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You left when I was barely able to talk, let alone walk on my own. You left for another woman who you deemed more deserving of your idea of love, with a family you found more deserving of a father. And for a while, I put the blame of you leaving on myself. Because what kind of a father would leave the daughter he loves?
Throughout elementary school, I wondered what it would be like to have a dad who was present in my life. I mean sure, me seeing you every other weekend was great, despite having to see the woman you remarried to. And yes, our weekly dates to get ice cream or go watch the planes land and take off was fun. Of course, we can’t forget the one time you came to see me play soccer in kindergarten, bringing your newfound, loving family with you. Those years were great, they really were, because at least you tried. And then third grade hit, and that Christmas changed my life. I didn’t get to see you that year, or the next, or the next. Maybe I should’ve known it would happen, the inevitable disappearance of the father who found his “true family” after his first failed attempt. But soon the hope of getting more than a ten-minute, pity-party phone call on my birthday diminished, along with the idea of you being more than the man I called "father."
And then senior year of high school started. At that point in my life, I had already accomplished so much without you. I had grown up and was more than at peace with how our relationship was. And then, the yearly phone call came, and you told me you were hospitalized with heart problems. My guilty conscience began to creep back into my existence. I had always blamed the lack of a relationship on you, you were always the adult, so you should’ve been the one to act like it. But now I was an adult too, so was it my turn to try and form some sort of relationship with you? We met once for lunch, and that lasted for an hour. That was the first time we had seen each other in ten years. And while it was a nice lunch, it showed me how little you knew about who I was. But, in my mind, I began to form the hope that maybe this time it would be different, that you wanted to be a part of my life. That hope, along with you, disappeared again.
When I was born you took on the role of being my dad. Oh you know that word, “dad,” meaning the person who is supposed to be there for teaching me how to swim, to ride a bike, showing me how to properly dance, the one who is supposed to intimidate every boyfriend that walks through the door, the one who is supposed to hold my hand when my heart gets broken, the one who is supposed to walk me down the aisle, or dance with me at my wedding, the one who is the loving grandpa to my future kids. That was the role that you took responsibility for the second I came into this world. But that’s not you. You aren’t the one who has been there for me and you never will be. And for that, I am truly sorry. I’m sorry you never saw me play in the orchestra, get my drivers license, go to prom, graduate, or go to college. And I’m sorry for the moments you missed that seem insignificant to the naked eye, like when I got my first acceptance letter to college, or my first paycheck. But on top of all of that, I’m sorry for the moments you will never get to see. Those moments that haven’t happened yet, but everyone knows they are coming, like when I graduate from college, get married, have children. Those are the moments where the “what ifs” will echo in my mind like a movie that no one will ever see.
There have been moments where I wonder what it would be like to have a dad who was present in my life. Where I would go home for the weekend or break and we would collectively go to dinner as a family, all happy and laughing over old memories. But now that I’m grown, I know how childish it is to believe in something made up in one’s imagination.
I will say this, despite everything I was put through by you, I forgive you. I forgive you for leaving and finding your version of better. I forgive you for thinking it was okay to leave. I forgive you for the ten years of not seeing me, and the reason that I will never be told. But most of all, I forgive you for taking your own chance at being my dad away from yourself. Because now that I’m older, I see that our lack of that relationship that I used to crave, is entirely your fault. And I hope that one day you will be able to live with that, just like I’ve learned to do.