The Day I Was No Longer A Daddy's Girl

by Ellen Usher

I do the same thing every Father’s Day. I wake up. I thank God for my grandfather. I reflect and think about the many times my grandfather was there for me when my own father abandoned me physically, emotionally, and financially. I make no phone calls to wish my father a Happy Father’s Day. I turn on my music and I mourn for the ten year old Nicole. I think about what her life would have been like had he made better choices. I cry a little and think about the day she stopped being a Daddy’s Girl.

I cannot pretend that I have no good memories. I can’t say that my father was never there because he was there-in the beginning. I have memories of being carried on his shoulders and feeling like I could do no wrong in his eyes. I was that girl--the one who had her father wrapped around her fingers. I spent the first ten years of my life as a Daddy’s Girl. There’s nothing sadder than being a former Daddy’s Girl. They say you don’t miss what you’ve never had, but what do you do when you’ve had it and then had it stripped away? How do you process the wonderful memories of being loved with those of abandonment?

At the beginning of every semester I ask my students to write a narrative--a story about an event that has caused them to change their view of themselves or the world around them. I usually tell them about how I learned the value of an education in my grandmother’s beauty shop. While the story is a true one, it is not the real story. The real story is that my life was forever changed the day I stopped being a Daddy’s Girl.

Growing up the child of a single parent teacher you learn many things--namely, that summers are not the same for you. While other kids dream of summer days playing in the sun, going swimming, and not having school, you learn that summer means hard times. At ten I understood that when Mommy didn’t put money in escrow, we would have nothing. We’d spend our summer depending on the kindness of my grandparents who lived downstairs. Summer meant no birthday parties or presents. In the summer you got IOUs for everything, including back-to-school clothes and supplies.

I was blessed because my grandmother was always willing to lend out the Stix or Famous Barr charge card, but this year I didn’t want to ask her. My parents had been living separately, but I would see him often and I decided to ask my father if he would take us school clothes shopping. To my surprise he said yes. He said he’d pick me up Saturday morning. I got dressed and stood by the door. My mother knew the truth, but didn’t say anything.

Saturday morning turned into Saturday afternoon. I got a chair and sat by the door. I peeked out every few minutes knowing that my father would come walking up the stairs to pick me up. He knew it was important. School was important and I needed school supplies and clothes. The afternoon turned to evening and my mother tried to get me to give up the idea.

“Nicole, he’s not coming,” she said.

I didn’t believe her because he told me he would be there. He hadn’t called to say he wasn’t coming. Saturday evening turned to dark and I still waited. I wasn’t thinking that the stores had long closed. I decided to get my pillow and blanket and sleep by the door because if my father said he would do something, surely he would.

I don’t remember what happened the next day. I am sure I got a call, one of many explaining or trying to explain why he hadn’t come through when he promised he would. I didn’t know it then, but this would be the first of many disappointments. I would have years of countless disappointments and hurt: Failure to show up, failure to pay child support. Many years of tracking him down and getting his checks garnished, only to learn that he quit a job so he wouldn’t have to pay. He’d call sporadically even asking me to talk to my mother and ask her to stop having his checks garnished. He’d explain to me that he had a wife and a new daughter that he had to support.

Slowly the veil would be lifted, and the man I loved so much as a little girl became a stranger to me. I didn’t know him and I no longer had expectations because they would be dashed. I had to stop allowing myself to get hurt. I no longer allowed myself to believe in him.

While he is still here physically, he is forever lost to me--- I lost him that day. My world was forever changed that day--the day I discovered that people who are supposed to protect you and love you can hurt you deeply. I lost a little of myself the day I stopped being a Daddy’s Girl.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


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Lessons on Forgiveness: How I Forgave My Father and was Set Free Indeed

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