A Letter To My Father, The First Man Who Broke My Heart

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It’s been almost a decade since you left. The day is still vivid in my mind, how you left with promises of returning home every weekend. Slowly every weekend became once a fortnight, once a month, and before I knew it, your absence became this gaping hole. Your departure was the first time I was taught the extent to which the human heart can crave for another person. I was eleven, what did I know about separation? Let alone a divorce?

You taught me the truth about heartbreak; the heart never breaks into two complete halves, but rather the bigger half lives on in the other person.

The events from the time you left until my teen years are vague to me now. Probably a blessing in disguise; could my subconscious have chosen to filter those memories out? The times when I begged you to stay. Perhaps I have you to thank, for teaching me the first lesson in relationships: never beg for someone to be in your life. This is the benefit of hindsight; suddenly everything that used to be a blur now becomes crystal clear.

For leaving a beautiful woman who loved you deeply and immensely in such a heartless manner, I will never forgive you. When I recall your departure from our lives, I’m instantly brought to the image of my mother crying over the failure of her marriage. Desperate to maintain a semblance of her family, reaching out to many to convince you to change your mind. This was where I learned my first lesson in human nature: how quick people were to cast aspersions about others. My mother was just a woman attempting to save her marriage and all people did was look down on her as a single mother.

It has been 9 years and a month exactly since you’ve walked out on our lives, but it feels like you were my father in a different lifetime. Your departure made me grow up so much faster. It’s been said that a daughter’s relationship with her father is the most important because it sets the foundation for how an acceptable relationship with males should be. I went into this spiral, acting up and dating guys who were no good.

I kept trying to find you in every boy I dated, a futile pursuit it was.

Funny, when I think that not too long ago I was your shadow. All I ever wanted to do was to be exactly like you. I revered you. You were infallible in my eyes. There was no wrong that you could not have made right in my mind. And this prevented me from acknowledging your indiscretions. Frankly, I was in denial that you would have chosen to leave us just like that. As ashamed as I am to say this, even I joined the bandwagon to completely push the blame on my own mother for you leaving. For causing so much pain to a woman who toiled laboriously to bring a smile to my face, I will never forgive myself.

Your departure is the real reason for my resilience. There have been many moments in my life I have wanted to quit, but the cowardice I had associated with your choice always stopped me. Something good had to come out of this, and for every private session of crying I had over your departure, I made sure I promised myself that this wouldn’t define me. I was going to come out of this not unscathed, but rather bruised and wiser. I would rise from this.

As I grew older, my optimism about you soured. I saw you for the person you were, a man who left his family in pursuit of greener pastures. But I also realized that I had to respect your choice, and perhaps the possibility that your loss was inevitable. You gave me my first lesson in the art of losing, as aptly put by Elizabeth Bishop in her poem One Art:

“The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.”

In attempting to be strong for my mother, I admit I reserved my meltdowns for moments when I was alone. She had gone through enough, and the last thing she needed was to worry more about me. Your decision to abandon me haunts me to this day, as I constantly question whether the ones I cherish will leave me. Perhaps it’s the “daddy issues,” or the constant fear that I will be inadequate for anyone. I’ve broken down about this multiple times, thinking about how heartless what you did was.

I keep my emotions warped shut tightly in the recesses of my mind, finding it hard to explain to someone this throbbing ache I have for a person who left my life prematurely. I downplay my emotions to cope with the fact that you will never be back in my life, let alone in the way I crave for you to be. Every milestone I’ve had, I can’t help but wonder how it would have been like if you were there to see me do well. Whenever you did call occasionally, it hurts me that you always had an agenda. It was from you I learned to keep my guard up and my instincts heightened. It saddens me that it took me entering university for me to hear from you more often, as though only now I am worthy of your time.

The divorce has changed my outlook on love. From being an ardent optimist, I’ve become a realist. I have accepted the inevitable impermanence of relationships. You have forced me to embrace life’s transience, and for that I am thankful. I hope someday when it’s my turn to get married, that I’ll be able to do it right, and once. Now that you have moved on with your life, I wish you all the best and I will always love you. TC mark

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