My mother and father split not long after I was born. I never really got a chance to get to know my father, but my family always spoke highly of him. “We just weren’t meant to be together,” they’d say. This was something I could understand, so I never felt resentment or anger for his lack of contact and appearance in my life.
Still, there was always this looming sadness. I wondered, “Does he think about me? Does he remember my birthday or how old I am? Does he miss me?”
I thought of him during my first rock climbing competition, where I placed in the top 10 in my beginner category.
Completing my firefighter training, I thought of him.
Riding the bus to compete in my first collegiate soccer game, I thought of him.
Finally, passing my third attempt at a college math class and being done with the only subject standing between me and my bachelor’s degree, I thought of him.
In all these moments of personal victory, I wished he were there. I wished I could tell him because in my heart I believed he would be proud.
Three years ago, January 2018, I was 20 years old. I had had what I think is his number in my phone since my mother gave it to me when I was 16. It wasn’t until this point that I felt I could use it.
I sent a quick text. “Hey is this ...?” My heart raced with anticipation.
I received a text back within seconds. “Yes. Who’s this?” I told him my name and waited some more. Finally, I received an overjoyed response. I was thrilled!
Months passed, and we talked consistently. My fiance and I went to visit him. He and I sat across the table from each other, looking alike, and told stories from the past 20 years.
He tells me that I have a new family to be loved by, that he’s been waiting for me to reach out, and whenever I need anything, he’s there.
This is the dream. This is what I’ve been waiting for all of these years. A chance to tell him, “Look, look how good I turned out!” For him to be proud and smile the way I always envisioned he would. I feel like I’ve finally done the right thing, and, for once, it actually worked out. Little did I know what was coming.
We were in contact for four months when one day I called him (at the usual time), and he sent me to voicemail. I figured, “I don’t know the guy that well. He could just be busy.” I waited three days. I sent a text. I received no response. I waited a week, then two. Then I called and texted again. No response.
I waited a month, then finally told my mom about it. She was baffled, and together we waited longer. After a month and a half, I sent one of the hardest texts I’ve ever sent in my life.
“Hey. I see what’s happening here. While I’m upset that you’re not talking to me, I want you to know that I am happy to have met you. I wish that we could’ve had a relationship, but I guess not. I’ll be fine without you. I didn’t need you for all these years, and I don’t need you now. I hope you have a good life. Goodbye.”
I received no response.
As you can imagine, I went through a few stages of grief. There was anger, denial, justification, then anger again, and then sadness. I ran through all possible scenarios for why he would’ve done such a thing. “Did he go on a trip with no cell signal? Did he get busy with work? Did he get in a car accident and was in the hospital? Did he stop liking me? Did he die?”
As time went on, I realized I was never going to know the answer to these questions. What hurt the most was that I felt I had zero closure. Just a one-sided “goodbye” in a text to which I received no response.
I was left with new questions that only replaced the old thoughts from before I met him. I had a chance to tell this man all of the things I always wanted to just to have him ghost me. I realized I was going to have to seek closure on my own, but even now I struggle to understand why someone would do this.
The worst part was the buildup. You spend years wondering if this person really cares, and through trial and error, you come to find out he doesn’t.
It’s amazing how something that was so brief can hurt so badly. The four-months-long father that I had became one of my triggers. I can be doing nothing, and if I think about it, I’ll just start crying. It’s a reflex.
I spent so much time trying to tell myself, “It isn’t worth being sad over because some people go through much harder things in life, and mine is so trivial.” That’s not entirely true. I can feel for those people and still be sad about my own experiences.
I learned through this that it’s OK to be sad, even if it seems ridiculous. Sadness is a basic human emotion, and feeling it is a part of life.
Will I be sad my biological father isn’t at my college graduation? Yes.
But will I be OK? Yes.
Although I didn’t, and don’t, condone the cowardly way he disappeared, I understand that he hadn’t been a father for 20 years, and to suddenly have a grown-up daughter must have been intimidating. I ultimately took his silence as his saying he didn’t want to, or wasn’t ready to, be a father.
Although I may never get the closure I need from him, every day I can work on finding my own sense of closure. Only time will heal the painful way he decided to exit. But regardless of whether he’s in my life or not, I will continue to take pride in who I am and what I do. While I may continue to think of him at important moments, I can be proud enough of my own accomplishments for both of us.