Broken promises and sad goodbyes you left me standing all alone with tears in the well of my eyes.
In the blink of an eye, you turned your back and walked away;
often I wonder if I’m the reason you didn’t stay.
Everyday I dream of how perfect my life would be if you were here.
You could be my everlasting shield and protect me from all my fears.
Or whenever I’m down you would hold me in your arms and wipe away my tears.
But deep in my heart I know it will never be;
that you would walk back into my life and never leave me.
Birthdays, Graduations, Prom:
you’ve missed it all.
And it hurts so much because you didn’t even bother to call.
The truth is I need you here in my life.
When I get married, I want you there to give me away to become a wife.
And when I graduate I want to see that look of satisfaction on your face.
I don’t want another man to take your place.
For there’s nothing I want more in this world than to just be daddy’s little girl. – LaKandance Harris
My father officially left us when I was in elementary school. It’s hard to remember exactly when his presence was finally extricated from our house because he would come and go quite a bit after my parents initially split. He and my mother had a deep passion for one another but their destructive behaviors prevented them from capitalizing on their connection in a healthy way. Instead, her narcissism combined with his alcoholism created a volcanic eruption anytime they were around each other. Passion takes many forms and when rage enters into the picture, the glass cracks, the color fades and a beautiful image turns ugly very fast.
Because of my father’s nomadic tendencies and because I watched my parents cycle of love and abuse, I had an overwhelming feeling of impermanence to relationships and love. I did not have any evidence that relationships could endure and, while my parents were sorting through their disorder, I also witnessed as my mother and sister experienced intervals of attachment and derision. My mother used to tell me how we cannot count on anyone but ourselves. Wise beyond my years, I learned pretty quickly that this was her code for “don’t count on me.” And, by extension, I believed I could never trust anyone to stand by me.
By the time I was a teenager, my father (a) had left our house, (b) moved away to Hawaii to live some existence that I never learned much about and then (c) returned in an effort to resurrect his life with my mother. How I might have fit into their equation was always unclear to me. I often felt like an intruder in their life, disrupting their fantasy love affair. As a typical teen, I retreated into myself, too confused to sort it out. I emotionally departed, locking all of my feelings and fears behind iron bars, throwing away the key. Their arrangement and the emotional entanglement with me was simply too difficult for me to process and there was no one standing by to coach me through this complex and troublesome situation. My mother, typically, never bothered to consider how I might be impacted by her decisions. So, one day I came home from school and this man who looked familiar – I could have been looking in the mirror because we looked so much alike – was sitting in the den watching TV. “Your father’s back and he’s going to be staying here for a while.” That was her contrite explanation and hidden in the subtext was “Don’t ask any questions because I am not interested in explaining myself to you.”
Being the youngest of a line of kids, I was the only one relegated to participate in their war games. My brother was long gone from our house, my sister was married and had kids of her own and then there were the two other children that my father had sired with his first wife. They were all grown up and had started their own families. I didn’t know much about them, had never met them, but I had heard about them as I eavesdropped on my mother’s conversations with friends and family members. I knew my father had a granddaughter who was a year older than me and I spent years trying to sort out the relationship she and I might have had. I was her aunt yet she was older than me – it was all so complicated and difficult. My father had a brood and, fortunately for him, I was the only one he had to look at to be reminded of the pain that he had inflicted. My eyes were the only ones he had to avoid daily in order to not see the confusion, sadness and emptiness. The eight others were drowned in tears and, thankfully for him, out of his line of sight.
And so he was there one day and then, as magically as he appeared, he was gone. One day I came home and his imprint was no longer in the couch. His assorted belongings were nowhere to be found. It was as if it was all a dream. This time, however, I did not get the luxury of a one liner from my mother acknowledging his absence. She simply erased him from our reality and acted as if he had never been a visitor in our house. Perhaps he was just a mirage of water in the middle of my emotional desert. I was just beginning to get used to having him around. We had actually starting falling into a little routine – he would drive me to school sometimes and I would see him there when I got home. We never really talked much in the car rides or in the house but I began take some comfort in simply knowing he was there. I began to embrace the idea that I, like so many of my friends, actually had a father. I smiled sometimes on the inside because I felt normal. It didn’t matter that my parents had long since divorced and that my mother was constantly parading men through my life because she could not bear to be alone. It did not matter that I grew up far too fast having to worry about how my mother was going to make ends meet and, in fact, searching through the local paper to try to find her a job when I was 10. The husband that my mother married while my father was gone who had a stroke in front of my eyes as I sat at the kitchen table doing homework was now just a faded memory. And my hiding under my mother’s bed calling the neighbors in complete terror after I watched the man’s eyes roll back in his head seemed overshadowed because I had, what seemed to be, my family intact.
Then, just like that, we were back to just two beings living in the house alone. The high energy and enthusiasm that my mother exhibited during the period in which her soul mate had returned was replaced with her angry, depressed demeanor. My father had left and my mother had returned. The house was quiet again because we barely spoke. She found reasons to get angry at me and lash out at me to unleash her feelings. She would leave me nasty notes in the kitchen for when I returned home from school, reminding me what a worthless child I was. She resumed chaining the door at night if I came home past curfew. I would bang my fists against the metal door, desperate to be let back in, to not have to sit on the stoop sobbing in fear that I would never be able to return. Perhaps this was the day she was kicking me to the curb just like she did my sister when she was 14. Of course, I did not understand that my mother could have never released me because I was the target of her abuse. I was the one she needed in order to unleash her pain. She needed me. She really needed me.
As a child I believed that I was the cause of the broken promises and the severed hearts. My behavior or misbehavior, my actions or inactions, my needs or unwillingness to be needy was the cause for the revolving door. Although I considered that perhaps it was not always my fault, in my heart I couldn’t believe anything different. I was flawed and broken and certainly not worthy of being loved consistently and continually. I feared that I was destined to live this reality for eternity.
What sometimes happens when people are emotionally abandoned is that they seek out refuge in all the wrong places. Like sponges, they soak up love wherever they can find it. The holes are so gaping and desperately need to be filled. You lose all ability to make rational and reasonable decisions because you are starving and need to be fed. I never really analyzed myself at the time but, upon reflection later in life, I marveled at the fact that I did not end up in a series of abusive and destructive romantic relationships. Paradoxically, I avoided romance because I was afraid to commit that level of intimacy and, instead, chose to develop artificial intimacy though friendships that never had a strong enough foundation to endure. I was giving everything and getting little in return because I simply needed to believe I was loved. And I continued the cycle over and over again. People came into my life and, when the flame burned down, they were gone. These were not relationships built on meaningful and powerful connections because I did not have the ability to assess, reason or choose. I was a misfit, broken down and tossed aside. I did not get to choose. I took whatever I could get.
And then I met my husband. Suddenly, something shifted. Something was different with him. He looked into my eyes and saw the little broken girl who had lost her way long ago. And, without realizing it, I finally got to choose. I believed at the time that I was chosen but, truthfully I knew. I made the choice. Divine intervention allowed me to have a choice. A really extraordinary, exceptional and heaven-sent choice. And when I made my commitment to spend my life with him, to hopefully correct the wrongs that surrounded my life up to that point, my father was not there. He was done with me. He had left for good.