By Jamie Schaefer – White Hall, MD
I’ve got what people like to call “daddy issues.” Only I wouldn’t call my situation an “issue” because my biological father is right where I want him – out of my life.
I guess the only “issue” I have with my biological father, David, is how he treated me. He simply was never around. Our contact over the years only happened because my mother felt it important that I have a relationship with him (kudos to you Mom). To put things into perspective, I didn’t even know my parents were married.
For the early part of my childhood, the anxiety I felt while spending time with David would make me physically sick. I remember one time when he drove until I wasn’t sure where we were anymore. He thought it was fun to only drive in the direction I thought was toward home. But no amount of tears or begging would sway him to take me there. He said he was helping with my sense of direction.
When I reached middle school, I noticed David had started believing the lies he was telling – that he was a single father raising a daughter. His phone calls became less and our outings turned into once-a-month Walmart runs. The only thing I could rely on David for was to not show up. Important life events like Easter, confirmation, plays, honor society inductions – he was never there.
But I have been blessed with the most incredible grandfather, who raised me and showed me how a father should love and support his family. I have an uncle who’s always stepped in with wise advice, which completely surprised me, but was exactly what I needed to hear at the time.
I also have the most incredible step-dad, or Dad as everyone knows him, who came into my life at a time when I had no idea I needed him. He took his time with me, loved me when I was the most difficult and picked me up more times than I can count. Being a father isn’t a right that’s given because you reproduced, it’s earned.
I’m blessed to have these men in my life. I even count what happened between my biological father and myself as a blessing. It’s why I so strongly believe “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and that “everything happens for a reason.” I’ve come out of some dark things standing tall on the other side.
So the night before my high school graduation, I took a stand. I told David he would not ruin my graduation, so he was not getting a ticket. He cussed me out, called me a psychotic bitch, told me I was a piece of shit and that I didn’t deserve anything good in life.
I remember him yelling at me over the phone, saying our relationship was all my fault, and screaming that he wasn’t my “fucking pocketbook;” which is hysterical because that man owes about 16 years of child support. At first I was defensive, then I realized no man is ever supposed to treat me like this, especially not someone who is supposed to be my father.
I begged him to stop, begged him to just love me; that’s all I ever wanted. That was the last time I spoke to him.
Though I’ve spent time in therapy over the years, as I think everyone should, my breakthrough happened quite recently, when I heard David’s voice for the first time in more than five years. Not a damn thing had changed – he was still the same old “it’s not my fault” man.
And that’s when it hit me. This is who he is, he will not change, will not apologize and will not work to better our relationship. And let me tell you, that was the biggest blessing of all – I am free. I do not have to wonder “what if” any more, and I don’t feel any guilt for not wanting him in my life.
This is MY life, mine, mine, mine. I’ve got control over who’s in it and who’s not. I have control over how past experiences affect my present.
My family is full of great role models who always support me and make me feel loved. I have an army standing behind me, holding me up.
To my uncle, thank you for inspiring me with random sparks of wisdom. To my grandfather, thank you for being the best patriarch and raising me.
To my Dad, thank you for stepping in and showing me what a father/daughter relationship is supposed to be like. Thank you for taking my temperature at 2 a.m., for teaching me how to drive, for picking me up when I am down (literally) and for supporting me in my happy moments.
To my Mother, you are my angel. I will never be able to express how much you mean to me; how much you have shaped me into who I am; how much your love and support means to me; for letting me make mistakes and form my own opinion of David; for never letting me know what living without felt like; for being the strongest and most faith-filled person I’ve ever met.
And to David, I wish you nothing but the best in life. I’ve come to terms with our relationship and I’m happy. I no longer feel guilty for not wanting you in my life; some people are just better off apart. And most importantly, something I have been struggling with since I was a little girl – I forgive you.