“What about your dad?” A classmate asked.
“I don’t have one.” She answered back.
“Everyone has a dad, whether you like him or not.” The classmate replied.
“How can he still be a dad when he’s not here?” She grew agitated at the classmate’s persistence. The conversation dropped as she looked away and ignored him. It was always the same dead end dialogue she gave. Even if questions were inevitable, answers simply did not exist. Where is he? Don’t know. Why did he go? Don’t know. What happened? Don’t know. What was he like? Don’t know. Only one question had an answer, when was the last time you saw him? She was four.
She remembered standing shyly in her nightgown behind the wall peeking out of the side at him. He was sitting on the sofa with her mother watching television. There was something she had to do. Her teacher at school had challenged the children to tell their dads “I love you” before Fathers Day and they were all to report back their experience. The challenge had weighed on her mind all day. Knowing she’d be in trouble soon for sneaking out of bed, she gathered all her courage, took one step out from behind the wall and quickly shouted “I love you dad!” He looked over at her, and she ran back to her bed relieved it was over. But sleep did not come. She had hoped he would return the exclamation with a hug and maybe tuck her in for the night. She waited and waited, but no one came and eventually she fell asleep heavy hearted.
That memory was such a long time ago. There was so little she remembered about him. Cologne. He wore a musky cologne. Usually on the weekends. Shoes. He had a lot of shoes in the hallway. More than her mom had. TV. He was always watching television. Especially the weather channel. She remembered she had to always be quiet. And not stand in his way. Now that she was much more grown up she concluded he was nothing more than a jerk.
She was unsure of what happened when he disappeared. Like he was there and then not. But life just seemed to go on without him. Nothing dramatic except the emotional imbalance she felt with his absence. His chair at the dinner table left empty. His closet space now left empty. His shoes in the hallway now gone. Her mother never spoke of it. She dared not ask any questions or show any curiousity, afraid to upset her mother. Afraid she might disappear too. So she just pretended everything was normal. But every year when Father’s Day came round, she remembered that night her love was unreciprocated and a lonely void in her heart ached.
“Everyone has a dad” her classmate had said. She disagreed. A dad is someone who takes you to the park, tucks you in at night, talks to you about your day and always says I love you with a big hug. That’s a dad. When a bit more grown up, he gives his child counsel, attends your graduations and is included in the photographs that will someday sit in a photo album on a coffee table. Maybe he might even walk his child down the aisle so she doesn’t have to alone. That’s a dad. Someone who cares and spends time with his kids. Not everyone has a “dad”. Her classmate was wrong.
But it was okay. She had her mom, and she believed her mom would always be there. She thanked God in her heart for her mother.