted from the sheer silence, that I spoke to my mom first. I explained that I needed to talk. I needed her to talk, too. I needed him to talk as well. Most of all, I needed them to remember I was there. She and I came to a serious understanding that night and now, even if she does get very excited or sometimes a little defensive, when I voice things, she does listen and she does reciprocate.
Dad took a little longer. I think, because of the fact that I’m not his blood-borne, I worried about disappointing him more so than I worried about disappointing my mom. After all, if the blood father could reject and throw me away, couldn’t he? Eventually, I overcame that worry. While Mom was over in Puerto Rico helping my grandmother out with my great grandmother, I took the chance to talk to Dad. We spoke of our regrets and our worries about how we’d handled our lives as a family. I stood in the doorway as he folded his uniforms for work, and I said, for the first time in my life since the abuse, “I thought you stopped hugging me because you thought I was dirty. I felt ashamed. I thought you didn’t think of me the same way anymore.” and he crumpled up his chefs shirt and held it close. He started to cry a little and said, “I never thought that. I was upset. No one told me anything specific, no one told me what was going on. I couldn’t do anything. I felt helpless.”.
After finally understanding some of my dads distance, I felt such a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders. Better yet, lifted off of my chest. I had been drowning for so long that this conversation reminded me of just how true my father was. It reminded me that I may not be his own flesh and blood but I am so much damned more than that. I am of his soul.
So when reading Wil’s post, my instinct was to want to hug him. To tell him that even if his kids aren’t all flesh and blood of his, that they are of his soul. And that Anne is one hell of a mom for taking them out of a hurtful situation.
Wil, if you ever do read this, they are so much more than blood. They are of your soul.
Just as I am of mine.
Thank you for reminding me of that.