I guess I will start with the phone call I got on Thursday. A call came into my cell phone that wasn't in my contacts. It listed as being from Orange County. I didn't think much of it and didn't answer it since I never answer calls that I don't know who it is. It's not like they usually even leave voicemails, but this one did.
I listened to a voice on the other end that I didn't recognize explaining who he was, why he was calling and who he hoped I was. He said he was my cousin, Jeff. What? Who? My what? He was my uncle, Rick's son. Oh there was a name I easily recognized. Then a huge wave of emotions hit me and I felt like I was floating under water.
I guess that isn't the place to start. I need to go back further. Somewhere I don't go back to very often. My father.
My parents weren't together for very long. Basically long enough to conceive me in the Mojave dessert under a total eclipse of the moon, for me to be born and for me to make it to my first Halloween. Then my mom kicked my dad out of the house after becoming sick of the games he would play and shortly after moved us to Hawaii. I never lived with my dad, again.
When I was little, I was daddy's little princess. I visited with him often and spent a great deal of time with him. I would go dancing with him at night until way past my bedtime and sit at the bar with him. I had my regular spot at the Pink Elephant, his favorite bar, and would order Shirley Temples. With extra cherries. My dad would order tequila, straight up. It was a much different time.
He would also take me to Disneyland and to visit his family. This was the only time I ever saw his side of the family when I was little. On three different occasions. This is when I met my grandmother, Carol and my uncle, Rick. It's also when I met my three cousins on my dad's side of the family, Rick's children. Jeff was one of those cousins.
Through most of my childhood, I stayed in contact with my grandmother. She would send me gifts at the holidays and my birthday. But, I never had much contact with my uncle or cousins. I think this was due to my dad not having the best relationship with his brother. Or well, anyone for that matter. There was more than one good reason that my mom kicked him out of the house.
As I got older, something with my dad changed. Our relationship changed. I saw him less and less. Not that I didn't want to see him, but my mom started making all of these excuses for why I couldn't go see him. I pretty much hated her for it. Little did I know, that she was only trying to protect me. Protect me from seeing who my dad had become.
You see, my dad was an alcoholic and drug addict. He was so far along in his addiction that he even got disability for it. Again, it was a much different time.
He didn't help my mom raise me financially. He didn't give her money towards food or to make sure I had shoes that fit. Instead, he'd show up out of the blue and whisk me off on a trip to Disneyland or a shopping spree at Toys R Us. All things my mom could never do because she was too busy trying to pay the rent. Something I didn't realize until I was much older.
The older I got, the worst things got between my dad and I. I was starting to see everything I didn't see when I was younger. I was starting to see the empty bottles of Jose Cuervo under chairs and hidden away. I had woken up to yelling one too many times when spending the night. I knew my dad was no longer the man I worshiped and adored. I didn't know who he was anymore. But, I knew I didn't like him. And I knew I was scared of him.
Once he started showing up drunk to things and causing a seen, I stopped inviting him. Not that it was that easy. It pained me to not have my dad there. But, I was too scared and embarrassed to invite him. Even if it meant I would get screamed at for it later. Even if it meant he thought I was being a horrible, inconsiderate and selfish child.
My walls slowly went up. I couldn't let him in. He wouldn't hurt me. Not anymore. I didn't need him.
Who was I kidding? He was my dad. Of course, I needed him. He just wasn't there anymore. I'm not just talking physically, I mean the person that he was. My dad was buried deep inside of this other person he'd become. This person I had to protect myself from. If only it was that easy.
During this time, my dad had another child. I now had a little brother. A little brother I adored and I loved to go visit. I also had an older brother. One I had never met before because his mom left our dad and took my brother away with her. An older brother I had longed my whole life to meet. An older brother my dad had finally found after all of these years. In order to have relationships with both of my brothers I had to play by my dad's rules. This meant seeing my dad no matter how scared I was of him.
I kept this going for as long as I could. Even though every time I left I felt like a horrible person who couldn't do anything right. I felt like everything was my fault. All I wanted to do was run away. Runaway as far as I could and never look back. Never stop running. Just get as much distance as I could between me and this pain.
