A Father’s Love

I said in my last entry that I had not been consistent with keeping up with the “blog.” This is 100% the case. So much so, that I noticed that I began this particular entry five years ago and never got passed the first sentence. I am sure that five years ago I summed it up to writers block, or something like that. I know now it was much deeper. I was not ready. To premise, this post will come in several segments. It is much too lengthy for one read.

Here we are Father’s Day weekend, 2019. Father’s Day was always something very foreign to me. Even when I was married and had children. I did not like it. I hated it with every fiber of my being. I did not have a father growing up. My biological father was classified a “deadbeat” father. He was so much of a deadbeat father, that the day that I got married, November 12, 1994, there was an article in the local paper calling out the TOP TEN deadbeat fathers in the state of Illinois. Guess who made that list? You guessed it, my own father. That is pretty impressive actually, now that I think about it. A man is so much of a deadbeat, IN the deadbeat state of ILLINOIS, that they even call him on it. Let that resonate for a moment.

My parents were the 70’s version of “Teen Mom.” My mother was 16, and my dad 17. They were kids, having a kid. In May 1975, my mother and father were married. Yep, their parents agreed to allow them to marry. I keep telling myself, “it was the 70’s.”  I was born December 23, 1975. Two days before Christmas, and I always remember my mom telling me how she had to stay in the hospital during the holiday. As a side note at 43 years old, four children of my own and after helping to deliver hundreds of babies over the past 10 years, I cannot help but feel pain for my young mother. She was 16, married, and a new mom. Wow.

Their marriage lasted not more than a year, if I recall. My father was from an abusive home where his own mother abandoned him, on several occasions. His relationship with his father was dysfunctional, and he was an absolutely lost teenager. He was addicted to drugs, and I believe alcohol as well. He was abusive physically, and mentally to my mother. His abuse was so severe, that my mother suffered a broken jaw because of his rage. He threatened to kill her, even pulling a gun out to threaten her. Mind you I was an infant, and have no recollection. I however was told many years later by my great aunt, that I was frightened of men for months and rightfully so.

Fearing for our safety, my mother left. They divorced, and he was “required” to pay child support. This never happened. He left town; seemingly he disappeared from the face of the earth. I have since filled in some of the blanks of his missing time during my life. That is definitely for another time.

There we were, my mother and I living our little life, in our little apartment. My earliest memories are from about the age of 2. I remember delivering phonebooks in a yellow Pinto hatchback; my mom dressing up to go out in her black 70’s pantsuit, with the sheer duster that had brown and bronze colored flowers on it. I remember thinking she looked beautiful. I remember her making her bridesmaids dress on a sewing machine for her older brother’s wedding. It was yellow. I distinctly remember her having trouble with the smocking on the front of her dress. My aunt lived with us. She was my biological father’s sister. She loved me like her own. In a sense I had two mother’s. I spent tremendous amounts of time with my maternal grandmother. She had remarried when I was two months old. Her husband was “like a dad” to me.

My mom remarried on a very warm day in June of 1979. I was three and half years old. I had a baby blue dress, with straps that tied at the shoulders. I remember it being quite short. I was tall, even then. I had black patent Mary-Janes on with white ruffled socks. My mother wore a peach colored, floor length gown, with spaghetti straps. She had little white sprigs of Baby’s Breath in her hair that was styled in curls. She was beautiful. The cake was white, and had white daisies on it, with yellow centers. I remember she was mad because the daisies were “too big,” or maybe the wrong color; either way, it was not what she wanted.

It was a fun day. My family just grew exponentially. I got a new grandma, aunts, uncles and lots of new cousins! We moved from that little apartment to another in a new town. Life seemed “good.” Still, I knew that my mother’s husband was not my father. I felt it. I can still feel that “hole” that I felt, even at the age of three.

I recall only seeing my biological father once during that time. He did not speak to me. It was at a wedding reception, and he showed up. He and my mother were arguing, and I believe my mother’s husband stepped in. That’s it. I have no other memory of him at that age.

My mother was remarried, and as I said life “seemed” good. I had food to eat, clothes to wear and my mom had a sweet new Chevy Camaro. Charcoal gray, with light gray cloth interior. She was even expecting a baby. I was now nearly five, and I was going to be a big sister! I was so excited. My little sister arrived a little more than a month before my fifth birthday. I had really hoped for a little brother, but she would do. I remember feeling so jealous (I did not know what that feeling was at the time), of her. She had a mommy AND a daddy. I felt like an outsider looking in some days.

