Happy Father’s Day

I have a paper and two quizzes due by midnight tonight, so I decided to bring myself to Starbucks to focus. If I were at home I would inevitably take a nap that turned into hours. Sure, I would wake up with just enough time to get my work done but it would be less than likely my best.

This plan to focus has backfired on me and here I am sitting in the coffee shop looking at everyone walking in and out the place and I wonder what their story is. I drift off into thought and wonder and assume where their father is. Who is he, why are you here alone? Maybe their father passed away, maybe he was never known or maybe the name father lies within a man that did not father them but merely raised them. Then there are those blessed few who walk in with their dads, dressed in their Sunday best to get a coffee with the man who set the example of manhood for them, or the man who gloriously failed at pigtails. Maybe he was the man who walked hand in hand with you on Halloween in your princess costume because you thought you were a princess all while he new deep down inside you would always be his princess.

Fathers Day has always been one of my least favorite holidays because unlike St. Patrick’s day where green is the only requirement to celebrate, on fathers day, you are required to have a man to celebrate. I can’t pick and choose like Valentines day and unlike Thanksgiving day it is hard to find other things to be thankful for. Today I am reminded that my father left my life by choice but by some stroke of luck I was then granted a guardian angel who was much more than a father. He was my best friend, my confidant and the melody to my day. My grandfather shielded me from any harm that came my way. I loved him with all my heart and he has been gone now for longer than he was in my life and undoubtedly he will always have an impact in my life. My worse was always good enough for him and now that he’s not here my best is all I ever try for him.

So this is my story, for those of you walking in and out of the coffee shop taking a glance at me. Who am I ? Why am I alone? Where is my father? Well here goes. . .The man who fathered me is only 15 minutes away from me. I don’t know him from Adam. He went to jail when I was 4/5 years old and despite having forgiven him for what he did so that I may live peacefully without resentment, I cannot help but still hate the things I do not have because of his absence. I had no other alternative than to look up to my grandfather, who was more than willing to look after the little girl he left behind. I love my grandfather beyond measure and I am grateful that I was raised by him. . .but. . .I wish I had both. I wish to always have love for Spanish guitar because I spent many days on grandpa’s lap as he played. I still wish to love Christmas because it was my last holiday with grandpa but I too wish that my dad had been present during that last holiday rather than living out his last few years in the correctional facility. I wish that now that grandpa is gone, dad could tell me all about grandpa before I was born. I wish to know all the silly things and sad things that made him the most incredible man in the world. I only have 14 years of actions to prove to me who he was but those 14 years do not account for the woman I am.

I look like my father. I act like my father. I am smart like my father. . .but I don’t know my father. I have this birthmark right over my nose. . .just like my father. My eyes close when I smile really big, just like my father. I know this because I have been told by my mother. Those few and far in between moments when mom had nothing bad to say and decided to share little tidbits of who I am because I would otherwise never know.

My curly tangled hair, sun kissed skin and smile are unlike anyone in my home. My mother is a fair skinned beautiful woman who barely smiles, just like my sister. They both hide from the sun and live their lives in the shadow out of fear of being exposed. I throw myself out there while pushing back the crippling fear of being completely exposed and burned. I smile through the pain of never knowing and wondering why I have such the need to know the man who broke my mother and my family into a million shreds. I want to understand who he is because there is a possibility I may understand why I am the way I am.

I sit here and maybe I go unnoticed or maybe people do see me for who I am. I smile politely as they walk in for their coffee and I may be nothing more than a stranger they saw today at Starbucks but I know I am that fatherless daughter wishing he had never walked out.

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I went on a date with my son

So I’ve been single all my life. Never married, not once made a Mrs. but I was in a relationship for so long I felt married. For the past five years I’ve been single (in every sense of the word) and dating occasionally.

I am very careful about who I date because I am a two pack deal. I have a 12 year old son who deserves the respect of the person I choose to date equally as much as he deserves the respect of my son. I’m not looking for anyone to do any raising but I take my career as a mother seriously and because of that my son has yet to meet any potential suitors. There was that one time things came close but the proximity of monogamy scared the day lights out of that one.

Every now and again my son brings up dating. His father has been dating for some time now and has three other children. I guess my son thinks it’s my turn now because more often than not he asks when I am going to go on a date.

I don’t know if it is fear or if I just don’t know how to give dating a serious chance but something keeps me from going all single twenty something date crazy (I’m hanging on to these last few months in my twenties).

