I remember the last time I talked to my father. I was eight years old and he called to talk to my mother, and when I told him she was not around, he promptly hung up without so much as a goodbye. That was the day I stopped referring to him as dad.
I was raised in a single-parent home with my grandparents aiding my mom in my upbringing while she was working in Palm Springs. My childhood is a pretty slideshow in my mind of watching morning soap operas with my grandmother and jumping on my grandfather’s bed while he administered his insulin injections.
My mother worked several jobs to send me to a small, private school and keep me out of the public school system that engulfed our lower-income neighborhood. My upbringing was not all rainbows, but I am proud of where I came from and thank my mother for teaching me independence at a young age.
Years later, when I get down to the subject of childhood with new friends, I explain my fatherless, messy situation and am often met with, “But you’re so normal.”
I never fell prey to drugs, binge-drinking or teenage pregnancy — things people like to group together with having an absent father. My friends like to joke with me that my sensitive nature is most likely because of the assumption that I have “daddy issues.”
Although I tried to ignore it, I have always been bothered by the notion that people thought there was something wrong with me, a crutch sewn to my side that I could never get rid of.
It was instilled in me, by my mother, that my worth is not measured by my father’s love for me — or lack thereof.
Growing up, I never had to check with two parents if it was all right to do something, and shopping for Christmas presents is a little easier on my wallet. I do not cry during father-daughter dances at weddings for the reasons people think I do, and despite that I am a really emotional human, I attribute that to the fact that my grandmother and mother both were too.
Being “fatherless” and “damaged” are not synonymous, and I wish that were not the automatic assumption. I can be strong and independent — normal even — without the love of a man who was troubled and had no place in my life.
I am happy with how I turned out, and had plenty of father figures growing up. I have a strong sense of self and I have learned to be OK with not being OK sometimes.
I refuse to give the satisfaction of being troubled to a man who does not deserve to have that much of an impact on my life. My problems are my own, my issues belong to me, and I do not need a father to know that I am loved.