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God Knows MAG
“I'll see you Saturday morning, then?” my father asked, his voice sounding needy over the phone. It didn't stir an ounce of emotion in my heart, unless vengeance was an emotion.Finally, I was calling the shots.
“I'll try to be there,” I said, my voice casual, light. I would be there; God knows I needed to be there. But he would never know that. I would never let him get that close.
We hung up and I sat in the chair behind my desk, slamming the phone on the table. Who was he? Why did he think he could suddenly show up and change the order of things? Why did he even think I wanted him back in my life? After four years, I was getting along quite well without any input or support from him. My mother had struggled with two part-time jobs, making the best life she could for me. She had been more than enough for me; she had taken on his role as well as her own. I didn't need him. At least that's what I liked to tell myself.
The anger ebbed away, the urge for vengeance dissipated, and I was left smaller than before. I put my head in my hands and felt the hot tears flow. I was deflated. I was frail, weak and alone. Every girl needs a father figure in her life; that's what my counselor loved to tell me. She made it clear that my desire for male approval wasn't because I was into chasing after boys. It was because I needed attention, attention from someone I could see as my father, someone who approved of me, who wanted to protect me. My mother, amazing as she was, couldn't do everything.
If only there hadn't been a divorce, I always thought. But that wasn't the issue; two people who can't stand each other should not be forced to live under the same roof, and I had come to terms with that. But leaving me for four years, the week before my 13th birthday, simply to be with another woman? And then another, and another? That I could never understand, no matter what excuses he tried to hurl at me. No matter how many tears he might cry, I would never forgive him for that. He had damaged me, without even lifting a finger.
My mother called me and I slowly rose, wiping my tears. I walked into my bathroom, licking my finger and rubbing away any trace of smeared mascara. I didn't want to worry her. Downstairs, she was sitting at the kitchen table, opening a piece of mail. Probably another bill. I sat and looked out the window. The waning sunlight was spilling in, painting the kitchen a soft orange hue.
“What did your dad want?” she asked, putting down the paper, and taking off her glasses.
“To see me,” I said, trying hard to keep my voice even. My throat hurt trying to keep down the lump that could bring more tears. She smiled, a sad, soft smile. No matter how I tried to hide my pain, she knew.
“That's good, honey,” she said, reaching across and placing her warm hand on my cold fingers. I nodded, blinking rapidly. I refused to cry again, to cry over someone who meant nothing to me, as I did to him.
“I guess,” I mumbled. She sighed, and removed her hand. For a minute she stared out the window, the sun reflecting off her shiny black hair. Her eyes became watery and I thought she might cry, but she was stronger than that. The sun was probably just too bright.
“Want to hear a story?” she asked, turning her gaze toward me. I nodded; I was ready to hear anything rather than discuss my father, or lack thereof.
“Well, Grandma Margie isn't your real grandmother,” my mother began, looking at me to gauge my reaction. I never saw Grandma Margie; in that way she and my father were the same for me.
“Then who the heck is she?” I asked. Not that it mattered, but it wasn't every day you find out your grandma is a fake.
“She's your step-grandma. Grandpa Jimmy married her after Shirley, your dad's real mom.” Well, what do you know, divorce runs in the family.
“Shirley died when your father was young,” my mom continued, getting a good reaction out of me this time.
“I didn't know Daddy's mom died,” I said quietly, leaning forward. “How old was he?”
My eyes widened and I leaned back. That must have been rough.
“What happened to her?” I asked, wondering why I hadn't heard about this before.
My mom looked out the window again while I thought of all the possibilities. Car wreck, cancer …
“She committed suicide.”
Saturday came and I dragged myself out of bed early to hop in the shower. As I rubbed the shampoo in, I thought about what I wanted for my 18th birthday. Money would probably be at the top of my list, something easy for the family to give. Then my mind flicked to my mom's birthday, a month after mine.
The school year was coming; thoughts of college filled my mind with new people and places. My career choice followed and I contemplated becoming a lawyer for half a minute, if that. Grad school wasn't something I was interested in.
It wasn't until I pulled into my father's driveway a while later that I allowed myself to think about him – about his past, his childhood and the mangled future. As I walked up the steps, my heart pounded. I never wanted to forgive him, and I hadn't yet. Before my arm reached for the small white bell, the door opened and my father stood there, grinning. I stepped back to allow the door to open and he welcomed me in, throwing his arms around me in a tight hug. In my wildest dreams I couldn't imagine myself hugging back. But I did, and tears sprang to my eyes.
The image of the not-yet-teenage boy standing stock still in his living room came to my mind. The sound of two gunshots, one after another, filled my ears. The ambulance arrived and didn't leave for an hour. The entire time he sat in his room; I couldn't imagine the thoughts going through his mind.
And then, it was over. There were no discussions between him and his father and his sisters. There was no counseling about his feelings. There were infinite questions, I'm sure, but they were never verbalized and if they were, they would never be answered. That evening was taboo, and no one wanted to touch it with a 10-foot pole. I know my dad desperately needed it to be touched. The only thing he received from his father after the death was hatred. For what reason, he may never know; his father's funeral had been two years ago.
That hug released my pent-up anger and allowed my forgiveness to flow. Everyone has a story, and God knows his was worse than mine.