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A Fatherless Father’s Day

The title can resonate with so many people in many ways. My story is that my father died of stomach cancer when I was 11. He built our home as he was dying and he taught me how to wire a house, run saws, paint, drywall, hang paneling (it was the 80’s), and how to drive a tractor. All while he knew his days were numbered. So, each Father’s Day I honestly don’t think about it at all that I have a Fatherless Father’s Day.

Don’t be sad reading the title, he’s always with me. It’s quite a bonus to have a dad in heaven. You know you can talk to him anytime without picking up a phone and you know he watches over you. As each year passes, I’d like to say it gets easier, but it doesn’t. You see that was 31 years ago when he died. I still remember the funeral, but I don’t recall anything else. The mind is a very powerful thing and I have literally blocked out almost every memory of my childhood surrounding the events of my father’s death.

Now I have a daughter and things are different when it relates to Father’s Day. I wish she could have known him and each Father’s Day it stings more and more. The problem gets bigger because she too had Fatherless Father’s Days. I was mother and father for a few years but luckily, she was too young to recognize the day. I never wanted her to go through life without a father, but she didn’t have a choice. You see he left when I was five months pregnant.

I felt like a disgrace, a failure, a tarnished person. I was an unmarried mother and at first, that made me feel ashamed. Outside of how I felt, how was my daughter going to live her life without a father?  Who comes to school on the daddy appointed events? Who dances with her at the daddy-daughter dances? Who teaches her the daddy things?  What was she going to tell the kids that asked about her daddy?

I had no answers only shame. Shame from a situation I didn’t create nor control. It was his decision to run. He literally said goodbye, I love you one normal morning, walked out the door to go to work, and I never saw him again. Now I’m left to hold it all together and most days I don’t.

Fast forward almost 7 years later and she is asking who her daddy is and did she have a daddy as a baby. Let me tell you I was not expecting those questions until years later and had hoped to have the answer by then. Unfortunately, I have put two men in her life, one that I married when she was almost 3 and my fiancé now. The first marriage didn’t work out because, honestly, I got married out of shame from being a single mom. That was a mistake. Therefore, the marriage didn’t work and now that man is not in my daughter’s life. That was not a great lesson to teach a child, but I did it to her. I know I’m not the only one but I’m just sharing from my perspective. Now, I’m proud of my time as a single mom.

A few weeks back when she asked for the second or third time if she had a father when she was a baby, I told her the truth. I was so afraid when I responded with “no you didn’t have a father when you were a baby”. It killed me to say that but what else could I say at this point. She just said “ok” and that was the end of the conversation. As I continued to drive down the road, I wondered what was going on in her little head but wanted to give her the quiet time to think through. One day we will talk more about it but at that moment she needed to deal with it in her own way.

I am engaged now, and she loves him. We have been together three years and my daughter somewhere along the way started calling him daddy.  It was on her terms and she asked me first if it would be ok for her to do so. Being able to say she has a Daddy, has helped ease the blow of all the questions that children ask each other.  My fiancé and I ate lunch with my daughter on the last day of school. During our lunch, my daughter’s BFF, says to my fiancé, your little girl told me you’re not her real daddy. That broke his heart but it’s the truth.  You see he would like to be her daddy; she calls him daddy; he loves her like he is her father. However, it is different if you haven’t been there the whole time. That is the unfortunate side of this situation.

He goes to the Daddy events, she makes him Father’s Day gifts, she gets to talk about her daddy. All those questions… now have answers. I don’t know how it will all play out and what will happen as she begins to understand the dynamics of a family.  Now, she doesn’t have a Fatherless Father’s Day anymore. For me, I know my father is watching over me. I will still have to deal with the real father questions and so will my fiancé. I have no idea what I will say but I know that the truth is all I have good or bad. Regardless, Father’s Day will always be an interesting day for our family, but we will continue to be thankful for our father that is no longer with us and the man that has stepped into that role for my daughter.

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