I am three years old. You are no longer in our home and my world is shattered. I saw Daddy’s anger toward you and I will be careful not to make him angry at me too.
I am four years old and my visits with you are dwindling. Please do not give up your rights. Take what action you can, whatever action is right and necessary. Find those who can help you. Find those who will hold you up, because my world depends upon you not giving up. Do not believe Daddy when he says I am better off without you. I need you to know that is a lie.
I am five years old and you dare to show up on my birthday, to deliver a gift. I want you to know that I am so glad you are there, but I am afraid to say so. I see how agitated Daddy is by your presence. I want to tell you, beg you, to please keep coming back. But I cannot say what I need you to know.
My sister is angry at you and tells you not to come back. She says we have a new mother and we don’t need you anymore. She doesn’t mean it. She will regret that moment in years to come. I will regret that you believed her.
I am eight years old. You have been erased from my life. My sister and I whisper about you in our bedroom at night, in the dark. We don’t dare speak your name, so we call you You-Know-Who. We remember you. Signs of you, a hidden photograph, a memory, they let us know you are real. They ignite something in me, too wounded to dwell in, but at the same time a place of truth and power that I will get to someday.
I am ten years old. If you somehow managed to contact me now, I would probably not respond. It would terrify me to respond. But without a doubt, I would remember your efforts. I would know that you wanted me. I would know that you tried. This would make me want to find you again when I was ready.
I am fifteen. I don’t know who I am. I have been taught to deny the part of me that came from you. I am trying to fill the void where you were supposed to be. I think I can do this with boys, with teenage affairs, with affection from whoever will offer it to me. The void is deep and will need to be healed with truth, with love, with understanding. I don’t know this yet though, so I just keep trying to fill it with things that aren’t good for me.
I am sixteen. My sister and I sneak away to visit you. Of course we don’t tell our father. I am numb and my sister is still angry at you, questioning you. Where were you? Why did you have that affair that made our father throw you out? How dare you? Why didn’t you come looking for us later?
I am numb, mute, perhaps in shock at seeing you again. You cry and say you love us, have always loved us. I don’t fully take in your words. I am confused. If this is true, where have you been? I’m not sure if I can handle knowing how forcefully our father pushed you away. You don’t tell me this, not directly, and maybe that is good. Perhaps I am not prepared to face this yet and you instinctively know this. I need to hear you say that you want to stay in touch. My wounded teenage heart needs to be reminded of what I knew as a baby, as a toddler, as a three year old: that you love me. You’ve had obstacles, huge obstacles in the way, but I need to know that indifference was not one of them.
I am eighteen. I am free to contact you or visit you, but I am still very much afraid of displeasing my father. I need you to be strong and healthy and to remind me, somehow, that you are waiting. I have wandered so far from that place in my heart that holds us together. It will take patience and persistence on your part. I need to see that you love yourself, so that I can allow myself to love you too.
I am twenty-two. I will want to hear your story. I need to hear your story. And I will believe you. I am not sure what to do with this yet, how to let you into my life. I will have to figure this out. I am angry that you weren’t able to stand up to my father and therefore I was robbed of a mother. I am angry, so angry at my father but still afraid to tell him so, to face him with my truth. This will take time and clumsy attempts, but I will figure it out.
I am every age. I am four and twelve and fourteen and twenty-nine. I am every age in between. Pray for me and for our reconnection. If you don’t believe in prayer, then believe in the power of your own mind and heart. Know the power of your thoughts. Know that you can reach me and hold me in your mind’s eye. Find a way to rise above the negativity and the pain and let love sustain you. Believe that there is some purpose to this mess and that we will both be okay.
I will find my way back to you. It may be when I remember I am your daughter or it may be when I find that bigger part of me, the authentic self who is neither my father’s daughter nor my mother’s daughter, nor a victim; the Self that is whole and empowered and was never lost, never abandoned, never hurt. This could be a long, slow process, or it could happen in a moment, in a word I hear, in a prayer I feel, coming from you.
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