[originally posted on onebadmomma.com]
Yesterday was Father’s Day and I published a piece about my real father, who I barely know. The post was written rather quickly, so I feel like it’s pretty inconclusive. Maybe not? Maybe these kinds of relationships, like the one I have with my father, will always feel this way – inconclusive, never wrapped up, always floating in the air just out of reach, but always visible.
— Elizabeth Gomez
The Man of Semen: My Father
I didn’t grow up with a father. As a matter of fact, I pretty much grew up alone, along with my brother. When my dad left, my mother had to start working and did she ever! She was a good mother and you can read about how incredible she was here. She’s been my idol and my hero all of my life. But no matter how hard she tried, she was never able to fill a gap in my heart that was left by my real father.
My memories of my dad are pretty vague. I’m now a few months from 40 and since I haven’t lived with my dad after reaching my double digits, I think you can understand why. The only thing I can clearly remember is that as a little girl, I loved him so deeply that sometimes I thought I’d burst open if he hugged me. While I have my Apa, I still can’t forget my daddy.
My father was a military man. So for the years we did live with him, he would go on weeks long training excursions; leaving my mother, brother and me alone trying to navigate our way through whichever foreign country we were living at the time. Once he moved us to live in Virgina, my father essentailly disappeared. Over the decades, we would rarely receive a letter or a call. Once every few years, my brother and I would hear our mother yell, “Riiiiiiiisssssa! BRRRROOOOTTTTTHHHHER! You daddy on phone. Come.” I would reluctantly approach the phone, my brother would continue playing Legos, refusing to break concentration.
My father: Hi, Lisa. It’s your father.
Me (head down, heart pounding, brain swirling): I don’t have a father.
My father: Lisa, it’s your father.
Me: I don’t want to talk to you.
And then I’d hang up and go to my room and cry. As a teen, I was already filled with confusion and anger, talking to my father only compounded the challenges set by my hormones or listless thoughts about who I was or what I was going to become. I couldn’t understand how he could let years slip by without calling his own children. I pretty much started considering a sperm donor rather than a father. I watched other girls run to their dad’s arms and talk about how much better their dads were than their moms. It made me jealous and resentful. To this day, I can’t watch a father and daughter commercial without wondering how it could possibly be. My girlfriend, Anita, wrote a blog piece this week about her dad and I still keep thinking…..How could you possibly feel like that about your father? But, she does. And my daughters feel that way about their dad and their half dad. And I still don’t get it.
He hasn’t seen me since I was 19 (for a weekend) and before that he saw me for about 5 minutes when I was 16. I think before that I may have been around 11 when I saw him last. My brother is currently 35 and I think my dad last saw him when he was 8. My father has never met any of his four grandchildren. He’s never met my husbands (current nor former) or my friends. Last year or so ago, he found my brother and me on Facebook. That was strange. I called my brother and asked him if I should friend my dad, my brother replied, “Elizabeth, you have 100′s of people who you don’t really know peeking into your life on Facebook. Just let him. I did.” That was shocking to me because my brother has almost never spoken to my dad since he’s been gone.
I can’t remember the last time I spoke to my father. So, you have to imagine my surprise when my father helped me put together this post. I begin writing it for Father’s Day. As I was drafting it, I felt there were a number of holes in my narrative. I felt brave and strong, so I decided to use the last email address I had for my father to ask all the questions I wanted to know for this post. No immediate response. A day or two passed and I had forgotten about it. When I opened my email today, I was stunned to see that he had answered me; shared below. I’m not sure how I feel about his responses and probably need to noodle them over some more and there will probably more posts about this relationship in the future. But, for now, it is what it is.
Look, I don’t feel like my father owes me anything. I honestly have moved through the bitterness and pain that I use to have. I’ve worked hard to find understanding and compassion for everyone I know; finding forgiveness for even the worst that have offended me. So, with that in mind, I want to sincerely state that I think my father is a brave and strong man to have made the decision to respond to me. I know it hurt to have to re-live some of these memories and I am grateful that he did. Even though, one email can’t change our history, it can give us hope for another type of beginning.
Editors Note: Combined questions with answers to make it easier for reader to follow; answers in italics; changed names to respect privacy; edits were only for general typos and format; my father refers to me as “Juanna” because it was my roller derby name and email address.
