I made my first conscious decision when I was seven years old. My biological father was (and probably still is) an alcoholic and an abuser. My mother got pregnant six times, only two survived. A relative revealed that my mother was severely abused and beaten up when my father found her pregnant. It was never clear why he got so upset with the pregnancies. The worst abuse took place shortly after my mother gave birth to my sister. My father accused her of having an affair (which wasn’t true) and beat her up, leaving her in hospital care with bruises literally all over her body and face. After she got out of the hospital my mother escaped the continuous torment with my sister but somehow left me behind. When she was strong enough, my mother fought back and lost the case—the judge granted my father the custody of me. My mother was left with no financial security—not even a dime, my sister and bruises that never healed until she passed away.
I stayed with my father for one year before I decided enough is enough. A man pointed a gun to my face to make the nanny reveal my father’s hiding place during a raid, but that wasn’t why I wanted to leave. My father used to sneak into my room at midnight and steal my piggy bank, but that wasn’t the reason I left. It was really simple: no one in my class went to school in a Mercedes with a bodyguard. Believe me, it’s very far from cool when you’re seven. My father believed my mother would kidnap me and closely monitored every inch of my move. I could not talk to my mother on the phone. I could not play with my best friend after school. I wasn’t allowed to play outside. I could not attend birthday parties. I could not do things kids my age did. Other kids made fun of me. I fought them and lost. Going to school became a constant torture. I had tons of dolls and toys at home that I barely touched. I had everything a kid would have ever wanted, except love. I wanted my mother. I wanted to see my baby sis. I craved for human touch and affection that nanny and maids could never provide.
My father developed a habit of coming into my room once a day, around 4-6 o’clock in the afternoon, sitting on my bed and with a soft tone asked me two questions: 1) Do you love me? 2) Which one you love best, your mother or me? Sometimes he added the third question: Are you sure? My answers remained the same. Until I had enough.
He received a slightly different answer one day. Yes, I loved him, but I loved my mother more. He asked why. I did not answer. Instead, I told him I wanted to live with my mother. I kept repeating the same answers for days. It took him less than a month to send me off. After that I only saw him once or twice a year since and strangely enough, I did not miss him. We talked on the phone every day before I started to resent him—he always called in the afternoon while I was playing with my sister and cousins. We talked less and less. I was in junior high school when my mother told me that he had stopped sending money for my education. My father got married two more times. He came to my mother’s funeral half drunk, grinning like a fool and talking nonsense. He was arrested the day my little sister got admitted to a hospital for appendectomy. He publicly disowned us a few years later. We never saw him again.
I honestly thought the pain from everything he did would never heal.
I spent precious years of my life hating him. Blaming him for my miseries (and for the losers that I dated). Asking unanswerable questions. Why he had to be such an asshole. Why he treated my mother the way he did. Why he made our lives miserable. Why this and why that. I could not find it in my heart to forgive him. I tried. I failed. Maybe, just maybe, forgiveness was not something that’s meant to be.
Until the day I finally saw him—truly saw him—from a completely different point of view. I might not be able to call him father anymore but that doesn’t make him less of one. That was when I got it. The awareness and wisdom I never knew existed. Something I had never understood before, when I saw him from a wounded child’s perspective: A father that lost.
I’m not sorry for leaving him. It was one of the best decisions in my life. I’m sorry that he lost me, a daughter who at only seven years of age firmly chose not to be with him. I’m sorry that he lost my sister. I’m sorry that he never got to see us grow. I’m sorry for his pain as much as I’m sorry for the pain he had inflicted upon us.
I paved my way towards healing with the understanding that he, too, has suffered. As a human being.
And that’s how I forgive him.
Happy Father’s Day, Pap. Wherever you are.