When my daughter was born something changed in me. It wasn't about me anymore, it was about this child I had to take care of. This child I had to keep safe and protect. This child I didn't want to go through the same pain I did or be scared of someone she would grow to love.
I still remember the last time I saw my dad. Like it was yesterday. We had been having terrible flooding in our area and where my dad lived was greatly affected. Once the water had gone down enough to be able to drive on the streets again, my girlfriend, Heather, and I with my daughter,Amanda, drove out to make sure my dad and little brother were alright.
This was the last time I saw my dad. He held Amanda and I knew I wasn't going to let him do to her what he did to me. I knew when I gave him a hug and said good-bye I was saying good-bye forever. I was so scared to walk away from my little brother. All I could do was hope that he would understand and forgive me some day when our paths crossed again. I was 19 years old when I walked out that door and never looked back.
One night, about 12 years later, I got a phone call from my mom. She called to tell me she had heard my dad had passed away a few months prior. My stomach drop. I couldn't understand what she was saying. She couldn't be saying that my dad passed away. I felt the emotions flood over me and around me surrounding me with water. What was happening? What was it that my mom said to me?
My dad passed away a few months before, but no one had let us know. My mom ran into an old friend randomly on the street and he asked her if she knew about my dad. He didn't have a lot of information, but was able to tell her my dad died from a stroke and he had heard that he was asking for me in the end. It broke my heart to hear that. It still makes me stomach cramp up and the back of my throat sting every time I think of it. Even though it's been over 5 years since my mom first said that to me.
Any hope I had for my dad to get better was gone. Any dream I had of us having a relationship again and him getting to know his granddaughter vanished in the blink of an eye. There would never be a second chance. I would never have my dad back.
All of this hit me, again when my cousin, Jeff, called me. I didn't even know any of this was still in me. I had been thinking about my dad's side of the family a lot with our wedding coming up, but I didn't know where they were or how to get a hold of them. I had done searches for them, but it never turned up anything.
Jeff said his father, my uncle Rick, had passed away this past autumn. He'd been going through all of his belongings and found my name and number. I didn't even know my uncle had my number. At least not my number in Oregon. The last time I had seen any of the family was when we still lived in California. Over eleven years ago.
He also said he had some items he thought were my dad's and pictures of my dad and I together. He wanted to know if I wanted them. I started to cry when he asked me that. "Yes", I told him. "I have so little of my dad."
I can't wait to get this stuff. I don't care what it is. Everything I have from my dad could fit into one letter sized envelope. The idea of having something more I can touch and hold in my hand of my dad means more to me than I can put into words.
For so long, I've felt like a part of me was missing. I had all of this family and I didn't know who they were. I had memories of them when I was a young child, but the person my dad had become eventually pushed everyone away. It made me not only lose him, but all of his family. Family I was wanting in my life. Family I was missing and wishing I could invite to our wedding celebration. As my cousin Jeff put it, "We are family. Let's BE family." It's amazing to me that this door I thought had closed so long ago has now been re-opened.
Even though I don't have my dad to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day and that isn't something that will change from yesterday's phone call, I am lucky enough to have someone else in my life who will. Someone who stepped up to fill the role as my dad when my own dad stopped being one. Someone who not only filled the role as a dad for me, but also as a grandfather for Amanda, as well.
I may not have my biological dad to walk me down the aisle, but I have another dad to. I am so grateful for that. I am so grateful that this person has always been there for me and made the commitment to do so when my dad no longer could. Thank you, Michael for always being there and continuing to be so on my wedding day.
You know, I actually think my dad would be okay with this. I think he would be glad that Michael was walking me down the aisle since he's not able to. He always did say he liked him, that he was a good person and knew he took good care of me. In a way, my dad gave his blessing to have Michael walk me down the aisle even before we knew he wouldn't be here to do it himself.
And, I know that he may not be there in person, but my dad will still be there in spirit complete with his moon tattoo over his heart for me.