Last night my daughter asked me this question for what feels like the 20th time. Do you have a dad? Why yes baby, I do. Yes you have another grandpa, we see him on Christmas, sometimes. And he changes his profile picture to your face and acts like you are his light and his world, but you don’t know him. Yes baby I have a daddy, but he wasn’t a good one, he wasn’t like your dad. He drinks, a lot. He struggles, a lot. He leaves, a lot. Yes baby my dad has been in and out of my life from the moment I was conceived. He exists but disappears. A funny act that he’s mastered, probably a byproduct of his own trauma.
I don’t say any of this, except for “Yes, I have a dad. But we don’t talk very much.”
Her face scrunches up in a way that doesn’t know this kind of pain, but is feeling a sliver or it for the first time. In one small sentence she heard everything else. She grabs my face and says “It’s okay, you know what you have me. And your mom and your sister. You have a whole family so don’t think about those things. Because it will make you feel things that change the color in your body to dark colors. And I love you.” and every bit of me melts.
I melt because she’s named my family, and it’s whole. She felt my pain, and it’s real. She heard my sorrow, and then consoled me. I’m happy to have such an empath for a daughter. I’m sad to have such a troubled man for a father. I’m content to have myself, forever.
I made this life, without him. I am part of a family, without him. I know real love, without him.