His Secret

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I don’t have any real memories of my father prior to age 21. My dad left when I was about 3. My parents divorced and he got his own place. I don’t know what the real reason was for their divorce, I was always told by my mom that he said he didn’t want to be married. I never questioned my mom on it. My mom always said she tried to get him to be a part of my life, but his priorities were being a man about town.

Growing up, I always longed for my dad. I always envisioned him being this rich, hardworking guy. When I would get mad at my mom, I would say, “I can’t wait for my dad to come get me.” I always wanted him, but he clearly didn’t want me. Fast forward to age 20, the year is now 2001. By this time, I am a mom and I longed for him even more to be a part of my life. To be a part of my son’s life. I was at work and my friend encouraged me to look him up. So I got on some website and located a name and number for him. I called the number I had and he answered. I was so nervous.

Growing up, I always longed for my dad.

ME: May I speak with Clarence Ferguson?

HIM: This is him, who is this?

ME: My name is Michele.

HIM: Michele who? Where I know you from? Did we date or something?

ME: *laughing* NO! My name is Michele Ferguson or Stephanie Michele Ferguson

HIM: *silence* then *screams* MY GOD, MY GOD, MY GOD!! THANK YOU LORD! THANK YOU JESUS! I GOT MY DAUGHTER BACK! SHE FOUND ME!

I almost cried. I was happy and kind of confused at the same time because of all of his excitement. We talked for a bit and I told him I would call him when I got home. I told my mom what happened and how he reacted. She didn’t seem too happy about it. But, I was happy I had finally found him.

He moved to Texas about a month later. By now, he was far from the man I had envisioned in my head. He was living on disability for something I’m still not quite sure why. I do know it had to do with an injury. We did not get along at all. I guess now that he was here, the anger that was within took over. He never had a real reason on why he was not there. He stayed for about 5 months, and then moved back to North Carolina because he said I had an attitude all of the time. After he moved back, we talked on the phone a few times. But then I didn’t hear from him for 7 years after that.

I tried to stay in touch with my dad as much as I could. I would go without speaking to him some times for months. He couldn’t call me at this point because he didn’t have long distance on his phone. I basically called when I felt like it. I just didn’t feel the need to keep putting in a major effort. In my eyes, he didn’t so why should I. But at least I called. By then I had learned so many thing about him that really surprised me. He was an ex crack addict and he wasn’t there for his other kids like that either. But at least they knew him and were able to grow up around his family and their grandmother. I’m the one he chose to leave behind. His secret.

On October 1, 2015, he passed away. Only 18 days shy of his 70th birthday. I cried. I screamed. Guilt rushed me like a wave in the ocean. I started feeling like I should have done more. I hadn’t seen my dad’s face since 2001. I had never went to North Carolina to visit him. He asked me to come many times. I flew to North Carolina to attend his funeral. We went to his wake. I saw my dad’s face for the first time in 14 years after our first meeting. He looked like he was sleeping. I finally got to meet his siblings and some of my cousins. I got to meet my sister and brother finally. I was there for about 3 days. I learned that no one except for my siblings and my dad’s two sisters knew anything about me. No one knew my dad was even married to my mom. It’s like he was living a secret life.

I’m the one he chose to leave behind. His secret.

Slowly, the guilt started fading away. Every time, I heard someone say, “Who’s she?” (And that question was asked over 10 times in 3 days) I was over it. I went to my dad’s funeral. I said a prayer in the car and at his casket. I kissed his casket and released all of my guilt at that grave site. It has not been 4 years since he passed. I don’t miss him. I can’t miss something I never had. Here and there I think of what could have been. But I try not to think like that because it just brings anger. The guilt I felt left me the day I left North Carolina. I didn’t choose to be here or this life. It was given to me. He made the choice to not be in my life so I have no reason to feel guilty. I am not the one who should have been putting forth the effort. I just hope and pray he made peace with GOD with his decisions in his life. That’s all I can I can do.

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Losing my Father to Cancer

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My dad was the only person who cared about my well being. Although he wasn’t my biological father, he was the only father…let alone the only parent in my life. My mother was on drugs by the time I was 5, battling an addiction to cocaine and pills. She lost that battle about two months before I left for college when she passed away from an overdose. My dad, however, was there for everything. My kindergarten graduation, every Christmas, any award ceremony, any big accomplishment, he was there. He even took me on my first real vacation to see the beach. That meant so much to me.  

When I was 21, I had gotten engaged and pregnant. I was 8 months pregnant when my ex fiancé at the time left me. Not only was I scared, but I was an emotional mess. I packed up some trash bags and moved back in with my dad. At that point he was the only stable thing I had. After having my son, we moved into our own apartment and my dad was mentally there for me. We spoke every single day, and he always checked on my son and I. Four months into starting a new job, the company let me go because they couldn’t afford to keep me on. The only person I truly had to help me was my dad. At that point, I was already barely making ends meet and had received an eviction notice. My sons father refused to help, so my dad allowed me to pay my rent with his credit card. I cried because I was so appreciative. I truly felt like he was the only person I had. I was okay with that. He’s my dad, my best friend.

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A few years later, my dad called me and told me his doctor said he needed to go to the Emergency Room to get some tests ran. I got the call that night from my cousin who went to visit him that he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer. My heart sank and I couldn’t stop crying. I felt like my whole world had crashed. When he was transferred to another hospital that had a bigger oncology department, I decided to meet him there. He informed me that if he didn’t make it to my wedding in three months, he would have my uncle walk me down the aisle. I cried so hard. One of the biggest days of my life and he wouldn’t be there. Within two months his health drastically declined. All I could do was cry and pray that God would take his pain away.

The day our nurse informed us he had 24 to 48 hours to live, my world was crushed. I knew this time was coming, I just wasn’t as prepared. I honestly don’t think you ever are prepared for something like this. On a Saturday morning he was transferred to a hospice center, my sister, my cousin and I stayed all weekend. He was declining and the nurse told us his transition to passing had began. I wasn’t sure whether to be happy he was about to be out of pain or cry for my own selfish reasons. That Monday when we left for a break, he passed.

Coping with Fatherlessness

To this day the pain hasn’t gone away. I sometimes find myself carrying many emotions…sad, anger, happy, clueless. He wasn’t there for my wedding day, he won’t be there for when my next child is born. It breaks my heart, but the only thing that gets me through is knowing he’s watching every move I make. I’ve been to counseling for grief and I’m still going. If you don’t go, it is something I highly recommend. It has helped me sort through my issues and my grieving process. Life to this day isn’t the same and it never will be. I’m 25 with no parents and I’m scared. The world is a scary place. I go to church now in hopes to make my relationship with God stronger so he can help me through this. When I’m upset I have to remind myself that my dad wouldn’t want me to feel this way, he would want everything to be normal. Please always remember that you are not alone. This is not easy, but other women deal with the same thing. Remember what your father would want for you and live your life in honor of him.