I'm feeling the loss of my father today, this Father's Day 2009. He isn't dead. Instead he is lost to that affliction unfortunately known to too many children - Deadbeat Dad Syndrome.
My dad and my mom separated when I was fairly young. Their divorce, as I recall, came some five or six years later. My siblings and I visited dad irregularly during the period between separation and divorce, and then, as I remember, for about five years after their divorce. Then nothing. My mom tried to sue him for the $15/week he owed for child support (that's $3/week per kid). I was told later that he moved around every six months to avoid lawsuits. He avoided his kids to avoid being sued for $15/week. Fast forward eight years, to 1993, when daddy decided he was ready to be in touch with each of his five birth children again and he wrote us all letters saying how sorry he was for everything he didn't do for us.
I didn't reply to my letter. At the age of 23 I didn't know what to say.
What I'd say now goes something like this,
"When I was a child I felt so special when I was with you. I was the most important little girl in the world when you held my hand. Nothing else mattered but me.
I don't remember how you and mom explained the divorce. I DO know that I felt like it was something I did that led you to leave. So the explanation could have been better. Or your efforts to help me hang on to that feeling of being special after the divorce could have been better.
What happened? I assumed that you stopped loving us -stopped loving me - because I didn't understand how does someone could let their fears become so overwhelming that they cannot express love to their children? That they cannot honor their inherent worth and dignity? How can someone be so self-absorbed as not to realize the impact of their actions on those special little people in their lives?"
My oldest sister, H, has heard from Daddy. She knows where he lives (Arizona? New Mexico?). He is married for the fourth time, to a Latvian woman he met on the Internet. He still works under the table to avoid having his wages garnished for back child support - even now more than 35 years after the separation. I look for him on the Web - googling his name, checking for him on Facebook. I'm curious about this person I once loved. And there is a little girl inside of me who still misses him terribly.