It was never really a big deal to me that my father was not in my life. I didn't know anything different. I knew it wasn't the norm, but I rarely thought about it. Two things always brought it to my mind that I do recall.
1) The class roll. Never fail, every single year on the first day of school the teacher would read the full name of the person, glance at the parent's name, and ask if you went by a nickname so he or she could write it into the roll. I was always excited to say "present!" instead "here". It always made the whole class laugh. But then the teacher would ruin it because he or she would quiz me in front of a room full of new peers why my mother and I had a different last name. Like it was a trick I was playing or a game. I got to announce every year how my parents were divorced and my mom is married to someone with a different last name. Then there was the awkward silence where they put the situation together and you knew they felt sad for me. But it mad me mad cos it was really no big deal. Not that it's something you want to shout across the room all the time, but then the teacher kind of made it a big deal. I always wanted to stand on my chair and reassure the room really I am alright, it's all I have ever known. He's an asshole anyway and I am pretty certain we are better off without him. Can we continue with the roll please, you stopped at M.
It never really came up again in school until later when I made friends. Some would secretly confide in me that their parents were divorced. It wasn't such a common thing in the early 80s. They asked if I saw my dad every summer like they did. I knew they wanted to commiserate. I would reply 'no, I don't really talk to him at all' and then the conversation would end and we would climb on the monkey bars. Or some would tell me I was lucky that way and I wondered why. I wanted to hear their story. That's about as long as I would think about it. It wasn't so complicated to me as a kid the way adults might have thought it was.
2) The Billy Joel cassette tape my mother had always reminded me he was out there somewhere. Sometimes it would catch my eye sitting under the family television with the other tapes, almost like a red flag. It was the one where he is about to throw a rock through the windows. I wondered if that was how he felt about not knowing me and I hoped he missed us. I might have wondered what he looked like, how I was like him, what he liked to eat, what he liked to watch on t.v. But I didn't wonder for very long. It was more of a curiosity rather than sadness. I just hoped that curiosity was matched where ever he was.
As an adult when I take time to really listen to Billy Joel I have grown to appreciate him as one of the more amazing musicians I have ever heard. I would like to think I base that opinion on trained ears that have listened to a lot of music over the years. He hits so many ranges with his voice and vivid imagery with his lyrics. I feel like I am roaming around the Met or Louvre while I listen to him, it's like being exposed to a masterpiece. I love to hear him sing about New York, being in love, rock star life, anything. I wish I had listened to that cassette so long ago, I was really missing out. The dude can rock out.
As a young adult I had the opportunity to meet my father. There is a lot I can write about that, but today is not that day. I guess to summarize I would say it was a necessary chapter to write in my life, meeting him, but also an important confirmation that my mother made the correct choice. Which I never doubted, but it was cleansing to my soul to know that for myself. My wonder was fulfilled, it wasn't until that gap in my heart was filled that I knew there was a void. And the void wasn't him, it was me having the ability to decide for myself if I wanted him in ym life or not. And you know, I was better off without him and peacefully fine even still. His absence is just on my own terms now. Not his.
Driving down a California Highway this week listening to Billy Joel I realized I had been thinking in my head as a girl that he would be this perfect image I created in my mind. That he would communicate perfectly, say the right words, act the right way, be who I wanted him to be. And he wasn't. I wanted him to be a masterpiece like the one I listened to called Billy Joel. I might have even been surprised he didn't look more like him.
Yesterday I thought about my boys and what to say when they ask about him. Tears streamed down my face as I realized I want to teach them to love people in this life. Even when they are imperfect. Even when they disappoint. Even when they are total assholes. And I am the person to be their example. The same way I will teach them to tie their shoes by watching my hands, I will show them how to love even ones that might not be the easiest to love.
And what does that look like? Still sorting that out in my head, but being cautious about expectations (make them none) and purity in heart.