When I was sixteen, I must have blacked out for a few months because at seventeen, when I came to, I had a daughter. She and I had a rough 1st year together with little to no support from her father. Everything was a fight with him. I had to fight him to get the 25.00 child support checks (still owes me 5,000.00- 25.00 a week, you do the math), fight him to spend time with his daughter and fight him to act like a real father for his child. I lost just about every battle. When she turned 1 on Thanksgiving day in 1981, he didn’t show up for her birthday party. If I hadn’t stumbled on him at the local 7-Eleven (the only store open on a holiday) when I ran out to get some diapers for her and reminded him that his invitation was still outstanding, I don’t think he would have seen her at all. As it was, he showed up for a grand total of 15 minutes, sat on the couch and barely said a word. She had already been taken out of her cute blue party dress and had enjoyed her messy cake, been bathed and was just about ready for bed by that time. He must have decided that she wasn’t all that interesting, because shortly after her birthday he disappeared from our lives.
On that evening, after putting her to bed and still dealing with the emotional rejection for both she and I, I lay in my bed listening to my CB radio. (Ok, stop laughing now..I loved that thing. It was my portal to the world!) Faintly, because the volume had to be low so I didn’t raise the wrath of my sleeping parents, I heard two male voices talking. They sounded pleasant enough, so I joined in their conversation and changed my life forever. That was the night that I first spoke to my husband, Frank.
Fast forward 6 years. My family now consists of my husband Frank, myself, our daughter and her two brothers. Notice that I said “OUR” daughter. From the moment Frank met Heather, he loved her. He babysat for me while I worked and toted her around on his shoulders while she called him “Bank” and then “Daddy Bank” (fore shadowing there, lol) and then just “Daddy”. That was her progression, no one ever encouraged her to go there. She never knew her brothers as anything other than her brothers. The words half-brother or half-sister have never been a part of our world. I never hid any information about her father from her and answered any question I could when she had one. I never hid from her father, either. She couldn’t understand why Daddy loved her and the boys so much, but her father never saw her. Then one day, he reappeared. Not for long, though, just enough time for her to get ecstatic about the attention. She was only 7 when he disappeared on her again.
And so the pattern repeated itself when she was about 10 and again at 12. Then her great uncle died. The only member of her father’s family who EVER treated that child like she was a member of the family. He was a decent man, so we went to his funeral. She was freshly 16 when she saw her father again. She was hurt and angry and she let him know it. She made sure he was aware that she had just had her 16th birthday and that there had been no phone call, no birthday greeting card, no anything. He looked at me and told me I had done a good job. (Well, duh!! It’s not like he did anything!) After that day, he called her a little more frequently for about a year and then reverted to same same and vanished again.
When she was 17 she decided that life with mom and rules were just too hard, so she found herself living in the South with her estranged father. At the time she thought anything was better than having a curfew and following the house rules… she was almost an adult for heavens sake!! Three moves (read evictions) and a couple of visits from the police looking for her father (who had somehow just “stepped out”) had her begging to come home a year later, promising to follow any rule.
She never used her legal name, but instead went by our surname. She referred to Frank as her father and called him Daddy and began to refer to her biological father as just that.. or she called him her sperm donor. She was still hurt and angry. When she got married, Frank gave his daughter away. (Although with the current circumstances, I wish he had tucked her under his arm like a football just as he had done while rough housing through the years and had run for the door!!)
Two children and a failed marriage later, she packed up her things and moved South again. Her father was now married, and caring for his new wife’s’ children. She had never liked the cold, had a job offer in the same town he lived in and was still hurt and angry and so she left. She calls him Don. He has been kind to the grandchildren, but never can see his way to follow through with the things he promises either to her or them. He has babysat them a few times and his wife dotes on them. She has had far more contact and interaction with our daughter than he has and has expressed love for her.
Throughout our daughters life, Frank has been her rock. He has jumped to action whenever needed. He would, and has, done anything he could to help his children, and they all know it.
So, tonight, when I got a phone call from my upset child, telling me that Don’s wife was berating her yet again for not calling him Dad, I resisted the urge to pick up my phone and call her to let her know just what I thought of that idea and a few other choice thoughts as well concerning my opinion on fatherhood and the right to be called DAD. Because as far as most anybody who reads this will agree, just about any man can donate a sperm and father a child, but you have to earn the right to be called Daddy through love and care, consistency and undying support. NO MATTER WHAT.