There is a father-shaped hole in my life story. I don’t mean to make it sound like it’s some kind of tragedy; it’s just gotten to a point where acknowledging the existence of this gap, this missing piece in the puzzle, has become essential. At least, this is what my therapist said during our most recent session.
When I was a teenager, I had this recurring fantasy that went more or less like this: one random day, on my way back home from school, I’d come home to find my father sitting on the couch of our tiny living room. In the awkward atmosphere there would be a pinch of excitement and joy. I would envision myself looking at him with careful zeal, which would later turn into awe. In a rather grandiose way, he would say something along the lines of “It took me a while to find you guys, but I finally made it.” Then, my mother would take a seat next to me on the other couch, and the three of us would have a long, just-a-tiny-bit uncomfortable conversation, filling each other in on what we had been doing all those years we had spent apart. That’s where the fantasy ended.
I had no idea what would happen after that imagined conversation; and, to be quite honest, I’m not sure that I wanted to think about it. For all I knew, the man could be married and be the father of other kids too. Maybe he was a terrible father, or maybe he was the best there ever was. Would he want to see me every other month, or would he just be content with having met me? You get the point: there were just too many possible scenarios, some happier than others, and at 14 or 15, I just didn’t want to go through all the trouble of sorting that out.
The truth is that I never suffered for not having a father figure. It was never a big deal. My childhood was almost idyllic. I never wanted for anything. I had all the love I needed, and as many material things as I could have hoped for; not even at times when we went through financial difficulties did I feel that I was missing out on anything. My mother somehow made it all happen, by herself. She also gave me the rarest gift any parent is capable of giving a child: access to “The Whole Truth,” as I like to call it.
I was eight-years-old when my mother first told me “The Whole Truth” — the full, unabridged story of how I came to be and the soap-operatic circumstances of my conception and birth. I will keep the details private, but suffice it to say that knowing what had happened was, for me, like lifting a veil which had stood between me and the world. From that day on, I thought twice before believing everything I saw or heard. I realized, at such a young age, that no matter how much love there is between two people at any given time, there is always one person who loves more than the other. Life’s circumstances and evolutionary biology are the two factors that end up defining our choices and our destiny. At eight-years-old, I realized that things were much simpler and less romantic than what most kids imagined them to be.
When I fantasized about meeting my father, it was not because I expected him to stick around. I wasn’t going to parade him in front of my classmates; just the thought of that makes me uneasy. What I wanted was to look him in the eye, and to touch his hair. My mother had told me that he wore it long back in the day. I wondered if he still kept it that way. I wanted to see if we really looked so much alike as she told me we did. What would he smell like? So many questions, several of them shallow, but still valid.
At this moment, I believe that if my fantasies had come true and I’d had the chance to speak to my father, even one conversation would have been enough. It would have helped me put a face to the void. I’m not even sure I would have wanted to have a relationship with him.
Now that I’m thirty-four, I hardly ever think about my father. I have always known the basic facts: his name, his birth date, his zodiac sign, his height, his college major, and that he hates chocolate (I know, outrageous). At this point, that’s enough for me. If I purposely fantasize about meeting him now, as an adult, I experience something close to a panic attack. Meeting your mother or father when you’re an adult must be a really weird experience. You are a lot more guarded than when you were younger so, of course it’s going to be twice as awkward! What does one say in such circumstances? How do you pick the right topics? What about disappointment (on either side), which is, let’s face it, a very real possibility? Maybe my father would feel he needed to apologize, or to “make up for lost time.”
No, dude — please, no. I am a grown woman. You played a momentary yet crucial role in my conception. That’s the way it is, and it’s just fine. We’re both still here, after all. Maybe you are not. I will never know. I don’t need to know. Who needs that kind of pain?
I now know that you can live a happy, wonderful existence without having all the pieces of the puzzle lined up. Without realizing it I have filled that father-shaped void with people, with experiences, with things, and with places. I know I can survive the void because I already did.
As a little girl, perhaps meeting my father would have been useful. It would have changed me, yes, but who knows if it would have been for the better? I would be ‘whole’ in a way, but perhaps incomplete in many other ways. The experiences which I would have shared with my father would have filled that hole, but would that have made me as strong as I am now? I guess some things are better kept a mystery. Life is wise like that.
Berenice Parra is a music blogger. You can follow her on Twitter at @SheMu5ic.