It was a beautifully warm morning and I was busy arranging my toys in the replica of my family on the porch, when I heard a door slam loudly. I lifted my head in surprise and caught the end of a car whizzing out of our driveway. That was the last time I saw my father.
I remember standing in that same porch with my toys lying in a forgotten pile waiting for him to come back. My mom had no energy left to clean them up or to make me put them back. They occupied the left corner for days and weeks until the steel ones rusted and the plastic ones grew unrecognizable. Finally, mom came home one day and collected them all into a bag with gloved hands. That was the last time I saw my toys.
But, I missed my father more than I missed my toys. Until my 10th birthday that is.
It was raining and none of my friends could come for the party. The dog got at my cake before I could and ketchup fell on my pretty blue dress. I threw the cake out, put overalls over my dress, cleared out the streamers from the living room and cried. I cried for my ruined birthday, for my ruined dress and for my father who pretended to not recognize me when I called him that morning. That was when my mom walked in. She put her hand around me and I poured out my heart to her. In the gentlest voice she had, she assured me that my father was not pretending. It has been 7 years and if he remembered me at all, it would be as a baby in diapers.
I hated my mother that night for her honesty and I hated myself because my father hadn’t wanted me. I think I used up all the tears I was given for life in that one night. Next morning, I woke up and my father was in the living room.
My joy knew no bounds! He had come. He remembered me! He handed me a chocolate bar and said he was sorry he couldn’t be here yesterday. I forgot about the phone call, about his absence for the last 7 years and jumped into his arms that circled me awkwardly. Then, he asked me if I wanted to go out for an ice cream. I had been waiting for this moment for as long as I could remember. The only delay in my answer was when I looked at mom for permission.
The day started out gloriously. But, eventually, it became imprinted in my memory as one of the most disappointing experiences of my life. He didn’t know anything about me. A couple of times, he called me by the wrong name and didn’t seem to realise it. He offered to take me for ice cream, to the arcade, to the movies…all generic child-friendly places, without once asking me what I wanted. We were in the car, driving back home, disbelief in my eyes and relief in his, when I finally turned and asked him the question I should have asked the moment I saw him.
“Daddy, why did you come?”
He hemmed and hawed and finally replied, “Your mom asked me to.”
Well, at least my parents have this in common- they are brutally honest. I turned my face away to hide my tears for the rest of the way.
We reached home, I kissed him on the cheek and bid him goodbye. Mom was waiting out on the porch for me. I walked straight into her arms and that was the last time I ever missed my father.