For my friend, to the father who left her.
To the man who fathered me but didn’t raise me.
I’m not writing this to bash or talk trash about you, on the contrary, I am writing to you to thank you. If you’d stayed, things could’ve turned out differently, but I don’t hold that against you anymore. I have learnt to accept my life as it is, with no regrets, and no shame. It shaped me.
Not having you in my life first broke me, hurt me and made me question God, life and myself. But with time, I became strong, powerful, careful, and now, I’m happy.
I grew up under difficult conditions, mom was constantly struggling to make ends meet. We didn’t have much but all my life I have watched my mother work tirelessly to ensure that we didn’t go to bed hungry. That drive has played a large role in me being the hard worker, entrepreneur and leader that I am today. Mom embodies all that is strength, power and love. One year, I hugged my mother through the fence at Mrs Smith’s house because she wasn’t allowed to be outside the gate during the working hours. I was not the kid that compared herself to others because I was aware of my mother’s struggles, but that day gave me a clear indication of how bad things really were at home. I must’ve been eleven or twelve when omashonisa took our sofas and after that, we lost everything else. Something happened to me every time I watched my mother trying to patch the holes on the roof we wouldn’t get rained on at night.
Even though I was still a child, I realized the heavy load on my mother’s shoulders. I felt her pain. I saw her struggle. I marveled at the way she carried her pain with such grace.
Dad, I am not telling you these things to make you feel bad, I am letting you know that leaving us wasn’t the worst thing in the world, although it wasn’t easy at the time, your absence no longer wounds us.
As a child, people always said I look like you and for a long time, hearing that brought me so much joy. In my mind I was a Daddy’s girl, I would make up stories about you at school and I would pretend that we had an amazing relationship. I would imagine that you would come back for us. But year-after-year, I found myself disappointed. Grieved. And rejected. My heart grew cold towards you.
And I need to tell you this Dad, mom never said an evil word about you. In fact, she never said a word about you. All we knew of you, is your name. And after mom passed, family members gave us your details, but we haven’t had the courage to reach out to you. Until now.
You may not have contributed much into our lives, but you gave us the best mother in the world. And for that, I’m grateful. That woman gave us all she had. And I am surprised how she managed to keep her faith alive in the midst of all the hardship and poverty she had to face. I would catch her crying some days and I wondered if she regretted ever meeting you but I never got the sense that she regretted having us.
Mom suffered under a system that was designed to crush her soul. Family gatherings were the worst. She stomached offensive jokes about how she could’ve done better in life had she not married you. She put up with being called a failure because she couldn’t hold on to a man who didn’t want her. She played referee at family events because our cousins would tease us about not having a father and we would fight back because the truth stung. Looking back now, I’m not sure who we were trying to defend; you, her or ourselves?
It wasn’t easy Dad, but mom did her best. She instilled in us a strong sense of character. She taught us to pray and she never failed to remind us that we were loved.
Dad, I’m not sure where you were on days when we couldn’t afford a hot meal at night, or when mom fell ill and we didn’t know what to do, but whatever your reasons for your absence, I want you to know that I am tired of being angry at you. I am tired of blaming you for the difficulties I’ve had to endure. I am tired of wanting you to validate and accept us. I release you.
I wouldn’t have said this in my younger days but now I think I am grateful that you left.
Maybe you could’ve stayed and brought havoc into our lives.
It was not ideal but mom played the roles of both parents and I am proud of her.
In spite of her greatest efforts however, we didn’t stop thinking about you and we didn’t stop wanting to be loved by you. Your place she could not fill.
All my life, I have pretty much lacked confidence, and I have questioned my worth but now, I think I’m beginning to heal. I’m starting to accept that your leaving does not define me. I understand now that you want the past to stay buried and you have another family and they are a priority to you. I respect that.
I have discovered that if I always see myself as someone you rejected, I will never be free. If I don’t embrace who I am now, I will stay stuck to who I was then. If I don’t do away with my anger and offended heart, I won’t amount to much, and the pain will destroy me. This revelation has altered my perspective on life. And that’s why I had to put pen to paper and let you know that I forgive you, dad. I do.
Neither one of us can undo what’s done, but at least we made it out alive… And I choose to be better now.
No longer angry.
By: Nono Cele