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Disappearing Dad

What do "Father Knows Best," "The Brady Bunch," "The Waltons," and "The Cosby Show" have in common, besides being some of the most beloved television shows in America? You guessed it—great dads—the kind of dads a fatherless girl like me longed to have. Today is Father’s Day. It’s a day of celebration for many, and for others, it’s a day that conjures up bittersweet memories, feelings of loss, and abandonment.

There’s never been a Father’s Day that I haven’t wondered about my biological father. Why did he leave me? Where has he been all these years? Did he ever try to find me? Is he still alive? While growing up, I thought my stepfather was my bio-dad. When I found out he wasn’t, I was ecstatic, because he was a far cry from my favorite television dads. My mother told me my father’s name was Aaron Cooper and she said that I was just like him. Unfortunately, she told me ‘I was just like him’ when I did something to get on her nerves. I remember wanting to ask her more questions about my father, but I was afraid. Back in the day, children were to be seen and not heard. Now I wish I would have given her the third degree. “How did you meet him?” “Did you love him?” “Did he love me?” “Why did he leave?” My mother died when I was fourteen and I never built up the nerves or had the opportunity to drill her. Maybe deep down I didn’t want to know. Maybe I was afraid of the truth. She did tell me he has people in Pasadena and I did see pictures of him.

He was short and good-looking. I remember a black and white photo of him standing at a chalk board teaching. He was a Black Muslim and taught in the mosque. There was another snapshot of me as a toddler in the bath tub with him. His hair was slicked back and so was mine. We looked like twins. When I think about that photo of me in the tub with my father, I get a good feeling inside. He had to have loved me to have taken a bath with me or is that just wishful thinking? My oldest sister said he was crazy about me. Well, if he was so ‘crazy about me’ why did he let his little girl slip away?

Once I became an adult, my fascination with my father began to wane. I did contact a private investigator many years ago to see if I could locate him, but I never followed through. Yes, it was difficult growing up without my bio-dad and not having the unconditional love of a father did impact me in negative ways. Like a lot of women who grow up without a father, I looked for love in all the wrong places and I had negative self-worth. Thank goodness for God, healing, my grandfather, and other father-figures in my life.

I’m not sure what I would do if I ever met my father. He would have to be in his eighties. A lot of years have passed and he’s probably no longer living. By the way, I forgave my father many years ago for disappearing. And as an adult, I know relationships are tricky and life gets in the way. If my father is alive or dead, I hope he has or had a good life. I know in my heart of hearts, he’s thought about be over the years. Like every writer, I have a fertile imagination. With that said, here’s the answer I imagine my father giving a stranger who asks him if he has any children.

“I have a daughter somewhere in California. I haven’t seen her since she was a baby. I remember putting her in the tub with me. We both wore our hair slicked back. We look like twins. I miss her. You know her mother and I broke up and she just got away from me. One of these days I’m gonna find my baby girl. I pray she’s okay. I love her, I really do. I should have never left. So many years have passed and I feel so guilty. I wish I would have done better in life. I feel ashamed for her to see me like this, broke down, penniless. But that’s no excuse. A girl needs her father and a father needs his girl. One of these days…for real…one of these days…”

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