by Jessica Smith

When I was younger, like four or five years old, I thought he was the greatest person in the world. He took me places, bought me presents, and made me feel special. He also subscribed to a book club for me, and every month a couple new books would appear in his mailbox. Since even as a young child, I loved to read, there was nothing more he could have done to win my adoration. He told me he loved me, called me "Monkey-shine" and generally pretended he was a great guy. However then I began to realize he wasn't as wonderful as I thought.

I remember very clearly and very specifically one occasion on which he promised to take me roller-skating. I had been looking forward to it for days. He canceled. I was crushed. He had lied to me. You can't imagine how torn my little heart felt. I was ripped from my dream world. He was a liar. On another occasion I was totally humiliated, when we were pulled over by the police because he had a bottle of alcohol on the dashboard of his van. I was young so it didn't completely turn me against him, since I didn't realize the severity of the incident. However, the buildup of disappointments was hard for my young inexperienced self to handle.

Eventually I forgave him. A part of me still loved this bear of a man who had reigned as my hero for so long. In a way I needed him. He was always the person that in my mind it seemed I could go to if I was sent to my room for misbehaving. I would always yell from my room that I wanted my daddy. I would whisper to myself, and repeat in my mind, I want my daddy, or, if only my daddy were here things would be okay, I wouldn't have misbehaved if I was with him, and he would certainly never punish me.

He was my father. This confused me. I had a daddy at home, like most of my friends, but unlike most of my friends, I had a second dad, who visited, and took me places. I didn't know if this made me special or strange.

Unlike many children of divorce, I was never exposed to any negative comments or information about him. My mother was always very kind in allowing me to believe he was someone worth idolizing.

Then he moved to Massachusetts. Since I lived in Wisconsin (and still do) this created a communication gap. "But we can still write letters" he consoled. I cried and cried and cried.

He was deserting me. I wouldn't be able to visit him anymore. However, I did manage to get over the trauma, and when my little soul had rejuvenated itself, sure enough, there was a letter for me in the mailbox. Oh, how excited I was when that first letter arrived. Being so young I didn't get much mail, and he had written me just like he had promised.

We wrote each other for about six months, and being his faithful admirer, I saved each and every one of the letters he wrote me. He continued to send me birthday gifts, Easter gifts, Halloween, and Christmas gifts.

He moved in with his girlfriend Sue, and Sue's daughter, Cory. He continued to write, though less often. I found out his girlfriend was pregnant with his child. Great! I felt as if I was being replaced. Especially since she was born only two days before my birthday, and they named her Samantha Lynn, since Cory and I both had Lynn as our middle name.

When she got old enough they came to Wisconsin to visit his mother. On Christmas day they picked me up from my grandma's house where I was having Christmas dinner, and brought me to Fennimore, where she lived. I stayed there for a weekend.

During this time I had been growing older and more observant. Though I never heard it outright I soon realized that my Dad (who I call by his first name) was one of the Deadbeat Dad's America loves to trash (with good reason). His on again off again letters, calls and presents would cause criticism from my watchful eye in the years to come.

Since this trip I have heard from him probably four times. Two of which were to tell me he was sorry for acting like such a jerk, and promising to write and call more often, and one of which was to announce his girlfriend's second pregnancy (this child was named Grace Linda, Grace after her mother, and Linda after his). I replied to each letter, being careful not to invest much hope. After not receiving any response, I became very upset, and composed and typed a very formal letter informing him that I was very upset at his lace of communication, and constantly worried (as I did) about whether I would be informed if he were to die, or be tragically hurt. I also informed him that I was very interested in communicating with him and his family, but only if he was planning on returning my future letters. I received no response for a very long period of time, and eventually my mother called and asked him if he ever planned on writing back. He said yes and wrote me once. I responded, however he did not. I became very frustrated, and not knowing what else to do I stuffed every letter, postcard, and picture he had ever sent me of him or his family, into various envelopes, stamped them and mailed them to his home.

The last was very emotional for me. It was at his mother's funeral. (He wanted to see her in her coffin, but I refused. I felt I was not entitled, since I only remembered seeing her once.) I attended with my mother's mother, since I was apprehensive about going alone, and my mother couldn't take off work.

It's been a couple of years since then. I have since been adopted by my dad. My name has been legally changed, and technically he is no longer a part of my life. He is, however, still a very emotionally important part of my life. I was motivated to write this article when he called, and once again apologized for being a jerk, asking me to forgive him, and swearing he'd write. In a way this article is my own personal way of healing, letting it all hang out, once and for all.

It seems unfair. Every time I get used to the idea that he just doesn't care about me, he picks at my scab I've enveloped my feelings in, irritates the wound and causes an infection of tears and hopelessly sad feelings. If only he understood that I would like to stay in contact with him, but only if it is on a forever basis.

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