Just wanted to drop you a line to thank you for the birthday card. I am a bit confused about the passive aggressive note written inside, “I was there Thursday to see you. Should have known.” I do know you stopped by my place of employment on Thursday because, well I was there. I actually drove a friend’s car and was basically on the look out for you. Why? Because last year when you showed up at work out of the blue on my birthday, it ruined my day. I can’t say for certain, but I’m thinking it’s probably been a solid 30+ years since I’ve a) gotten a birthday card from you and b) saw you on my birthday. I want to say I’m sorry for this, but I’m not going to. I think I will start at the beginning and give you MY point of view. That might clear some things up.
To say I remember a lot from my early days would be a lie. Not sure how it is for other people but I just don’t have the memories. I obviously know that you and mom were married, but I don’t have a clue of the actual date. I was born 3/14/1970. I was the second girl in the family. The first was my sister, she was from a previous marriage of mom’s. Technically, she is my half-sister, but we consider each other sisters. None of that half shit applies. At some point, if I have this right, legal paperwork had to be completed because when I was born, mom was still married to her first husband (I think). I only found that out when I was moving out and saw a document that listed my name as Baby Girl (insert last name of mom’s first husband here). I don’t know if that meant you had to actually adopt me to get your last name or what the deal was. Again, I can only assume it was at this time that you also adopted my older sister because we had the same last name growing up. This also meant you had to pay child support on two kids when the divorce happened. I think I was 5 when you divorced.
There are plenty of photo albums for me to look at from my birth through today. Luckily, mom took and kept pictures of everything. Honestly, you are cut out of some, but not all of them. There are also home movies with you in them, but I don’t remember those moments. I do want to share my very first memory of you. I am thinking I was like 3-4. Living in the house on Walnut. I can picture literally everything in that house. Not sure how I remember that and not other details. Anyway, it was bath time for me. You were in the bathroom with me. On the ledge around the tub was a bottle of Mr. Bubbles. Who didn’t have Mr. Bubbles growing up?! Unfortunately, my skin was sensitive to Mr. Bubbles. To be more specific my little girl private parts were very sensitive to Mr. Bubbles. I remember you putting me in the tub and I freaked out, kicking and screaming – CAUSE IT HURT. Mom hears the commotion from another room and comes into the bathroom. I’m still freaking out and accidentally hit you in the groin area. Your reaction was to then kick me in my groin area. That is my first memory of you.
Fast-forward a few years. The divorce has happened, and there is a visitation policy in place. Please remember I am telling this from MY side, as a little kid going through it. I feel like there might have been a year or so before visitation began, but I’m not sure. I remember each time you had a Saturday visit, and you actually showed up, I was always scared. Not scared of you, as much of scared and afraid of where you lived at the time and what we were going to do. We were basically strangers. It seemed to me that you moved around quite a bit. Not that it wasn’t clean or anything like that. Just always different. I remember different woman you lived with throughout the years. I remember having to go visit your parents, my biological grandparents. They terrified me. I didn’t know these people. They weren’t part of my life, at all. I remember the bathroom in their house scared me. I really have no idea why. I hated when I had to do the visitation without my sister. Having her with me gave me something familiar and comfortable.
As I got older, the visits were few and far between. I remember waiting in the driveway for you to pick me up and you never showing up. NOT COOL. I remember we always went to Pizza Hut to eat. I also remember throwing up the same night there was a visit. Mom always blamed the Pizza Hut, but it wasn’t that. I was so stressed and worked up over the visit it made me physically sick. All the questions that were asked and knowing that there was always tension between you and mom made things so hard for me.
There came a point where I really didn’t think much about not having someone to call “dad”. I had other fabulous male role models in my life and I was very fortunate to have them.
