You left. You left, and you rarely came back. The end.
I could stop the story there, but the thing is, it doesn’t stop there. Nothing stopped there. I kept growing. Kept changing. Kept looking for you.
Until I didn’t.
I am not quite sure when that transition happened. The transition of looking, hoping and wishing you would show up to not looking, rarely wondering, and never thinking the day would come when I would see you again.
I was just a kid. I did not understand at the time the dynamics of divorced parents. I did not know what co-parenting was. I surely didn’t get the opportunity to see it in action.
Now I am an adult, but I am still confused. No longer about the dynamics of divorced parents or the hardships of co-parenting. What baffles me now is the ability to have a child that you don’t see. I am sure a million excuses can be given as to why you were not there. I would like to believe there isn’t a reason on earth that would keep me from my children. But something kept you from me. Something kept you from my brother. Something will forever be the cause for what is now a permanent scar on my heart. Your absence.
With age I have learned one of the most valuable lessons I think there is to learn about your parents; they are human, too. Making them ‘parents’ doesn’t give them some kind of super power. I know you did the best you knew how. I know that you suffered tremendous heartache because you were not a part of my and my brother’s growing up. I get that. I know that even if I wanted to (which I don’t), I couldn’t punish you for your absence more than you have already been punished. You don’t know me. It is my guess you have seen things here or there, but never gotten the chance to fully know who I am. And sadder yet, you don’t get to know my children. Oh, to know my children. There is no greater blessing. You have forever missed out on that.
Please do not misunderstand. I do not hate you. I did not hate the life I had or the life I have. I had and have an amazing father that has loved me for as long as I can remember. His technical title is step dad, but he’s been a father to me, the only father I have known. I wouldn’t trade him for anything. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t wonder about you. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t long for you. In fact, when I think of you now an image of you comes to mind. It’s a picture I have seen of me sitting with you on the couch as a very young girl. Me in a white and gray dress…sitting next to my Daddy.
My mom tells me you adored me. I’d like to go on believing that this is the case. But you just couldn’t get yourself together long enough to show up. When you tried to, once I was grown, I am sorry, but the time had passed. Every time we would speak briefly about reconnecting, I would back out. My heart never ready. Try as I may, I couldn’t make you fit. I am sorry for that.
I spent years knowing you went on with life. That you got re-married, had other kids… and stayed. Stayed to raise them and parent them. One may call that a do-over. I say good for you. I am happy for you.
But what I want you and other “flight risk parents” to know is the reason for this open letter. It is to tell you, I loved you. I looked for you. I waited, and I wondered where you were. When you had other kids, I wondered why you loved them enough to stay, versus not staying with us. What I need you and other parents that aren’t involved with their kids to know is, you forever change who they are if you leave.
You write on the soul of a child when you walk away. You say a million things, while saying nothing at all. Despite growing into a successful, well educated woman. Despite being surrounded by countless friends and family. Despite having the ability to stand on my own two feet and look back on the last 40 years of life knowing I have done well for myself. I will always be riddled somewhere deep down with self-doubt. I will always wonder if I am enough.
I spent years not feeling adequate. I spent years looking for approval in the wrong spots. The way I viewed myself and the way I viewed love took a drastic beating for a very long time, if not still. But what I can thank you for is the knowledge that even through all of that, I will be OK. That I am OK. That I am who I am, not because of you. I became a great woman, in spite of you. There are clearly parts of me that are broken. But through the grace of God, I stand, cracks and all. As an adult, you take all the cards you were dealt and play your best hand with it. I hope I have done that. I hope that there have been times that you have heard about my going to college, my stable life, my amazing kids, my loving marriage and been proud. Because ultimately, when I get out of my own head… I am.
I am really really proud of the life I have made. Of the woman I have become. Of the family I have made. Even when things hurt, they often just have a way of working out. I pray that is the same with you, that it has all just worked out.
All my best,
The daughter you don’t know