To My Father

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Dear Papi,

Every Father’s Day, I find myself feeling an array of emotions: sadness, anger,

confusion, and hope.

As I tried to find a photo of you and I, I am reminded that there aren’t any that I

can find. I want to write you this note because regardless of you missing in action, you

are still half of the reason why I am alive.

For years, I thought it was something I did wrong. Maybe you thought I didn’t

deserve to have your last name. Then, your misguided messages made me think it was

my mother’s fault. But when you requested a DNA test, I understood I was simply the

victim in a war between you and my mother.

I spent most of my childhood yearning for your presence. Wanting you to teach

me how to play sports, get the ladies, and even how to properly knot a tie. Instead the

lessons you passed on to me were learned in the two summers I traveled to Buffalo to see

you, and in the years of hoping you’d remember my birthday.

I learned that it wasn’t okay to physically and verbally abuse women. I learned

that drug addiction can lead to destruction and the death of a relative. I learned that you

were simply repeating a cycle. I don’t think your father was the best example of a dad. I

had to learn to define my own manhood. It took me years to get comfortable in my skin,

to trust that I wouldn’t turn out like you.

No amount of awards, accomplishments, or supportive love from my chosen

family will fill this void that your absence formed. I’ve tried everything–lusting after

men, putting myself out there on hook up apps, and trying to affirm that I am worthy of a

man’s love by offering him my body. The void only grew bigger.

Papi, I’ve spent the last few years working on myself, unpacking my shame and

embracing my imperfections. I’ve invested in my shame resiliency, I’ve learned how to

talk about my shame, how to reach out when I feel overwhelmed by my shame gremlins.

I have come to understand that your actions and your absence continue to have nothing to

do with me.

I don’t want kids, partially because I’m afraid to repeat the cycle you have

mastered with all seven of your kids. But if I ever decide to have a child, I will make sure

that child feels my presence. I will teach them the importance of love and being a person

of integrity. I will give them my last name and make sure they never question their

connection to me.

So I wanted to wish you a Happy Father’s Day and say thank you for allowing my

existence to take shape. Thanks for the lessons and for reminding me that there are many

pathways to manhood and that I chose differently than you.

Your son,

Mark

 

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