I was typing away one evening on my laptop; a night much like tonight, and my son Jonathan asks, “mom, aren’t you lonely?” At the moment I wasn’t because I was in my magical writing world but in all truth and reality, yes sometimes I am lonely but I didn’t have the heart to be completely honest and I said, “no, I have you.” “Well mom, that’s not enough. You need somebody, when I’m with my dad you’re alone, I don’t want you to be alone. I think you should go on more dates.”

My sweet boy hasn’t learned the true value of quality over quantity but I guess he is right. Momma should go on more dates.

A couple of weeks later I picked my son up from school and headed home to get ready for a date. I don’t usually tell my son when I’m going on a date. I usually find a sitter or find time when he’s with his dad. This time I decided to tell my son, almost as if I needed to show him, “look kiddo mom isn’t going to die alone, I can book a date!” He was shocked because he hadn’t even heard of the mentioning of any guys. I guess he was expecting me to act like the other middle school girls who went to school with him. My days of gushing over the guy-tails are at a minimum. After the initial shock, I sent him to get ready as I got dressed.

I sat on the toilet applying my makeup and curling the last loose strands of hairs that hugged my face. I was almost ready. I could see a curious hazel eyed boy in my peripherals. He suddenly wasn’t trying to make a love connection. He looked like he wanted to be happy for me but he couldn’t help but be jealous. I called him over and asked what was up. He then started to ask a million questions. What’s he like? Does he like sports? What is his name? Where did you meet?

I didn’t spare him any details, “he’s really cute, oh my god he is so funny, he used to play soccer, oh and he loves watching wrestling.” Jonathan held his hands in his pockets and nodded and said, “he sounds nice,” then walked away. I found his disinterest both charming and funny.

I was finally ready to go, so I called my son, grabbed my bag and met him downstairs. When my son met me down stairs he smiled and said, “wow mommy, you look like a princess!” I smiled and kissed him on his forehead, like I always do, and we walked out the door.

In the car ride Jonathan and I laughed and talked about his day in school. His giggles have a way of melting my heart. We both lost track of time driving but we arrived at our first stop. I pulled in to the first parking spot I could find.

Jon suddenly looked up and realize we weren’t at my brother or sisters house. We were in front of Jonathan’s favorite restaurant. Soon after Jon asked, “mom what about your date?” I replied, “like I said, he’s really cute, oh my god he is so funny, he used to play soccer, oh and he loves watching wrestling. He is you!”

The look on his face was priceless.

I know he doesn’t want me to be lonely but there is no better feeling in the world then to sit across from your child as they look at you in complete awe. That night I was a princess in my sons eyes. He also felt like the most important person in the world. Sometimes while I’m busy working and trying to take care of him in other ways I fail to remind him. I know that night will be among many moments he and I will never forget.

Someday, To some lucky guy I may be the most beautiful woman in the world but for the time being, I love being just Jonathan’s mom.

It’s never too late

I think that there are times when we underestimate ourselves. I don’t mean this in the sense that we could try harder, or do better but in the fact that some of us make light of what we’ve been through.

We are so often afraid of being weak or perceived as less than. More often than not we make a mention that other people have been through worse. All the while we dismiss the opportunity to realize we too have been through some hard times.

I was watching a video on Upworthy a few weeks back about a woman talking about coming out of the closet. She said that we all come out of the closet at some point in our lives. I couldn’t agree with her more! She said, hard is hard, there is no clear distinction and definition of what life events are harder than the other. . .the bottom line is that we all go through hard stuff, we all have hard conversations to have, we all have to come out of our comfort zoned ie closets and face those hards topics.

For many years there have been things I’ve battled with internally. However I found that because I was resilient that I was not allowed to classify them as hard. I told myself all the time, “others have been through worse!” I was okay with that until one day a few years ago, and again today after a motivational speaker came and spoke at a training/meeting I was attending.

Growing up I was raised by my mother and grandfather. My father went to jail when I was approximately five years old and after that, my mothers foundation and backbone went missing. I can’t say that I remember my mom before, I don’t know my mom in any other capacity than the woman who was emotionally fragile.

I was a vivacious child, always seeking attention and always hoping to finally shine the spotlight on me in the chance that my mom might once take a glance at me. My mother was preoccupied putting hot meals on the table and clothing us. I am absolutely grateful for that but while she spent hours upon hours providing for me and my siblings, she rarely spent a moment consoling my heart that eroded over time.

