This has been the post that’s been on my mind for over a week now. I haven’t found the words to convey my feelings about the healing journey I went on last week, when we went by train to seek out my dad, someone I haven’t seen in person for nearly 30 years. I considered HOW I was going to present the story that started oh, about 6 months ago, when I suggested to Mr. RSG that perhaps we shouldn’t wait for my dad and stepmother to make the 1200 mile trip, given the fact that his health hasn’t been the best for traveling, and that we should take the family to see them. After I planted the seed in his mind, it was HIS brilliant idea to turn it into a 40th birthday gift to me.
We traveled by train, and 18-hour excursion which was a blessing, even if it was a tad bit uncomfortable to sleep on at night. The long ride gave me the opportunity to relax a little, read Longing for Dad: Father Loss and Its Impact, watch the pretty scenery pass by and have some fun with the girls while we played games in the observation car of the Amtrak.
We spent some time sight-seeing, going to the Garden of the Gods and The Royal Gorge, and taking the girls to a wild west town nearby called Buckskin Joe’s. I think I’ll save some of those pictures and commentary for another post. The girls warmed up nearly immediately to my dad and stepmother – and for this I’m grateful, especially since a few years back they were too shy for people they even DID know, like my mother, for instance (which is very telling).
More importantly, this trip gave me an incredible gift. The chance to see for my own eyes, hear with my own ears, feel with my own arms, the love my father and stepmother had for me and my sisters.
My stepmother, Gail, saved artwork my sisters and I made and letters we wrote to them. I think the smiles on our faces and the loved conveyed in the letters we wrote to them that they, without a doubt, made us feel loved and wanted.
This is my dad, my two sisters and I from way back in the ’70’s. That’s me with the big grin on the right. My daddy must have said something to make me laugh. I don’t remember laughing much in my mothers home or being held by my mother.
My oldest sister used to tell me how ugly and fat I was as a child. I know my mother usually cropped my hair short, but I can see in this picture of me where my hair wasn’t too butchered, the face of a pretty angel staring back at me. I am sad to think that I even dared to think about taking her (my) life more than a few times because I felt I did not belong anywhere in this world. That thought has haunted me most of my life.
I sat on the floor of my stepmother’s apartment and browsed through our artwork and read a few letters:
A very short one, from me:
During these two weeks, both of you made me so happy. I wish I could stay longer.
I started reading that one aloud, then broke down in the middle of it, and sobbed in my stepmother’s arms. And she held me tight until I finished crying.
And one from my oldest sister (the one who eventually turned against them when she was 13 and refused to come for one last visit before we moved). She was having fun with a typewriter while she wrote this:
TO MY MOM……….I LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!
do you love me////???????
I KNOW YOU DO””””
You add so much to my life and I appreciate it more than you will ever know.
I always hope that I can stay overnight with you and dad and maybe some day I can come live with you and dad and always be as happy then as I am now when I am with both of you.
I thank you for being so nice and loving my dad as you do and I want you to be happy with him for the rest of your lives. I pray that my wish will come true.
If I can ever do anything to make this possible, please ask me because I will do anything for you and dad.
Your loving daughter,
I’m sure she has no memory that she wrote anything so wonderful to my stepmother. I know I have no memory of my sister saying or writing anything so wonderful to ANYBODY. She followed in my mother’s hypercritical, narcissistic footsteps.
I think these things are undeniable ‘proof’ that my dad and stepmother loved us, and made us feel important and special. I think these things prove my dad was much more than a sperm donor and an asshole, which is what my mother would have me believe.
My mother spent a large part of my life tearing me and my sisters down, one by one, stripping our defenses and abusing our innocence and denying us the most important things: love and accurate feedback as to who we are and most importantly, access to our father and stepmother (because though she couldn’t do the first two things for us, my dad and stepmother tried to pick up the slack).
I’m not mad at my mother, though I have every right to be, because my two sisters barely speak to my dad and stepmother. They lost 29 years and a lot of self-esteem because my mother was a narcissistic, money hungry, spoiled, control freak who shot down many opportunities for healthy development in her children. I’m not sure who she hated worse…my dad, or us girls because we belonged to him. She treated my younger half-brother and sister a lot better than she did us three. I do not think that was mere coincidence.
I can now look at my older sisters in a whole new light too. I thought for sure they hated my dad because of something specific he had done. But more so than that, I realize it’s not so much what he had done, but the interference my mother had with our relationship with our father. The letters that never got to us, the phone calls we never were allowed to take, the things she tried to make us believe about our dad.
It’s not because he never sent them or tried calling or did anything awful to us girls, but it was because she did everything she could imagine to keep us from him – not to protect us, but to punish him. She told him we didn’t want to talk to him. She told us, he never wanted to talk to us. She told us all he did was hurt her and was too cheap with child support.
I know she’s capable of all of it, because she intercepted letters addressed to me by my first love when he was in the Navy. My younger sister recently found one of the letters I never received in my mother’s desk drawer. I had to get a post office box for 4 years, just to make sure I got his letters. It worked, because I still have 4 years worth of letters from him my mother never got her hands on. Any boy that I dated that she disliked, she insulted them in front of me, calling them twit or baldly stated he was no good.
But…that’s all in the past. And I can’t make up for lost dreams or lost opportunities or lost time or the mean things she said about me or the people I loved.
What I can do is revel in the knowledge I was loved and important as a little girl, and missed so much by my dad and stepmother.
The important thing now is that I succeeded. I grew up and made it through all that pain and sorrow. I still have difficulty fitting in and finding new friends at this point in my life. But I can live with that. I have a wonderful relationship with my dad and stepmother, an understanding and loving husband, healthy daughters, moderately good health, and a few good friends I can reach by phone or through the internet. Incidentally, two of my friends called my cell phone while I was away to see how things were going with my dad, that’s how curious they were to know.
I AM truly blessed and I feel a renewed sense of peace.
Is it possible that my ‘father hunger’, as it’s referenced in the book Longing for Dad, finally been satiated?
I think, perhaps, it has.