This post was originally written on April 24, 2010. Reading through it now, I see a lot of things I would change and maybe one day I’ll rewrite it but at the same time, I feel like that would be disrespectful to myself and what I felt at that exact moment that I wrote this almost 2 years ago. I don’t write much about my father. This piece and the one that was posted just a few weeks ago are probably the only things I have ever actually written about him. I don’t know why that is. At first after everything had happened I couldn’t write about him because the crushing pain that he caused me was so great I couldn’t and didn’t want to roll those thoughts and feelings into one giant ball and let it flow through a pen. I wanted those feelings to die and to never have to feel them again, and I am glad that I made that decision. Like most things, the pain has faded over the years and to this day I would not enjoy sitting down and reliving those memories of exactly how I felt in that moment. This was written maybe 5 years after he had left and it was to make a very important point that when you leave your child at any point in their lives, you leave with the memories you had of them in that moment and take with you nothing of the growth and development that that child will experience throughout their coming years. And really, that is very sad for him that he will never know the woman I have and will continue to become.
I saw your Facebook page the other day. You made it as private as possible, just like you made your life to me; private. But I went around that. And I saw the pages of your family. The family that you kept from me. the family that shares my last name, my blood. Unfamiliar faces glowing on the computer screen in the dimly lit room of my house. Reading through status updates and comments left between family, a familiar emotion washed over me. A feeling of sadness, of betrayal, of longing and understanding trickled from the top of my head to the ends of my toes; and even though Ive felt this before, it was more profound then ever before. I think it was at that moment that my inner self dropped the facade and allowed the understanding that you are happy to come in. I realized that ever thinking that you were alone, unhappy, or regretful was stupid of me. What the hell was I thinking? I suppose that scene in my head was built from denial, from still caring for you, for still hoping that you cared for me.
But that was a lie. You walked out of my life and straight back into the life that you lived 20 years ago. You left and you kept on leaving until you reached the red rock sand of Arizona. Reuniting with a woman that you knew 40 years ago. A woman that I will be damned to believe you only regained contact with after you dropped my mother and I. You linked arms with her, shook off the past 17 years of responsibility, of a daughter who needed you, and a day to day life that you despised and you settled on into a life that you finally got to live after such a long run in purgatory. I saw the brothers and sisters of yours that you hadn’t spoken to in over a decade. The parents of yours, elderly and fragile. The same parents that couldn’t accept us. Couldn’t accept my mother, the woman that loved you more than you’ve ever been loved before. The woman who already had two children; older children from previous marriages, from previous lives. The woman who laughs a little too loud at times, the woman who lived without a veil of lies, the woman who passed her Jewish genes to your only child. The child your family would have liked to christen, to baptize, and confirm; the child your family would have nothing to do with.
I saw the structure of a family tree that I have never had. Your family together from the in ground roots of your grandparents, to the sturdy trunk of your parents, and the leafy branches of your siblings. So different than the shaky branch that I call my own family tree. I saw a family that even though each and every one of you are fucked in the head in your own ways, you stick together. Being welcomed back into a family that you had exiled yourself from for the good of the family you chose. Going back on every thing you had ever told me about your life as a young person in southern California.
And I was once again reminded that I don’t know you. Not really; and I never have. It is still shocking for me at times to remember that I grew up living in a house with a man that I called daddy but was always distanced from by the solid concrete wall he’d constructed around himself. I can recount almost the entire life story of my mother. Of course not everything, I know there are things that she has chosen to keep from me, life stories and experiences that me, as her daughter does not need to know but I would have no problem constructing a time line, or writing an essay. But not you. No. Growing up i didn’t ask many questions of you and your life. I guess I could feel it in the air at a young age that your life as a child, as a young adult, and as a person that existed before me was off limits. Anything that I did ask you was answered with a simple vague answer, or the generic ‘I’ll tell you when your a little older’. I know most of what i know by asking my mother. You at least shared with her. She at least knew you a little more as her husband. But I cannot remember one time in my life when you recounted a funny story of something that happened in your childhood. Not once.
And then my thoughts of me not knowing you shifted to the realization that you do not know me. And you probably never will. You left at a very pivotal time in my life- really in any ones life. I was 17 years young, gearing up for my high school graduation, held together by the boyfriend that had already loved me for 2 years, and just beginning to think of what life after the safety net that is school would be like. You were not very present. And when you were you were encouraging me to go to school, researching colleges online and trying to help guide me in the right direction. I was at a confusing time in my life, trying to accept that i had grown out of the ballet slippers of my childhood and getting used to the idea of leaving the nest. I was a typical absent minded, self absorbed, defensive teenager of 17 and that, is how you will always remember me.
