I’ll never forget the look in my mother’s eyes as you beat me up with words when you drunkingly harassed me at night. I’ll never forget the look in her eyes if I didn’t do as I was told, if I didn’t address you as sir, if I didn’t have the right attitude, as you beat me with your hands. The same hands that helped me onto your shoulders when I was too tired to walk. The same hands that held me at night when I was too scared from a nightmare or scary movie I’d watched earlier that day to fall asleep. The same hands that clapped for me while I competed in a cheerleading competition. The same hands that carried me inside when I wrecked my bike and scraped my knees to the bone. The same hands that touched my sisters and brothers bodies the same way you did mine.
At 15, I lost you to child services when they said you could no longer live with us, because you sent me to school with your handprints still on my body. You blamed me for not only getting caught, but the separation of our family. My mother, sister, and I moved north. I didn’t return your phone calls for a year in fear of what you might say or do, I was always a little scared of you. One day, you had emergency surgery; my sister and I came to the hospital to see you. You cried. A large body builder who frightened me was crying because of seeing me, it was overwhelming. You told me I was so beautiful and smart and had so much to live for. I will never forget those words or the uneasy, mixed feelings they gave me. A few days later, you turned 55. We had lunch with you, your brothers, and your mother before driving four hours home. The next morning, my sister woke me up to give me the news, you were gone. At 17, I lost you to a heart attack. Before you could see me graduate high school, go off to school, become a woman, before someone could ask for your approval to marry me, but most importantly, before I could get to know you as an adult and try to make sense of all of this.
Do you understand how confusing it is when the most important man, the first man in a little girl’s life, teaches her love through violence and hurtful words? Do you understand how I will think it’s okay to let someone who is not my father do the same thing? What about my brothers? Are you teaching them it’s okay to treat their children and wives like this? Do you know how long it will take me to learn that I did not deserve to be treated like a punching bag? Do you know how long it will take me to get over the constant fear of someone hurting me? Because someone who “loved” me so much did it so easily, why wouldn’t a complete stranger do it?
After all of this, I miss you every day. I miss you when I see children with their fathers. I miss you when I lay my head down at night. I miss you when I listen to a certain song. Almost everything in my world reminds me of your absence.
The most fucked up part is I don’t hate you, not even a little. I would take it all back, suffer through the abuse everyday if that meant you would still be here.
I’ve thought about what’d I’d say to you if I saw you again and I think it would go something like this: “Dad, I have missed you more than I have missed anything I have lost. We all have. I want you to know that I appreciate every memory I have with you, every tough lesson you taught me, everything you pushed me to do; because without it, I wouldn’t be full of kindness, respect, sincerity, generosity, love, or forgiveness. I learned to be kind to everyone, because I know what people could be hiding behind closed doors. I learned to respect others and myself, because you never gave it to me. I learned to be sincere with others, because I could never tell you what was on my mind. I learned to be generous and help others as much as I can, because no one can help me from the pain I felt and still feel. I learned to love others and forgive no matter what, because I know you didn’t mean to hurt me this way, you thought you were doing what was best for me. Thank you so much, without this experience, I wouldn’t have the knowledge or power I do now. Give John a hug for me. Mom is faking a smile everyday; she went off the deep end for a little, but she is slowly climbing back up. Gregory has been working out everyday, he is only 15 and is stronger than half of the boys I have dated… I mean, I have never dated a boy… Jasmine is the strong one, she’s too stubborn to let anyone see her cry. She’s almost done with college, you would be so proud. Gabby is still wild, but has her mom and her step-father. You made very unique and special children. I love you so much. I always will.”