At some point around 16-17 years of age, I had a steady boyfriend (the boy I would eventually marry and raise 3 kids with). He had a kind of normal family. Mom, dad and kids. I felt guilty for not having a relationship with you. So I started to stop by your house to see you or should I say you and your new wife and her kids. It was odd. I never felt comfortable. But I tried. I think for about a year. It just got too strange. You knew nothing about me. What’s my favorite color, my favorite food, what color was my first prom dress, my second prom dress? And what was the deal when you decided to buy me a car? I don’t remember exactly what it was, a big old 1950’s something. Was it neat – yes. Was it strange of you to do – yes. I show up to see you and you tell me you bought me this car and I had to help pay insurance, maintenance, etc. What? I am not out of school with my first job. I already have a car that I am paying for. I think that is the point I stopped visiting. You sold the car, and that was it for a very long time.
Again, fast forward to maybe 20 some years ago. I’m at work and you decide to stop in. Very awkward. You did this a few times over a few years. What I remember is you bringing me healthy snacks to try because, well because I was fat. Wait – now you’re concerned about me and my health? Then there was the time you stopped in and wanted me to sign a paper because you and your wife were adopting a baby girl. As you explained to me, as her sister I would be signing the paper to promise to be a part of her life and help her live a life through God. (I wish you could see the puzzled look on my face right now). WTF? I did not sign the paper and I’m sure I didn’t see you again until three years ago. That was the time I saw you at a local eatery, said hi to you and you didn’t know who I was. Your wife did, but never bothered to clue you in. It was my mistake for saying hi. It was my mistake for inviting you to my home the next day to meet my kids, who you never met before. I should have kept the door closed. Not long after this you stopped at work a few times when you were going to the VA Hospital. You told me you were working with someone regarding your issues. Typically, at some point during the visits you always mentioned how hard it was to see me as a kid, how hard mom made it, how you didn’t have money to fight, how you missed out on my life, and so many other things. And some how I always ended up comforting you. Telling you it was OK, telling you it wasn’t your fault. But that’s me, I’m a caretaker at heart.
Now I will explain what I know about you and what you went through. You were in Vietnam and you were a Prisoner of War. You lived through 14 months of hell as a POW. You were released May of 1969. I was born March of 1970. When you were released you were messed up. Who wouldn’t be? You returned to a nation that didn’t treat you well. You did not get the help you needed. You turned to weed. I don’t know if there were other drugs, but I know there was weed. I know this was a bone of contention between you and mom and from what I was told, a big reason for the divorce. She needed you to stop and you couldn’t or didn’t. I just have to add, that to this day I cringe anytime I smell patchouli oil. I hate that smell with every ounce of my being. I found out years later you used that to cover the smell of the weed. You were in a very serious car. I would have been like 19 or 20. Mom took me and my sister to see you. Your injuries were very serious and you were in ICU. Your parents and mom got into a fight and we left. I think your wife called occasionally with updates on your condition and I kind of remember talking to you on the phone. At some point you move to Delaware with your wife. You still visited the area because your parents and brother still live here. Last year you and your wife moved back to the area to be closer to the VA Hospital. Which leads us back to last year and you stopping at my work on my birthday to drop off a card.
Here are my questions/comments:
Throughout my childhood, you lived maybe 10-15 miles away. Why couldn’t you show up at a game? Your parents lived about 5 miles away. Where were they when I had a track meet or a basketball game? Were you in the stands when I graduated? It was open to the public. Why did you not reach out to me and tell me that because you are a veteran I could have gone to college for a very reduced fee? Did you know I wanted to be a teacher? When my favorite person in the world passed away, Nana, did you bother to reach out to me? I have gone through some hellish life experiences. All of which you knew about. Some were very public and were HORRID. Did I miss the call or card from you then? Did you forget where I work (which I have worked at the same place for 30 years)? When you saw in the local news that one of my children was diagnosed with a chronic illness, did you reach out and see how we were doing?
I get the situation wasn’t ideal, I get you have/had issues I know nothing about. But those issues aren’t mine to carry. I have dealt with questioning why you wouldn’t want to be part of my life. What did I do to make you not want to be part of my life. I realize that it’s not me, it’s you. I was a kid, you were the adult. I am no longer holding onto the guilt or responsibility.
Please know I was taken care of, I was loved and I still am. I am proud of the person I am and it is because of the people who were and still are in my life.