he said

‘my absence is strong and warm.

it will hold you.

it will teach you how to miss.

how to be without.

and how to survive anyway.’

-how my father raised me

–Nayyirah Waheed

I blinked and suddenly 6 months passed since my last writing. Not for lack of material per se, but rather lack of time. The reasons have been good, more than amazing, really. And to those who checked in to see what was going on, thank you! I didn’t realize I had more than a couple of people who actually read my writing, and it was really touching to receive your messages of concern. I soon plan on sharing, in more detail, with regards to all that I’ve worked on lately, but suffice it to say that I’ve been able to return to my roots of design and videography after over a decade of dormancy. I’ve also restarted the old farm at my homestead that my great-grandparents originally built, taking it back to the beginning. And most amazingly, journeyed alongside an incredible and indomitable little spirit contained in canine form. All of this too, with my most beloved partner in crime.

And motherhood marches on as well, my son growing and changing every day. And on this particular day, Father’s Day, I wrestle with so many emotions, every year. Even more so now that I am a mother. This writing has been kicking around my skull for the better part of three years now in some form, so I’ve finally decided to let it out.

It’s no secret to those who know me well that I grew up without my father, and later, my mother also left me. For all intents and purposes, I was orphaned, but fortunate enough that my grandparents took me in and raised me as their own. I think I went through every stage growing up as far as emotions go. Angry, confused, hurt, and eventually, I just accepted it. But even now, people who learn about my past always ask the same thing with regards to my dad: “Do you hate him?”

And the answer might surprise, but no, I don’t hate him. I did, at one point, to be fair, but no longer. Because even though he left when I was only 4 years old, he was still present in his absence all these years. He taught me many things, actually.

One of the only photos of my father and I

My father taught me how rejection felt. He taught me not to cling to anyone because they will leave, too. He taught me to doubt myself, and to feel like a burden. He taught me that even those who are supposed to love you forever, actually won’t. And on that last note, he taught me that I wasn’t enough to want.

Those lessons were all very harsh to learn as a 4 year old, not quite able to understand or verbalize, and then became sheer torment once I was old enough to process all of the above. It was easy to feel hatred and anger towards him, my mother, and the world.

But slowly, his lessons shifted in tone as I grew. I realized he taught me to appreciate my loved ones while they are with me in life, because you never know when you’ll see them last. He taught me to take care of myself and to be self sufficient, instead of relying on others. And the hardest lesson of all that I learned from my father, was to love and want myself in spite of his apathy and absence. Because, at the end of the day, it wasn’t my fault he left; it was more a symptom of his broken soul than of mine.

But I don’t think I would have made it to those realizations if it weren’t for the love of the man whom I consider to be my real father: my grandfather, Billy. My papa isn’t here anymore either, but his presence taught me so many things.

He taught me patience and grace. He taught me that there were safe, loving people in the world, when even my own parents turned their backs on me. He taught me charity, and to look after those who are struggling, even if we were struggling too. He taught me to love animals and help them, because they were God’s creatures and man was made to tend them. He taught me my love of art, my love of history, and so much of my humor comes from him. He taught me the value of knowing multiple trades and working with my hands. He taught me how to love unconditionally, how to be a mother though he was a father, and to never give up.

And in the wake of his death, his absence brought lessons as well. To love hard, because you never know when the last day will come. To fight for what’s right in your heart, and to defend those who cannot speak for themselves. To choose kindness over anger and hate. He reminds me every day to choose love.

So, in a strange way, I find myself just as thankful to my father for leaving as I am thankful to my grandfather for staying.

I would not be who I am today without both of them influencing me in ways I’m sure neither of them quite imagined.

I get my creativity, my love, and my understanding from my Papa.

But I get my self sufficiency, my perseverance, and my drive to succeed from my father.

Some people also ask if I ever plan to reach out to him to reconnect. My answer is that I’ve tried and been shot down, so I no longer have any interest in putting energy into the endeavor. If he ever approached me, I would not shoot him down, though. My mother and I have a good relationship now after all these years, so I am thankful enough for that.

And on that note, I end with this message: Happy Father’s Day to all those fathers out there. You are teaching your children more than you will ever know, whether you’re truly there or not.

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