We moved to our first house, and I had my very own bedroom. It was painted powder blue. It was a three bedroom home, without a basement, and a one car garage. My baby sister’s room was pale yellow. Mom was not a “girly girl.” There was no pink in our house. That house was maybe 900 square feet. It felt like a castle to me. It had giant trees in the front yard, and the back seemed to go on for miles. There were a million kids my age. I was in heaven.

The first time I recall “Father’s Day” was in that house. I remember being in Kindergarten , it was the end of the school year and we were making gifts for our dads. I remember telling my teacher, Mrs. Wilson, that I did not have a dad. She said, “don’t be silly everyone has a dad,” and she shuffled me off to my table. Ok, so I was wrong, my then six year old mind told me. I DO have a dad. So I busied myself with the task at hand. I grabbed my construction paper, got my scissors making sure not to grab the “weird” left-handed scissors out of the caddy, and got busy. I cut and colored, and pasted the best card ever. I can actually still smell that thick, opaque white paste that was in the plastic jars with the built in applicator. Funny what we remember. Anyhow, it took that card home and gave it to my “dad.” I sat next to him on our couch and remember being so incredibly nervous to give it to him. He was happy and thanked me. I remember my teachers words, “everyone has a dad,” and I said very softly, Happy Father’s Day………and I could barely utter the word. It was a word so foreign, so weird, so uncomfortable for me to speak. I finally blurted it out, in nothing more than a whisper, Dad. My six year old body wanted to vomit. I did not know why. I now know it was because I was afraid. I was afraid of rejection, of loss. I never said it again.

Life moved on, it was the early 80’s. The recession hit hard, and my mom’s husband lost his job in the steel mill. My “stable” little life was beginning to unravel once again. He was unemployed, and unmotivated. He drank constantly, played softball, and laid in his white underwear watching WWF wrestling. My mom worked as a waitress, and then bartender. She would leave for work, and he would leave to drink. I would be alone with my little sister. I was about seven or eight, and my sister was two or three at the time. Much too young to be left alone. It was the 80’s, however. They began to argue constantly, and the arguing let to physical abuse. I remember my mom packing my sister and I up to stay with my grandma a few times. I remember frantically searching to  put whatever possessions I could in a laundry basket. I would always grab my record player, and my Baby Beans doll. Ironically, I still have both of these to this day.

I was around ten the first time I remember speaking to my biological father. He called our house, and my mom handed me the phone, and said “someone wants to talk with you.” A gruff, grovelly, deep voice said: “Tara Nicole, do you know who this is?” I replied “no.” The voice on the other end of the line says, “this is your dad.” There was that word again….”dad.” He spoke a mile a minute, I know understand where I get my fast talking from. He told me that I had a baby brother, and his mom died. I distinctly remember saying, I am sorry you did not get a chance to meet her. My brain could not comprehend what was being said on the other line. I have a dad, and a baby brother, and his mom died. OK. I hung up the phone. He said “I love you.” All I could mutter, was “you too.” I was flooded with emotions that I could not process. I felt elated, sad, and confused all at once.

I met him that next year for the first time. My mom took me to a local clothing store called “Gliks.” We did not have a pot to piss in at that time. Her husband was working odd jobs, and little did I know, our house was going into foreclosure. Still, she took me to Gliks and bought me a turquoise blue polo style shirt and a brand new pair of blue jeans. She also brought me home a brand new pair of white cotton shoes; I can remember how they had white shoe laces that went around the ankle part. They were cute. She wanted me to look my best when I met him.

To say it was an awkward meeting, is an understatement. My aunt who had lived with us when I was small was there with me, and my little cousin who was about five. There we are, standing in my grandfather’s tiny kitchen. My biological father walked from the back bedroom; ironically also wearing a turquoise colored button up cotton shirt. I had never even seen a photo of him before, but here he was “my dad.” He was a tall man, and fat. I remember thinking, his belly looked like Santa. He gave me a huge hug, and I remember feeling like I was going to cry, or vomit. I was not sure. I was completely overwhelmed with emotion. I looked over at my aunt, who had a steady stream of tears running down her cheeks; my cousin was smiling and almost jumping up and down, exclaiming, “mom, look, uncle Tony has found his long-lost daughter.” She was five, and so sweetly innocent. I just remember thinking, “I was not lost” I have been in the same spot my entire life! I think this man is the one who has been lost. What I did not realize then, what would take me over two decades to realize, was that he was the one who was long-lost. He was a lost soul.

IMG_3590
The day I met my biological father. He is in the front row, far right. My grandfather center. My Aunt Trieste and her daughter Leah next to grandpa. 

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