To the Man Who Forgot to Raise Me

To the man who forgot to raise me, letters to an absent father, my father abandoned me, a letter to my father who abandoned me, my father left me, stories about absentee fathers, 

Words by Anonymous

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in Issue 6 of Holl & Lane. To read the whole issue, pick up our digital pack in our shop.

I found you online last week. Social media is kind of cruel like that - offering instant access to the skeletons from your closet with a quick click of a button. I’m not even sure why I looked. Curiosity, I suppose. You look so different. You’ve gained weight, and your hair has become so white. You look old. You look happy. And it hurt.

Being the age that I am, I was practically trained on social media detective work in school - so, I found your post online. The one about me. Did you want me to see it, or were you just looking for another pity vote? It made me so angry. You twist words and make me out to be the bad guy, when I was the one left with the bruises. You post about missing me, but you never try to contact me. Even through the anger, somehow, I’m not surprised. It’s typical of you. And I should know better than to expect you to change.

It’ll be seven years this summer since I last heard your voice - did you know that? I wonder if you think about it much, or at all. Maybe just on holidays? Maybe just on my birthday? Or Father’s Day? You probably don’t. What am I thinking?

I have your stubbornness, you know. Your eyes, too. Perhaps that’s why it’s been so long. I saw a lot of you in myself and that terrified me. I thought if I got away, made a better life, I wouldn’t have to feel your hold anymore. But it was still there. Softer than before, it was there all the same. It was there when I looked in the mirror, it was there when I felt myself losing my temper, when I felt afraid or alone, and it was there in the men I dated. You always said your biggest fear was I’d end up with a man just like you - and no matter how hard I would fight, I found myself doing just that. I won’t use names, or details, but know that I’m okay now - he’s gone, and I’m safe. It broke mum’s heart seeing me with him, hearing about all the things he did to me. I hate myself for putting her through that again. She blamed herself. I wonder if it would’ve hurt your heart too, if you would blame yourself - or if it wouldn’t even matter. I guess it wouldn’t.

I spent a lot of time pushing people away - I became quite cold. It just seemed easier than letting anyone else in. But I'm older now - I know I deserve better. I've started standing up for myself and just doing things for myself - and it feels okay. It was scary at first, gaining that independence, but I know it's good for me. I bought a car - isn't that crazy? I'm in school, too - straight A’s - are you proud? I have one year left and then it's off to the real world. I'm in the best place I've ever been, and yet somehow I find myself thinking of you. Wondering if you'd be happy for me - if you'd even care at all.

I have a "real" dad now, too. I'm sure that will upset you, but it shouldn't. You never wanted to be a dad. It didn't make you happy. You resented me for holding you "hostage." Parenthood isn't for everyone, and it wasn't for you. Sometimes I wonder if it could have been. Maybe if things had been different. You felt like you had to make a choice between being a father and being gay - I wish you knew I wouldn't have cared that you were gay. You were my dad. I just wanted you to love me. But you resented the label of fatherhood and what you felt was preventing you from living the life you were born to and took it out on me. You were so angry with me. I remember so many nights silently crying so as to not wake you and make you angry again, cradling my swollen limbs, wondering how I could make you happy and what I was doing wrong. My new dad - he never gets angry with me. He's what I needed. He laughs with me when I'm happy, and he holds me when I'm sad. He looks after mum, too. You should see the way he looks at her - it's beautiful - enough to make you believe in love again.

I don't think I've ever met a man with a bigger heart. He wanted to adopt me, you know? So he could really be my dad. But it's more complicated than signing a few papers. It's okay though, he's my dad in my heart. It feels nice having a "real" family. We play games together- it's nice. Did you find a new family? Or are you alone? I hope you're not alone.

I guess I just want you to know I'm okay. I'm not mad anymore. I've stopped waiting for your apology - I know I won't get one, and that's okay. I forgive you anyway. Sometimes, I hear a song you used to sing with me, or I'll be at a bar and someone orders your drink - tonic and gin with lime - and I miss you. I wish you were here to see me doing well at school, to see me get my first internship, and one day start my own family - but you don't want to be, and I have to accept that. So, just know that it's okay. I wish you all the best, and know that I've found my best self, and part of that is in thanks to you. You gave me something to overcome, and now I'm stronger and more confident than ever. Because of you, I know how to appreciate the amazing father and life I have now. So, thank you for that. I hope you too are able to find acceptance and love within yourself, and that you were able to find the life you wanted - even without me in it.

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