When my daughter, Stacey, called early one morning, I never would have guessed what she was about to confess, nor ever imagine my reaction . . .
When I was 13, I saw my father for the first and only time. He told me then that he loved me and was absent from my life only because my mother had refused to let him see me. I fell in love with him that day, and when I didn’t hear from him again I was devastated. I blamed myself; I was too fat and ugly for him to love.
After I married and had children of my own, I contacted him. He claimed my mother kept me from him and when I confronted her, she said it was for my own good. Now he was married to his third wife, who knew nothing about his marriage to my mother or that he had a daughter (I was his only child). His new marriage was rocky and it was not a good time to announce my presence. But he assured me that “someday” we would get together. We corresponded by mail for several years, as I clung to the hope that eventually he would welcome me into his life. Then, in a moment of anger, I gave an ultimatum for an all or nothing-at-all relationship. I never heard from him again. Years later, I obtained his unlisted phone number. I kept it in my address book, but never had the courage to call him. I didn’t want to be rejected again.
Now Stacey was confessing that she had taken his phone number from my address book, confident that I would forgive her once we were reunited. A proud new mother, she wanted to introduce him to his great-grandson. She was certain her grandfather would welcome her with open arms.
My jaw dropped in disbelief, and my heart hung on every word as she relayed how she connected with his wife. “Mom,” she said casually, “I’m sorry I didn’t do it sooner. His wife said he had lung cancer . . . couldn’t give up smoking . . . he was only 62, but he died last year.”
Her words hit me like a sucker punch to the stomach. I couldn’t breathe. If anyone had told me how hard and long I would cry for someone I never really knew, I would have sworn it impossible. Why would I grieve for someone who could give up his daughter, but not his cigarettes? Why would I cry for the man who fathered me, but was never my dad? Why did my heart feel as if it were breaking in two, when it had already been shattered time and again?
I didn’t understand grief back then. But, sadly, it is something I’ve now encountered several times. And with each loss – an aunt, an uncle, my grandmother, and my mother – I’ve learned that grief is a journey for which you cannot be prepared. It is a journey you must take alone . . . accompanied by all that encompasses the very core of who you are. Each journey has its own itinerary.
My grief was not for the man I never knew. It was for the little girl in me who yearned to hold her father’s hand, and skip proudly at his side; for the teen in me who longed to look into his eyes and catch a glimpse of herself; my grief was for the woman in me who clung to the promise of a “someday “ – that now would never come.
Not too wordy, and with enough details to tell the story. Best line of the article, "he could give up on his daughter, but not his cigarettes". Emotionally packed article that tugged at the heart. For me, the best writing is a combination of a story weaved together with a moral; otherwise known as a parable... this wasn't an exact rendition of a true parable... but the moral lesson learned: faithfulness... or the lack thereof and the results that follow.