Most people don’t realize that the man I call dad is my step-dad. He’s been my step-dad for over 20 years and I have not been in contact with my biological dad in 20 years. We left him when I was 14. Let me start by saying that my biological dad is not a bad person. He simply wasn’t cut out for being a husband or a dad. There’s probably a bunch of reasons for that, but I don’t think that they matter. For 14 years there were more ups and downs than I would ever dream of putting down on paper or computer. No need to revisit all of those memories. Suffice it so say, my mom and I left because if we didn’t we were at great risk of ending up dead. As in, the news crews interview neighbors who didn’t realize that the man who shot his family and then himself was so unstable. The night we left was probably traumatic for me as it definitely was for my mom. I don’t remember feeling anything except survival mode. In those hours of that awful night I became a very hard person. Let’s just say, when your life is threatened you go into fight or flight and mine was definitely fight then flight. I stayed hard, but I also tried to do what the church I grew up in said that I should and forgive and forget. It wasn’t time. It took many years before it was time to forgive. You never truly forget. Those damn emotional scars remain. Always.
Years of sketchy contact with my biological dad led me to ask a simple question. One simple question to help heal our beyond fractured relationship. It was answered with a lie. In that 15 minute conversation my unstable relationship with the man who is half responsible for my existence ended. The nightmares that had plagued me for years stopped that night and never returned.
The years since that conversation haven’t all been pretty. There were some raw moments. A marriage that wasn’t healthy and a subsequent divorce. Crazy enough, it took my grandmother dying for me to finally really work on healing. There had been steps to getting rid of the hurt and anger, but losing grandma was what pushed me to accept that I couldn’t get rid of the past, but it didn’t need to define me.
Life has taught me that you truly cannot appreciate the good moments, the ordinary everyday moments without having lived through days that were awful. Life hasn’t been perfect and some days have hurt like hell, but it’s been exquisite and intricate and beautiful too.
In the past 20 years my life has become emotionally healthy. I accepted that my biological dad wasn’t part of my life. To me the man that is my dad is the man who’s name I went to court to get. The man who dealt with an angry teenager who didn’t want another dad because the first one hurt her so badly. The man who taught me to drive stick shift. The man who pesters me, but also loves me.
Now my biological dad has realized he messed up. He’s realized he has a daughter he doesn’t know and he wishes it was different. There was a time I would have given anything for this chance, but I think that time has passed. I hope all good things for him, but being a name on a birth certificate does not make you a dad. There’s a certain amount of guilt you deal with when you know a family member is toxic for your life and you choose to not be part of their life.
This brings me back to those emotional scars. The wounds were painful, some still ache on odd days and random moments. Those wounds also made me who I am. It’s taken a long time to love me, scars and all. So for a little while at least I’ll just continue to live in the peace that has been such a struggle to find.