Learning to Love Again: My Life With and Without My Father

I'm a self-proclaimed daddy's girl. My most vivid, early childhood memories are those of my father gently caressing my hair and telling me how pretty it was and then gifting to me brown dolls that I was supposed to love just as much as he loved me. After over a year of therapy, tearful nights and long adult conversations with him, I can truthfully say that my father was my first love and my first heartbreak.

With this Sunday being Father's Day, I find myself bracing for the clash of the have's and have-nots on social media. As someone who has been on both sides of the spectrum and is still coming to terms with the after-effects of them, I find myself exasperated and even angry with all the parties. In my special utopia, fatherlessness wouldn't even be worthy of a discussion, because no one would have grown up without their biological father in their life. But in our reality, the most I can hope for any of us to have and express this upcoming Sunday is profound understanding.

My father had been in and out of my life since I was 7. After a brief reconciliation with my mother that ended in divorce when I was 10 years old, our relationship became strained and close to non-existent. Throughout my tumultuous teen years, my heartbreak and loneliness for my father turned into anger -- and dare I say it: rage. I hardened my heart towards him and felt an intense hatred and jealousy for all those who still had their fathers in their life. I blamed myself -- and my mother for my father's absence. In my teenaged mind I held everyone else - except my father - accountable for his actions (or lack thereof). Even in my intense state of pain, I remained a daddy's girl.

It wasn't until I got to college and ended up in two relationships that had me begging God for my sanity back (quite literally) that I forced myself to confront my demons about my father. With the help of an amazing therapist, I realized that the little girl inside of me was still missing her father like he was her skin. With enough emotional tools, I chartered a Jet Blue flight for West Palm Beach and visited my father. He welcomed me with open arms, and I immediately melted into them. My Papa is a charmer, and  if I didn't keep my head on straight, I would have allowed him to dote on me, dismissing the years of agony that had left my heart and spirit in shambles.

In his backyard, with a quivering voice I released my years of anger, frustration, longing and love for him. He cried. I cried. He apologized, and when I looked into his eyes I saw regret and love. I opened up to him about my past relationships -- the abuse I allowed myself to accept because my loneliness and need to be loved had known no bounds. And from there, he and I started rebuilding our relationship. I would be the biggest liar since George W. Bush to say that it has been peachy-keen from there on. There are times that I do not pick up the phone when he calls, or get angered at the slightest jest. But, I am human and I know that healing from over 10 years of pain is not going to be a walk in the park.

I love my father, and I know he thinks the world of me. I can only hope that those who have experienced fatherlessness like I have, can find some kind of reconciliation or healing. And that those who have known the love and protection of a father (as I did early in life) can truly understand where the pain and hurt that some exhibit stem from. I wish all those who are fathers - biological or otherwise - a Happy Father's Day. For those whom will find the day as a slap to the face, I offer my understanding, my experiences, my hopes, tears and prayers.

Valerie Jean-Charles is a 23 year old community servant and writer in Brooklyn, NY. She holds a BA in Political Science from Fordham University. 

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