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Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Stranger by the Swings...

Today I found out my dad died...and not the man I grew up calling dad. The man that left me, lied to me more times I can count, wrote me mean letters when he was drunk, and threatened me. My biological dad.
When I was two years old, I was playing at the park. My mom took me. I was playing on the fire truck, which was my favorite.
"That's your dad." My mom said, pointing to a man by the swings. A man I never saw before.
I grew up with my mom and grandparents. My grandfather and I were very close. I called him dad.
I had no idea about the relationship between your mother and father. I just thought you had a mom and a dad, and my grandfather was that dad.
My two year old mind just accepted that this stranger by the swings was my dad, because my mom said so. That was that.
"Can I say hi?"
"Sure."
I walked over to my dad.
"Hi daddy."
Nothing.
"Hi daddy." I said again a little louder.
Nothing.
He looked blankly straight ahead. Like I wasn't even there.
I gave up. Defeated, I walked over to my mom.
"He didn't answer me."
"Maybe he didn't hear you."
We left the park.
I was two, but I knew he heard me. I was two, not stupid.
Years went by and I never thought about the stranger by the swings again. My dad. I continued to be close to my grandfather. Calling him daddy; I still do.
Then one day, my mom handed me the phone.
"It's your dad." She said.
I answered expecting to hear my grandfather's voice on the other end, but instead, it was someone I didn't know. My biological dad...the stranger by the swings.
I talked to him awkwardly. Even at six I was awkward. He told me he missed me. I said I missed him too, even though I really didn't. I couldn't. I never properly met him. After all, he had always been the stranger by the swings. 
A phone call turned into a visit.
It was weird. So weird.
He picked me up, took me to his house, and introduced me to his mom...my grandmother. They showered me with presents which made me feel really uncomfortable. Strangers were giving me presents! They took pictures, and I didn't smile and kept some distance from them. They had to lean in closer.
Thus all the strange feelings, I accepted it. My mom said he was my dad, so he was my dad.
I started to get sad though. I didn't want a new dad. I had one. A great one! My grandfather. I didn't want anyone to replace him. In my six year old head, I could only have one dad and I wanted that dad to be my grandfather.
As if he read my mind, my grandfather talked to me and told me I could still call him dad.
Good!
My biological father continued visiting, but honestly, I remember being with my grandmother more than my father. I remember a few times, he supposedly went to the store. Did he? I don't know. He was an alcoholic. Who knows what he was really doing, but most of my memories at his house lie with my grandmother. Still, I grew to kind of like him...but not in a father daughter sort of way. Like that friend your parents have that visit once in a while, You like them, being around them can be fun, but there are other people you enjoy being around more.
I did however, really love my grandmother. She was sweet and kind to me. She felt genuine.
One day, I was waiting for my dad to pick me up. He never came. He never called.
Some years went by, and my grandmother on my mother's side called to tell me she saw my other grandmother's obituary in the newspaper.
The obituary listed she had two grandchildren. I was not one of them.
How nice.
This made me angry...I now knew what they really thought of me.
I can accept my dad had problems. I can accept he couldn't get passed them, but I did not ask to be born. I did not ask for a relationship with any of them. He came to me. I was perfectly happy with my mom, sister, and grandparents. I didn't need anyone else. I loved my grandmother, but did she love me. I'll never know.
Years went by once again, and I was now a Sophomore in high school. My mom found out he was in the hospital. It didn't look good, so she forced me to take a road trip to New Jersey and visit him. Oh the awkwardness...I didn't speak much. He aged a lot. Much more than my mom. Maybe it was all the alcohol. Christopher, which is my dad's name, talked to my mom and grandparents while I stood awkwardly in the corner. I answered the occasional question, and he introduced me to the nurse. We left after what seemed like an eternity. I hadn't heard from him again until about a year later.
My dad, or as I knew him for the longest, the stranger by the swings, put me on his insurance. Honestly, I don't know if it was court ordered, a guilty conscience, or what, but he did. My mom saw this as an opening. She tried to push us together. She made me get on the phone with him and vice versa. Another awkward conversation. He said I love you and I said thank you. I know, I know. That's cold, but I still barely knew him.
He sent me a card with $10 in it for Christmas. The first time I received a Christmas gift from him since I was six. This would be the end of the nice Christopher. I started getting letters that put my mom down and me as well. I got about three or four of these letters, which really pissed me off. My mom stayed. He left. I have a disease called Evans Syndrome and my mom went to the doctors with me, my mom and grandparents waited for me to be sent to the recovery room after my bone marrow biopsy, my grandparents rushed me to the hospital when I almost died from a blood infection, and it was my mom who I woke up to by my hospital bed crying because she wasn't sure if I was going to make it. He had no right to criticize her.
Years would go by again before I heard from him. I was now in my early 20s.
A phone call here...a phone call there...and always a lot of empty promises.   I wished him a Happy Father's Day to be nice. He offered me to move in with him, which I obviously did not accept.Lets see how long you can commit to these phone calls before we even visit each other...well not very long.
Less than a year later, I had problems with all of these insurances. I was no longer on his insurance and needed to prove it, but his insurance wouldn't give me any information because I wasn't him. So my mom called him. He hung up on her, so I called. I thought maybe he would talk to me. WRONG!
He yelled at me, cursed me out, and claimed I was trying to take his money and beach house. Yes, I want a beach house even though I'm allergic to sand...but he probably didn't even know that. He told me I lied about having Evans Sydrome. That there was no such thing...I wish! I yelled and cursed at him back. He threatened to have me jumped. I yelled some more and then hung up. He called over and over again, and in the morning, he was still calling; leaving angry and threatening voicemails. My mom called the police and we filed a report. Thankfully he finally left us alone. My cousins, who I found on Myspace years ago, and their dad (my Uncle) apologized for my father's behavior. They did not have to do that, but they did. It was sweet of them.
After that very crazy incident, I never spoke to Christopher again. I keep in touch with my cousins and occasionally talk to them on Facebook.
Today, I got a text. It was one of my cousins. Not the typical how are you text or Happy Thanksgiving/Merry Christmas text...obviously.
Hey, are you awake text.
I knew.
I knew this day was coming. I already knew before she called me.
"I wish I was calling with better news...Chris passed last night..."
I can't say I'm shocked. I wish I was.
I would be lying if I said I didn't feel a little sad. But I don't feel like I lost my dad. I wish he could have gotten over his addiction. I wish he didn't live such a sad life. I feel bad for my cousins, their dad, and my dad's wife.
Most of my experiences with Christopher were not very pleasant. I can only imagine what it would have been like if he stayed. We did have some good moments and in light of his passing, I guess those are what I should think of from now on. I know he may have been a different person if he wasn't an alcoholic.

If you stayed with me this long, thank you!
If my cousins, Uncle, or Christopher's wife ever read this, I'm truly sorry for your loss.
R.I.P Christopher...Dad.

                                                                 Christine

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