I write a lot of blog pieces and Facebook posts about my crazy life and unbelievable, but true, adventures. I post silly questions, risqué jokes, and way too many pop culture references (sorry/not sorry for the jabs Gwynnie).
Today, with this post, I am scratching much deeper than the surface. If you don't like to go deep, click here for a fun, but more shallow, read.
Thursday night, Kelly Clarkson, American Idol's poster girl turned anti-establishment chanteuse, paid a visit to her alma mater. An older, heavily pregnant Kelly sang her new song, "Piece by Piece". If you haven't heard it yet, you might want to take a listen or you won't really get what I am about to prattle on about.
I have never been a Kelly Clarkson fan, but this song hit me straight in the heart. My biological father abandoned me when I was a baby. He abused my mother and neglected me. I am truly a better person because my young mother had the courage to tell him to go.
And he never came back.
"I traveled 1500 miles to see you..."
When I was twenty-three, I tracked him down. He was living in a sad, tiny apartment in Tampa, Florida (which, incidentally, is the stripper capital of the United States). He was married to his fourth or fifth wife and raising two of his children (each had a different Baby Mama). At first, he was warm and welcoming. He planned outings to beaches and water parks. He invited his relatives - my relatives - over for barbecues. He kept my mind whirling with his non-stop prattle (so that's where I got my gift for gab), catching me up on his lost twenty-three years. I felt as if I were in an alter-world wherein he was the snake and I was the charmer, but he was charming me and all I could do was sit and stare, eyes wide and catatonic.
"And all of your words fall flat..."
The thing about snakes is: no matter how much they entrance you with their markings, their graceful movements, their unflinching, hypnotic gaze, if you get too close, challenge them too much, they will strike. Snakes can be slippery, venomous little bastards.
Some people are just like snakes. They charm you, entrance you, lure you closer, and then strike. Snakes are not what they first seem.
I am not at liberty to discuss the finer points of my visit with biological father, but I can tell you it ended with disastrous, disappointing results.
"Begged you to want me..."
Time, therapy, love - they can be remarkably powerful anti-venom. I am okay with my father's abandonment now, but for a long time his neglect left gaping wounds on my heart. I tried to soothe those wounds with the love of others - friends, family, lovers. I tried to be the most pleasing, most loving, most entertaining person to whomever I was with so they would love me and never abandon me.
When my father packed his bags and slid away, never looking back, he left a legacy of self-doubt and longing. I grew up wondering if my father left because I wasn't good enough. Sometimes, the pain of abandonment was so great I would invent stories, casting him as a Vietnam War hero or an undercover CIA agent.
Growing up without a strong, dependable, loving father influenced my behavior, particularly when it came to relationships with men.
"That a man can be kind..."
I grew up dreaming about, and searching for, a man who would be kind, supportive, dependable, gentle, and true.
But an abandoned and neglected daughter searching for a good man is a lot like being blindfolded, dropped in the middle of a vast forest, and told that you have to find your way out. Good men are unfamiliar terrain. Chances are, you will make several wrong turns before you find your way. If you're lucky, you might stumble out of the forest, but not without a lot of luck or a lot of therapy.
"And a father should be great..."
Twelve paragraphs in, I don't even know why I am writing this blog post. Maybe I am hoping a father on the brink of leaving will read this and consider the damage his abandonment will cause to his trusting daughter.
Though, my cynical, jaded side - the side that is rarely allowed out of its dark, dank, deep cave - says, "Seriously? You think your little blog post and a weepy Kelly Clarkson song is going to positively influence a positively flawed human being? Ego much?"
Abandonment - in all of its forms: psychological, emotional, physical, financial - stems from a profoundly flawed morality. Men and women who abandon their offspring, particularly when they are the most vulnerable and needy, are lacking the thick-as-cement moral fiber found in good, reliable, loving parents. The very foundation of their character has a big-ass crack in it. A crack created by a pathetically perverted inner-dialogue that says, "You are the most important person in this mismatched little group. Your happiness is more important than theirs. You deserve to be happy and free. Walk away."
"I made something of myself..."
Those wounds - the ones my biological father created when he listened to his inner-dialogue, the one that told him his happiness mattered more than mine - weren't healed by collecting fawning friends or finding a generous lover. Those wounds were healed when I silenced the perverted inner-dialogue in my head, the one that said, "Your father left because you weren't pretty/smart/funny/kind/fill-in-the-blank enough." Those wounds were healed not through the love of surrogate fathers, but through self-understanding, acceptance, and love.
A miraculous amount of healing can occur when you learn to truly accept yourself - freckles, fat fingers, frizzy hair and all! The scars might still be there - you see them - but they don't cause you pain or limit your mobility.
A few months ago, my half-sister wrote to tell me our biological father was dying. Keeping it real? My first thought was, "So? Why are you telling me?"
When I told my husband, he said, "What are you going to do?"
I shrugged. "I dunno."
But then I sat with it. Turned it over in mind and heart. Prayed about it.
Eventually, I asked myself, "What would your biological father do?"
And I did the opposite.
I called his hospice, briefly explained my unusual family dynamics to the nurse, and asked her if she would convey a message to my dying biological father.
"Of course," she said. "What would you like me to tell him?"
"Please tell him that I forgive him and I pray that he will find the peace and goodness in the Afterlife that eluded him in this life."
It suddenly just occurred to me - the reason for this post. I am hoping some little girl, sitting in her pink painted bedroom in Topeka, Tacoma, or Toledo, will read this and stop her perverted inner-dialogue from ever forming. Instead, I hope she tells herself, "It was his deficits that made him pack his bag and leave, not yours. You are pretty, smart, funny, kind, fill-in-the-blank enough just as you are."