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When I was young, the back of my father was like the biggest mountain in the world. He was my hero. My ally. It was us against the world. I was daddy’s girl.

I’d stay up until I’d hear the comforting sound of the giant organ in our living room downstairs. Hearing the notes being played meant my father had come home from a long day at work.

It meant he was unwinding and playing his favorite songs. I’d envision his hairy fingers and oil-stained nails moving across the keys, a faint smile on his bearded face. The wrinkles around his brown, tired eyes. I loved those eyes. I wished I had seen them more often, that he wasn’t always so busy outside the home.

But he was the provider. I admired his strengthgetting up before dawn, making a hasty breakfast sandwich, and rushing out the door in silence and darkness so as not to wake anyone. I’d try to get up with him sometimes and keep him company on those dark and cold mornings. I wouldn’t see him again until late at night. If I were lucky.

Some nights I’d pretend to be in my pajamas, but I’d have outside clothes on over them, and I’d wait anxiously for my father’s return home. I’d sneak downstairs and hurry to the garage to catch up just to take a walk with him while he’d take the dog for the night walk. He’d point out star constellations, and talk about the great dipper. He’d tell me about technical problems he solved at his job that day. Though the topic was not exactly interesting to little me, I’d hang on to every word. I wanted to be his support as he was mine.

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Whenever the car needed an oil change or something done, it was me who went into the garage pit with him, shining the flashlight for him to see.

I loved him with all of my heart.

More so, since my mom didn’t love me. Didn’t even like me. We had a typical narcissistic mother/scapegoat-daughter relationship. Of course, I didn’t know those terms at that tender age, and therefore my dad . . . he was my hero. He was on my side.

He’d sneak some sugar onto my Brussels sprouts when she wasn’t looking to make them edible for me. He’d take me on that late-night dog walk instead of chasing me back to bed. Every Sunday was our time to go for a ride on his motorcycle. We’d be free for a few hours! Free of the tension that was constant at home.

He did not have an easy life with my mother, either, and to keep his sanity and peace, he’d spend most of his time outside our home. It was my dad and me, against the world. Until it wasn’t.

One day, my whole world came crashing down. I came home to find them in a huge fight. I still remember that frying pan she swung at him as he ducked and left. I can tell you, it’s not as funny as it’s portrayed in cartoonsit’s terrifying.

I couldn’t approach a single step, frozen as I watched the picture of his lonely back going further and further away. I understood what had just happened. I remember the words “Don’t worry, he’ll be back. It’ll be fine.” 

But he never came back.

He didn’t just leave her, he left me too. That’s what hurts the most.

We loved each other, then we hated each other. But he held me more precious than anyone, and I miss him. He was so close but so unapproachable. Yes, I hated him for abandoning me. Suddenly another child was on the back of his motorcycle. He found himself another family. He was proud of them. I was left heartbroken . . . and alone. 

It took years to create a scab in the place of that wound. A fragile scab that could come undone so very easily.

I held him deep within my heart. Yes, I loved him, but even after a long time passed, I couldn’t tell him. He was invited to my wedding. He wasn’t there. He said afterward that he forgot the date.

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He didn’t meet my first child until I got on a plane to meet him. He was already nine months old. He didn’t meet my second child until he was five years old.

My oldest absolutely loves him. My father seems to love him too. But not enough. We don’t see him. He doesn’t visit. He doesn’t call. He doesn’t write. He visited once, on a layover trip. He stayed three days.

I am emotionally exhausted from being the conversation starter. I may get a short response a few days later. Most times the response is “I’m very busy.” He travels for work now. He’s pushing 70 but works harder than many youngsters. He works too hard, and I worry about him daily. I don’t know where he is most of the time. If anything would happen to him, who’d tell me? How would I know?

I wish time could go back, and I could see my dad as this great, mighty mountain of support just once more. But I know time waits for no one. And instead, I’ll focus on healing the pain of my son, who doesn’t yet understand why his grandfather loves him but doesn’t show up. 

Maybe one day, we will both understand the reason why. 

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Jennifer Pers

Jennifer is a Montessori teacher who left the classroom to focus on homeschooling her two amazing sons. Married to her best friend for over a decade and living in the Caribbean on a tiny island, which has its challenges and its perks.

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