My parents divorced and my mother remarried before I was a year old. I grew up under the thumb of an abusive, belittling stepfather. Once my sister came along and he had a daughter of his own to dote on, it was even tougher. Every time he wiped her tears and kissed her forehead, I envied her his love. Often, while huddled in my room sobbing and confused, wondering what I’d done to make him hate me, I dreamt of my real father coming to my rescue.
And then it happened. My mother sent me to spend the day with my real dad when I was twelve. It was meant to be punishment. But it backfired. She thought she’d show me what a mean, rotten person he was; make me appreciate what I had.
I fell in love that day. My father was handsome, kind and oh so loving. He said over and over how much he loved me and how he had only stayed away because my mother insisted it was the best thing for me. He had all of my grade school pictures sitting in frames on a hutch. At one point, realizing that my mother had deprived me of his love, I began to cry. I yearned to tell him how I was mistreated. But my fear was stronger than my trust in him. If he confronted my stepfather, it could prove to be the death of me.
Not knowing how to handle the love I’d found, I continued to sob. Then one little dream came true . . . he took me in his arms and hugged me tenderly. “Shhh now, Sweetheart, don’t cry,” he whispered, kissing me gently on the forehead. “There’s nothing to cry about.”
I cried harder just so he would hold me longer. I was ecstatic. I had my very own father and he loved me. He didn’t seem to mind that I was chubby and not-too-pretty. He said my mother had seen the light and we’d be seeing a lot more of each other. I went home grinning like a Cheshire cat, my heart singing with the knowledge of his love.
But, I never saw him again. Suffice it to say that my mother made sure of it. When my stepfather’s abuse became sexual, I didn’t bother telling my mom; after all, she hadn’t protected me from his physical and emotional abuse – all she ever said was that I needed to do whatever it took to make him happy.
After I married, I contacted my real father again. He had remarried for the third time and his wife knew nothing of his marriage to my mother or of me - his only child and the daughter he supposedly loved. He told me his marriage was shaky, but promised that someday he would tell her all about me and then we could have a relationship. I corresponded with him for three years via his sister’s address. I wrapped his letters and cards with a blue ribbon and kept them in my drawer. I waited patiently, sure that any day he would knock on my door.
But, “someday” never came and never will. I learned of his death two years after the fact. I also discovered a sad and painful truth that while he could give up his daughter, he couldn’t give up his cigarettes; lung cancer took his life at the age of 62.
I couldn’t believe the grief I felt at losing someone I never really knew. My heart was broken, my hopes shattered. Later, my grief gave way to anger. Tearfully, I took every card and letter he’d sent me and methodically ripped them to pieces, chastising and berating myself for falling for his lies. My anger spent, I fell across the bed sobbing with the realization that I’d had two fathers and neither of them ever loved me. Obviously, I’m not lovable . . . .
Suddenly there was a gentle stirring in my heart. “Shhh, my child, you needn’t cry. I love you and there is no greater love than mine.” The whisper of my Heavenly Father; the Father who had given me the strength to rise above the rubble of my childhood; the one who had given me the gift of my husband and two beautiful daughters; the one who gave his son for me. I have a Father . . . I am loved.