My mom told me first that she had died. And I have to wonder if she told any of my siblings. Am I the only one my mom and dad go to about this? Is it because of my bad habit of taking a topic that should remain in awkward silence and voicing it just to break the tension? I always have to ask too many questions.
In late 1981 my dad had an affair that included having a child with the woman. Late 1981. I was born in July 1981, so do the math. There were things that made me suspect something, those stupid little things that don’t escape my memory as hard as I try. Finding a stuffed animal under my dad’s bed while I stayed with him for the weekend. It wasn’t one that I had left there. So I convinced myself he had left it underneath his bed for me to find. I kept it. My mom told me about how my dad chose my name. He was the one who eliminated the unnecessary “l”. So when I asked him about it, he replied with how he always wanted to name me M——, what I later found out to be the name of his other daughter. And this is why today I ask people direct questions. Because I’m convinced if everything is just out in the open, there is less chance of someone getting hurt by it. Silence hurts people.
When I was 18 and visiting my sister in Florida with my dad, he commented to her how she was a young girl-version of him. Spittin’ image of dad. He looked over at me and asked “why do you have to be a little shit?” He tried to pick me up the next morning so he could drive me back home, but I refused to go. I didn’t answer the phone and I didn’t go to the door. My sister supported me in this and she became my hero. A few days later she drove me to the greyhound station and put me on a bus so I could get home. I think my dad sometimes looked at me and asked himself why I wasn’t his other daughter, the one he wasn’t able to have a relationship with.
I’m not angry at my parents. I’m not angry at my dad. I think everyone involved did the best they could. Being the youngest of 4 and not even 1 year old when it happened, it was easiest to hide it all from me. Yet now it seems I’m the one they come to about it. I know my dad misses his other daughter, but probably what he misses most is the years he didn’t have with her that he can never get back. I saw my mom be hurt by it, then angry about it, but then she forgave him. It took years, but she did it. I was hurt, and I was angry. But I watched how my mom handled it and that made the forgiving come easier. My mom has taught me how to forgive. And my dad has taught me that silence can hurt people.
Sometimes I worry that I’m still angry. I’m angry at many things and that’s why I have to run because if I don’t I might get stuck in anger. Not just at my family, but at people who don’t know things about me and make wrong assumptions, or people who think silence is less painful than confronting the truth, or just at the world in general for being extremely unfair. But at least I have something that doesn’t keep me stuck in anger. At least there’s that.
And there’s the fact that my dad can come to me about it. And I appreciate that he does. My dad’s life has been jostled by at least a year lost to a hospital bed just because a mosquito bit him. He came through a gentler man. And the woman he had the affair with just died. After years of silence, she’s now gone and my dad has to face that, it can’t be easy. So he knows he can come to me and I know that when he does it means I’m not just the daughter he lost. I’m the daughter he will always have.