I took a liking to my grandfather. I ran to him every time I hurt myself. I sat on his lap as he played guitar. I danced and played in his room while he watched his tv shows. I was very much present in his life, while I was barely a glimmer of light in my mothers.

When my grandfather passed away, any semblance of love was gone. My one parent, support system and symbol of love was gone. I can count the few times in my life that my mother even mumbled the words I love you. I make allowances for her because she was raised by my grandmother, whom in my experience was frigid and cold. I felt bad for mom and for some reason made it okay for her to not have loved me enough. It was hard to feel invisible but because I knew it was hard for my mother, I let her slide again and again.

All I ever wanted was effort. I was an excellent student and I wanted her to come and hear it from my teachers but it never happened. I needed hugs and warm embraces and instead I was treated with snacks and cakes to comfort me instead of the one thing I truly desired.

My mother was institutionalized several times in my life. My mother was at times suicidal and even once tried to kill herself and us all while trying to drive against traffic in one of the busiest intersections in Tampa. Fortunately my sister was there to yank the steering wheel.

I went to 8 different elementary schools and somehow I kept up. I don’t have true childhood friends because it was impossible to keep up. I never went to one school more than a year before we moved on to the next apartment lease.

I thank my mother because I was raised to face adversity but I don’t appreciate the fact that she raised me emotionally incapacitated. I was so broken for years.

I’m sorry comes so easy to me, I hate being wrong, especially on my own. I love to clear the air and I try my best to make my love for people known.

This afternoon while the speaker gave her message I began to tear up. She confirmed something that I thought was silly because my hard situation may not be as bad as someone else’s.

A few years ago I got into an argument with my mother. I was angry like never before. The dynamic had changed and I no longer was the only one she disappointed. My son had been playing soccer for five seasons in what is quite literally her back yard. Not once did she show up. He had practices and games and on more than one occasion he had championships. My son began to ask me, why his grandmother didn’t love him. I had no real explanation other than, this is just the way grandma is.

I finally had enough!

The last time I’d seen my father was when I was 11 years old. My father is a criminal, a registered sex offender, and as such could not have contact with us. I was not his victim but I was related to the victim. On this particular day after I argued with my mother, I was devastated. I had never even raise my voice at my mother but I was so angry because after years of making excuses for her, nothing had changed. So I looked up my father. Unfortunately and fortunately there is a website for people like him, so I obtained his address. (This is clearly complicated and understandable if people don’t comprehend but I know where my intentions were.)

I mapped his address, which was barely 15 minutes from me and I went to see him. I don’t know what I wanted. I could take care of myself, and I didn’t want answers. I think parts of me wanted to see him before it was too late. He wasn’t home when I arrived so I started to leave. Just as I was leaving he pulled in. I have to admit that I was initially relieved when he wasn’t home and now that he was, I began to wonder what I was actually there for. I got nervous.

For years I resented him for the life I lived because of his poor choices. This man was the former illicit drug user, alcoholic and sexual offender, but somewhere in the trenches of that lost soul was the few and only memories I had of whom I affectionately called, “Papi.” There was the man who called me Junji, the man who took me to get vanilla icecream cones with rainbow sprinkles every day to the Carvel in our backyard. To this very day, that is my favorite treat. I love the ocean because he loved fishing and I can play dominoes just like he did. I also happen to share his face and a birthmark over the side of my nose that he also has.

This man with the good and bad memories was now standing before me wondering who I was. I recognized him immediately because he wore a thick gold chain around his neck, just as he did when I was a child. I stepped in closer and I said, “hi, I’m your daughter Johanna.” He hugged me and immediately my emotions got the best of me. I stood there a 26 year old woman but in his arms I was a sobbing child. I didn’t speak a word and he hugged me and said repeatedly, “I’m so sorry, it’s not your fault!”

I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. I heard something foreign and felt parented in the first time in ages. There it was, finally, an apology. Admittance that everything I went through as a child wasn’t handed to me because I’d earned it. It. Was. Not. My. Fault.

In the 29 years I’ve been living, that was the first and last time any one of my parents have ever apologized for anything. That is what I needed more than anything. I needed permission to say my life was hard, but it wasn’t my fault! I needed someone to say, it sucked but it’s going to get better. My dad stood there and apologized until the words could no longer catch up to his tears.

I haven’t seen my dad since, and I don’t know that I ever will, but on that day in his arms I was able to let go, forgive and fix a little part of my broken heart.