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Juanna Rumbel <email address>
Subject: A few quick questions……
To: Father <email address>
How are you? I hope you’re well. I’m sorry to bother you but I’m writing something about Father’s Day for one of my blogs. It’s really about the fact that I pretty much grew up without a father. Which isn’t to pick on you at all. However, it does make me stop to think about who you were when you moved to Germany and what you were thinking all these years about us. I’m wondering if you wouldn’t mind answering a few questions for me so I can sculpt this post properly. Also, my memory is a little blurred and I want to be as accurate as possible. You know that Mom would NEVER talk to me about this stuff. Don’t worry, I only have a handful of readers, so it’s not a big deal if you can’t do it or don’t want to participate. I won’t be upset. But, if you’re open to it, I would love to hear your point of view. Thanks for whatever you can tell me and if you decide not to answer, it’s ok, too. Here’s what I’m trying to figure out:
How old was my brother and I when we moved from [this place] to [that place]? Leaving [this place] and moving to [that place] you were 11, and your brother was 8.
At that point, did you know you wanted to leave Mom for [the lady who shall not be named but that I hated without knowing her because she’d call our house and make my mother cry]? Leaving your mom for [her] was a terrible and major mistake. I had found out about [her] whereabouts during one of the trips we made to [friend’s] house in [state] and just before leaving Germany to [this place]. Once in [state] I found out her number through her mother and I called and we met.
Did [that woman who didn’t have the decency to remain in the background and stay away from our family] move to Germany with you? How old were we then? When I got orders to go back to Germany I left alone and during the first 6 months [she] followed me there, at the time you were 13 years old [and bro] was 10 years old.
Why didn’t you contact us for so long? Reason for not contacting was stupid, I wanted my divorce and your mom kept saying no. That time I believe that the best way to get her to grant me the divorce was to not have contact with her at all, but that was incorrect because you and your brother had nothing to do with the reason why I wasn’t contacting her.
Do you remember the time, my family walked out of that Chinese restaurant in [the town 4 minutes away from where we lived]? How long had you been there and why didn’t you tell us you were in town? I had just gotten there to attend school before leaving back to Germany. The course lasted 30 days and because of what happened I thought it be best that I just go to school. Hurting your mother was not what I wanted to ever do.
How did it feel to know your children were so angry and did you miss us? I do and always will miss the both of you and I regret it even today. The fact that I understand why you won’t talk to me is something I hate living with. Maybe you and your brother might just say something like “live with it, that’s life.” Seeing pictures of the both of you is all that I have and not having growing family memories HURTS me.
Can you remind me how we got in contact when I lived in [art school – a talent that I clearly derived from you and all the times you made me draw Beetle Bailey cartoons as my art lesson]? What were you thinking when you were going to see me for the first time after so many years? Visiting you in [art school] was the GREATEST and BEST day of my life just to be with you (MY PRINCESS). Spending the night with you at grandmother house was so wonderful for me.
When I think about you, it’s strange because it’s almost like you’re imaginary. I have these hazy memories of you. Is that how you feel about us? I remember 2 beautiful kids that I help bring into this world that would make our lives the perfect lives. A wonderful girl that was and still is my PRINCESS. Someone who fed her fish until they died, someone who enjoyed the world I walked on. My kids who would have long hair as long as their great grandmother and when your mom cut your hair in El Paso I was so upset that I never gave [brother] a haircut and it just grew and grew.
When I think of you, I always imagine you in your BDU’s – green tshirt, camo pants, slightly wavy black hair, well trimmed mustache and listening to big huge headphones. You loved music and I loved watching you when I was a little girl. Do you have any fun memories of me or [my brother] like that? You have always been the defender of the under dog, when I was teaching your mom how to drive and I had to correct her you would start to crying as if I was yelling at her. In Korea you protected your baby brother from everyone even the maid, you worried about him even while he was in the hospital. [Brother] was so wonderful just being [brother], never crying, wanting all the time to be with me just like you did whenever I came home. Excited that I was home and we would watch wrestling and play Pac-man, but he also watched out for his big sister. When you got into trouble he was the one who told me (AAFES).
Do you know that the idea of having a relationship with you feels near impossible, but I still have a place in my heart for you? I hope you know that I have no anger for you and wish the very best for you. I think of you often. I wonder if you feel the same about me (and Brother). Nearly impossible means that there is hope even as slightly as possible. When I returned back to the U.S. I wanted to get with both you and [brother]. While in [state] I asked if we could get together and there was no time nor possibility. I always want to see you and [brother], but, he said that’s not possible and you are very busy. I presently live in [state] and drive a city bus just like my son. So, I guess I grew up to be like him. Every time I get onto Facebook that’s the best part of my day, because I get to see you and your family as well as [brother] and his family. Both of you have a wonderful family.
Juanna, I hope that I’ve answered your questions. Just one more thing I hope that one day you both would allow me the opportunity to meet your family even as a friend of the family. If not possible I want you to know that you and [brother] are always in my thoughts and in my heart. I love you both and your family.