Dyanne Brown reveals the effect the loss of her father had on her life and relationships.
I used to be a Daddy’s girl. I can remember being so in love with him. I just wanted to be in his presence. I just wanted to breathe his air. I wanted to impress him. When he told me I was pretty, I believed him. He used to take me for walks and we would just talk.
I was only a kid, but I remember him telling me that he was going to smoke cigarettes and I told him that he would get sick and I didn’t want him to get sick. He reminded me of that conversation when I was older to tell me that’s when he realized how smart I was. Or, when he told me a story about the moment he found me hilarious. He was showing me how to clean dishes. I had a pot in my little hands and told him I couldn’t get the “stuff” off of it. I was holding it towards him and waiting for him to take care of it for me. But, he shook his head and said, “Use some elbow grease.” I put the pot back in the sink.
He watched me as I climbed down off my chair and looked under the sink. I looked all around the kitchen before turning to him and saying, “Daddy, I don’t see the elbow grease.” He laughed until he could barely breathe and wiped tears from his eyes before finally showing me what he meant. We finished washing the dishes together.
Then, my parent’s divorced. The reasons were more than my young mind could understand. I fully understand it now, but back then it was difficult to know that I wasn’t going to spend every day with my father, who I loved so much. At first, we were with him almost every weekend or every other weekend so it wasn’t that much of a difference and we talked to him almost every day on the phone.
But, slowly, things began to change. There was more time between when we saw him and when we talked to him. The separation was gradual, but painful and confusing for me.
And, then, there was the moment that broke my heart and forever changed me.
We hadn’t seen my father for several weekends. He kept canceling. Finally one day, he called my Mom and told her to bring us over. She got us dressed, packed up our clothes and drove us to his house. We stood on the porch while she rang the doorbell. There was no response. I walked over to the window and peered into the living room. Between the blinds, I could see my father sitting on the couch in the living room. I banged on the window and screamed, “Daddy!” He didn’t budge.
My mother kept ringing the doorbell, but when I started crying, she decided we should just leave. We climbed back in the car and she tried to explain it away as best she could. She never said anything bad against my father, but we were devastated. And, I was heartbroken. My hero had abandoned me.
As time went on and there were more disappointments, my heart closed. I forgot how to love with that deep reverence and open innocence I once had for my father. My love for him was pure and unconditional. When my heart was broken, I forgot how to let someone in my heart like that. I forgot how to trust someone to teach me. I forgot how to give weight to his compliments. I forgot how to believe that his love would never leave me.
I carried all that fear, hurt and longing into every relationship with a man. My worst fear was to give a man that type of power over my heart and have him abandon me. So, I loved, but didn’t love. I was always one-foot-in and one-foot-out. My emergency bag was always packed and I was ready to go as soon as I thought he was going to hurt me. In fact, I would just make up a reason why it wouldn’t work before it got too deep to avoid either one of us getting hurt. I believed myself noble, but all I really was, was a coward.
And, what I’m really scared of is that someone will really love me with all his heart and never leave me because that’s foreign territory. How do I maintain that? No one ever taught me. I didn’t experience someone loving me enough to stick around. I didn’t experience someone just loving me because of who I am. And, so I opened myself up to men who took pieces of me. I gave myself away because I didn’t know my value. It was easier to give it away than to feel like it was being stolen. Or, at least, that is what I told myself, but it hurts either way. They ripped that wound open instead of healing it, but the known pain felt comfortable. Security was unknown. Reassurance sounded like a dream.
I remember, at one point, I thought that I would be better when my father was no longer on the earth. Because, it hurt too much knowing that there was someone in this world that was supposed to love you, but chose not to. It hurt knowing that someone should want to know you, but chose not to. It was painful that he didn’t know my favorite color or my favorite song or the boy I liked. He wasn’t there when I went on my prom. I used to wonder if he had pictures of me in his wallet. The funny thing is you think you are hardening your heart and that you don’t care, but you still hope.
When I got the phone call that he had passed away, it was a shock to my system. I didn’t feel relief. I felt robbed. Now, there was no chance of reconciliation. There was no second chance for us. There was no opportunity to repair the damage. And, now, I felt like the person who was supposed to love him that wasn’t there. I buried my father like a dutiful daughter. As I went through his things, I found pictures I drew as a child, clippings of articles I had written and there was a picture of me in his wallet. He did love me. It might not have been the way that I needed, but it was love. And, I loved him. It might not have been the picture I had in my mind, but the anger I felt towards him was really hurt and I was hurt because I loved him.
And, in loving him, the one thing I know that I have to do for him is not to allow what he did or didn’t do stop me from finding love. I’m sure that is not what he wants. If I did that, I would be continuing his cycle. I believe he wants me to find someone who can love me the way he tried to.
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