You don’t know me as the artistic, funny, capable woman that I am now. You don’t know that i love to cook, and that my mothers talent and know how was passed to me. You’ve never tasted the home made bread, or the bolognese sauce that I was particularly proud of. You’ve never walked in my door to find me bent over the cutting board chop, chop, chopping away, humming the melody of my life.
You don’t know that I’ve kept the same job for two and a half years. That I persevered day after day to gain the experience that i knew I would need to move past the telephone answering, appointment scheduling days of my early twenties. You don’t know that i listened to your advise. That i listened to every word you ever spoke to me and that I held those words close to my heart. You don’t know that i cherished every single one of the moments I spent with you as a young girl. The car rides to grocery stores, the games of catch in the front yard with the sun shining on us and the scent of cut grass hanging in the air.
You don’t know that I’ve found my talent in photographs. That after years and years of believing that talent escaped me, that I had nothing to call my own I finally picked up a camera and saw something different through the lens. You don’t know that portraits are my favorite, spontaneous and organic. You don’t know that I gifted myself with a beautiful camera, a tool that became my outlet. You will never be a subject. Never stand across from me and have your face become captured in a timeless four by six.
You don’t know what my house looks like. What couches, and wall hangings Matthew and I chose together. You don’t know that summer time is my favorite but that the rainy streets of Seattle make me feel at home. You’ve never sat at my table as a guest in my house witnessing the pride i hold on my face for the life we have accomplished together.
You don’t know that my feelings toward you have changed dramatically. At first it was nothing but a flurry of anger, of shock, sadness, hurt, and fear. For years a chip on my shoulder I held and anger in my heart but not now. I still feel all of those things of course at times. Mostly when I think of the blue eyed, courageous little girl of 4 that you abandoned. But now, my feelings are civil. I do not forgive you, I cannot forgive you and maybe I never will forgive you for what you did and I am angry that you stole the right for me to be happy for you. Because I could have been. You are my father, the only father I will ever have and through all of this shit, it helps me sleep better at night knowing that you are happy. That you have the life, now that you wanted then.
You don’t know that its hard for me to even say the word ‘Dad’. That the memories of my childhood with you are fading. That every happy memory I have of you is cheapened by knowing that you never cared. By knowing that you always wanted to get away. You don’t know that when asked my full name, my last name feels foreign as it exits my lips. That the name now makes me think of you, and the family that birthed you; not me and the mother that took that name 20 years ago. You don’t know that I would have kept it. That when Matthew and I finally tie that knot i would have held strong and kept your last name firmly planted behind my middle. In honor of you and being your one and only blood child. The only daughter that you will ever have. But now, I will take the name of my love, partially to start new with a solid foundation of a partnership, and partially to get away from the name that is not me. To change myself forever. To lay to rest the first chapter of my life for good.
But it gets easier every day. No longer do I think of you on a daily basis. No longer does the core of my being hurt quite the same way that it did in the beginning. Its easier now to push old memories and thoughts out of my head, out of my life so that I can focus on the right now. And I feel like now, almost 5 years later I am just beginning to heal. To be able to speak of you without tearing up. I am old enough, and mature enough to accept that I will never be completely healed. That the wound you created that November has a permanent place in my heart, but I am also mature enough to understand that that does not define me.
I remember the last time I saw you. In the hospital after my precious nieces surgery. Such a strong little girl, more at ease knowing that her whole family was with her. Including the tall, gray flecked bearded man that she called papa. The man that had become scarce in her life, without understanding why. It was a hard time for us, for the whole family. Not understanding why this precious child’s kidney didn’t function, why it was making her ill, and why they had to cut through the porcelain skin of a young girls abdomen to remove it. I was the first to break down. Trying so hard to become like steel. To be strong for her, to be strong for her parents- my sister. But as they wheeled her out of that room the sudden thought that she doesn’t fully comprehend what is about to happen was too much for me. And I did it, my eyes filled up and spilled over unwillingly allowing fear to take over me, shamed that I couldn’t just keep it together. And then you looked at me. You looked at me; vulnerable, and upset. Scared for that 4 year old and scared of the unknown, you looked at me; and then you looked away. And it was at that moment that I was able to throw away the maybes. I was able to toss the ‘he’ll come arounds’ out the window. And for the first time I could say; My name is Bonnie and my father will never be anything but a fleeting, transparent memory of my past. And then I was able to let you go.