My mom says that she and my dad were in a relationship for two years before I happened. He moved to the United States before I was born; I was raised by my mother and her support system. I met him a few times after we also moved to the United States, but then our communication was abruptly cut off. I never questioned it. It was all I knew.
I now know that weddings bring out the worst in people. I believed that mine would be so different because I “don’t do drama.” Ha!
“Are you inviting your dad?” my maid of honor asked me during one of our bi-weekly phone conversations. We had just gone over the fact that I was inviting potential guests to a Facebook group and that I wanted to keep the group small.
I paused for a beat; I honestly hadn’t thought much about him until then.
She continued to tell me that if her dad hadn’t passed away while we were younger, he would surely be invited to her upcoming wedding. What she wouldn’t have given to invite her dad to the wedding even though she never got to know him very well. I knew she was right.
“Ok…” I said. “I’ll send him an invite to the group page – it’ll take two seconds. I’m sure he will decline.”
I knew of him as he knew of me: from thousands of miles away but through the limited lens of social media. Facebook alerted me that I had a younger sister who looks just like me and who is also a nerd. I also learned that If you squint or turn your head quick enough, his wife looks like my mom.
He would reach out to me periodically in subtle ways by sending me videos on Facebook messenger or leaving likes or random comments on the occasional post, but we hadn’t seen each other in person or spoken at length in more than a decade.
Within an hour of this he accepted the invite and then my mom sent me a message.
“Did you invite that man…” the message started, and it went downhill from there. Fast. She messaged him too, telling him to act like he didn’t know me. And then it all came out.
I called my dad for the first time since I graduated from college. His voice was oddly familiar. We talked about the weather and exchanged pleasantries until we ran out of words to fill the silence. In those minutes I felt like I knew him and what he was thinking and what he would say before he said it. Speaking wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t too hard — we were working out a new muscle group that we never knew we had.
Eventually, I worked to the courage to ask: “Did you really do that to her?”
“What did she tell you”
“Well… you denied ever really knowing her and having a child with her in court.”
He chuckled nervously but didn’t say a word.
“You said she was crazy and that she was trying to ruin your family.” I continued. “I don’t understand why and how you could do that.”
I was preparing to go to college and my mother wanted my father to pitch in. They had already had a falling out about child support when I was seven and then when I was seventeen, I had private liberal arts dreams with parents who had public community college budgets. I did well enough to win scholarships and grants, but my mother couldn’t cover the remaining balance on her own so she took him to court.
His lawyer told him that intimidating my mother and casting doubt on her character would cause her to drop the case. While under oath and the things he said made others in the courtroom blush.
And it worked.
I imagined what it was like for her to stand in front of the lawyer and the court while they laughed at her. How she looked — going after a man after all this time when he had his new wife that was with child.
She went in to and left that courtroom alone. She never contested his statement. No DNA test, no verification of birth records, and no follow-up. The case was thrown out.
She never told me or anyone else this though. She told me to aim high and to follow my heart, so I did.
“When I got the invitation, I knew that she never told you. She should have gotten a lawyer, I only did what mine told me to do.” He replied. “My wife and children know I have an older daughter, they know about you.”
That just made it worse for me. I couldn’t get over the lying. I know he was telling the truth from his perspective, but it was too unsettling. How didn’t I know after all this time?
I was shocked. That my mother kept the reason for her hatred of my father from me for all those years. That he was willing to lie to save his money from her in order to prepare for a new child. That he was stuck between a rock and a hard place — what it must have meant for him to deny one child to defend another. That my mother would rather save her dignity than to fight to be right.
We spoke for a few minutes more and then said goodnight.
I chose to move the wedding forward without him and his wife. I didn’t want to disturb the peace so I went back to life as usual.
And that was it.
The story about the last time I spoke to my father.
About the Author:
Nicollette is a young professional who works in STEM Higher Education and who grew up without much contact with her biological father. She is new to this writing thing and is looking for more groups of women to write with! Feel free to leave a comment on this post or stop by her blog to see more of her writing.
Authors note: Many thanks to Awele for creating a space for much needed community surrounding the topic of fatherlessness.
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