“Your Dad isn’t really your Dad.” Mom detonated her news-bomb on my 34th birthday.
“Go on,” I said and concentrated on not spontaneously combusting from years of stifled anger and frustration. Could she never tell the truth?
“I thought you knew,” she said. “Your brother called me after you called your Dad about his medical history and ordered me to tell you now.”
“Why didn’t you tell me before?” God, help me. I want to backhand her. How could she do this? I’m so tired of the soap-opera scenes. Can’t she, just this once, be the adult? Please…
“I thought Grams told you.” She shrugged it off. “Remember when you always said there was no way you could be related to this family? Well, you were partly right,” she laughed.
She thinks this is funny. Like a prank. “Do you know who my real father is?”
“Oh, I know, and so does everyone else. You’re the only one that doesn’t know. We thought you knew.” She fiddled with her purse strap and avoided my eyes.
I looked away, too.
“Your real father’s name is John Doe* and he lives 65 miles from here and do you want to meet him?” She expelled the words like vomit.
I felt, and heard, one of my teeth crack. Deep breath in. Hold. Big exhale out. “Yes. I do.” Inhale. Exhale. Relax.
She giggled. It was her way of staying the little girl and making me be the adult. It was an old routine.Sigh
“That’s settled. So, where do you want to eat for your birthday?” Mom asked, dismissing the subject.
Eat! My stomach churned. I wanted to creep into a cave somewhere to cry and lick yet another set of wounds. Another dad, which makes three, all who had discarded me, each in their own way.
Eight years later
I stood before the Father’s Day cards and tried to stifle my warped thoughts, which ran along the lines of a Bob Newhart show. What if we all run into each other? Hello, this is my Dad, and my other Dad Dad, and over here is my Dad Dad Dad!
Or: Pick a card, any card. The lucky father is… Stop it!
I couldn’t bear to slight any of the three, my soft heart warring with my smart-mouth mind. For a moment, hysteria reared its head at the absurdity of the situation. Then it evaporated, leaving a melancholy mist in my eyes. My thoughts drifted…
Dad: the man I had always loved and thought of as Dad. He had abandoned me when he and Mom divorced. When my ignorance of my true paternity was revealed, he felt bad, and I felt sorry for him. And me. We are healing together.
Step-Dad: the man married to my mother. Though he treated me good, he was distant. His coldness hinted that he didn’t want to know he crushed my heart when he adopted my sister and didn’t adopt me. He still has a place in my heart, though he left, too, after Mom passed away.
Biological Dad: the flesh-of-my-flesh Dad. We met eight years ago and have been getting to know each other. We take delicate steps into each other’s minefield of memories. A different kind of father/daughter love blooms. And the hugs are nice.
Peace settled over me as I spoke to my one, true Father. You knew, didn’t you. That’s why You drew me near at nine-years-old, and I attended church by myself. Remember when I fell and broke my arm that time on the church steps?
These three men have pieces of my heart, but You hold the whole of it. I would give anything to crawl into Your lap and feel like a true daughter. You knew I would stand here, trapped in a battle with myself, and I would need the wisdom You planted in my 9-year-old heart…
“Are you alright, dear?” A small woman with a blurred face inquired. “Is your father alive?”
I wiped away the tears and smiled. “Yes, He’s alive. I just can’t choose the right card.”
Mom is gone, her death feeling like that of my child. We played those reversed roles so well. In the meantime, each of my three earthly Dads is remembered on Father’s Day, while my true Father in Heaven cradles the daughter in me. He teaches me the fullness of forgiveness and how to recognize the blessings added to my life through each of these men.
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