A Father-Daughter Dance

 

I hate thinking about this, as I always tend to cry and get angry with myself. I have finally come to face the fact that I always secretly knew, yet never wanted to recognize as truth.

April 1995. At this point I was barely six months old. Not old enough to comprehend words but still receiving verbal signals that would eventually help me understand right and wrong. Mom and Dad sat in the living room and watched the television. It’s evening and Mom picked me up from daycare, preceded by a long day at work as a banker. Dad is angry again, he had been so angry lately that mom had lost count of the days in which she had last seen him happy. Although I don’t remember this, my mom easily recounts the day when she decided to divorce my father. She has told me this story many times, each time giving me more information to finally piece the story together, like a puzzle. Dad was drinking and started calling Mom a bitch because she asked him to help her with dishes. Mom, never one to back down from an argument, told him to shut up because his yelling made me cry.

Dad didn’t back down. He continued to use every curse word in the book, belittling my mom, showing his authority over her. Dad started throwing pillows and Mom said she was reaching her limit with him. She told him she was going to take me away from him and started reaching for her coat and began to pack a bag for herself and me. Dad told her she couldn’t go and threw a ceramic lamp next to the couch on the floor. Mom picked me up and ran to their room. Dad ran after her. Mom locked the door before Dad could get in and dialed 9-1-1. Even though he kept banging on the door, even though I kept screaming while being propped on the bed, even though Mom was crying profusely on the phone, she made the decision then and there to divorce my dad.

The older I get, the more I understand the why behind people’s actions. Why my mom married four different men, why I was bullied in middle school, why I love writing. Still, I can’t figure out why my dad doesn’t want me in his life. As I get older and my friends think of future plans to get married and someday have kids, I comprehend why they want those things. Kids are a gift, something you are blessed with. They can come as a surprise or they can be planned, and I haven’t met one person who doesn’t love their child. Even if it’s a stepparent, a grandparent, a parent who adopts or someone who didn’t plan to have a kid, they love their child with all their heart. So why, why, can’t my dad love me?

December 2006: Christmas vacation would be one I never forget. Dad invited me to go to Disneyworld with his “new” family which consisted of my stepmom Carrie, whom he married in 2004, her newborn son and my half-brother, Seth, my stepbrother, Andrew, who was a year older than me, Carrie’s sister, her husband, and their two kids. All of us kids were around the same age so we all had each other to hang around with while at Disneyworld. I didn’t know it then but Carrie had told my father that if he didn’t invite me, Andrew would eventually tell me later and I would be crushed emotionally.

So I went, blinded from reality by the fantasy world known as Disneyworld where all your dreams come true. We did everything together, all the rides, theme parks and we even stayed in a luxurious condo in Orange County. The last day of the trip my mom called my dad asking to talk to me. I could hear my dad screaming and cursing at my mom from my bedroom. This wasn’t new to me. At only 10-years-old I was used to my dad’s anger and mean attitude. I only hoped that when I saw him every other weekend during the year that he was in a good mood. Dad stomped into my room, his face red from either embarrassment or pure anger. Either way. he said, “Your mom wants to talk to you.” I took the phone from him and said hello while I could hear mom’s exasperated voice in the background. She just wanted to make sure everything was okay and that I was having fun. She asked about all the fun stuff I did and wanted me to know that she had Christmas presents waiting for me when I got home. She hung up and I gave the phone to Dad. I remember getting really angry with Dad after I handed him the phone.

“Why do you have to be so mean to Mom?” I demanded.

“Why do you care?” Dad replied bitterly.

I raised my voice and said, “Because I love her, and she’s my mom. You can’t always be mean to her!”

The only thing I remember is immediately putting my cold hands on the stinging pain that was my cheek. I looked up at Dad and saw him crouching towards me saying he was sorry. I immediately cringed and stepped back from him. Disneyworld wasn’t fun anymore. I just wanted to go home.

I don’t know what I did wrong. Throughout elementary and middle school my mom helped me to become the best I could be. I can look back now and count the ways and things that have made me into the person I am today. But no matter how hard I tried, I never impressed him. Although I have always been a very driven and determined person, winning ensemble competitions for playing the clarinet, becoming pitcher in high school softball, graduating a year early as valedictorian, attending one of the best colleges in the U.S., he never cared.

January 2013. I still don’t know what compelled me to call him. I couldn’t believe I still had his number on my phone. I looked at the vast forest in front of me, trying to find a bird or a branch that looked interesting, something that could fill me with happiness as the phone rang. Mom was currently living in Longview, TX. She moved here to be closer to me as I attended Baylor University. Her apartment was located on a hill where about 20 feet of grass divided the modern chic apartments from a huge brown forest. I stood in the middle of this grass while the phone rang and rang and rang and then –

“Hello?”

“Hi … Dad.”

At this time in my life I was a freshman at Baylor, just turned 18 in November. Dad knew nothing about me and I don’t know why I felt I owed it to him to tell him what had happened to me since we last talked in April 2010. I decided to tell him everything, graduating early, being valedictorian, deciding on Baylor, moving here and my excitement to begin writing for the Baylor Lariat in the spring. But then the conversation took a turn. I started yelling at him demanding to know why he wasn’t present in my life. Why he never bothered to make the trip from Moline, IL to Waterloo, Iowa to see me. He responded by saying that I never came to see him either. But that didn’t make sense to me. He is the father, he is the one who should want to see his child. I cried and cried while accusing him of never seeing me, never knowing who I was. I asked him if he even wanted to know me. He responded by saying that I need to start calling him if I want him to know about me. And I realized something then. You can’t force someone to love you. All of my yelling, my accusations and demands were just me trying to force him to show me he loved me. But I realized then that he didn’t love me. He doesn’t want me as his daughter, he never will.

I ended the phone call by asking him to at least help pay for college. I knew mom couldn’t afford to pay anymore to Baylor after this next semester and I could use his money to start saving for future expenses. He told me he would write me a check every month for $300 that would go into my savings account. I gave him all of my information and asked him, “You promise you will help pay for Baylor?”

“Yes Kate, I promise.”

I never received anything.

I don’t think the worst part of this relationship is knowing he doesn’t want me, but just the mere fact that there is no relationship. Friends and coworkers have asked me who my family is and I describe my mom and brother to them and sometimes they just look at me and nod with a fake smile, knowing that I didn’t mention a father. Whenever my friends start talking about having a wedding someday and talk about all the details, especially their father walking them down the aisle or having a father-daughter dance, I just smile and know that won’t happen for me.

My dad will never be in my life, never see me graduate from Baylor or see me get married. He will never know of my accomplishments, my career, my dreams or my goals, and that’s okay. I haven’t spoken to him since that last phone call in January and I haven’t seen him since I was 10, and that’s okay.

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