Guest Post: The Fighter Still Remains
This is a guest post from The Fighter Still Remains about being the child of a single mother…
My real father left my mom when I was two and me when I was three.
My real father left my mom when I was two and me when I was three.
This set a tone for my relationship with my mother and the man she wound up marrying that would at times be beautiful and others tragic. What we have shared over the years has been my greatest strength. The perseverance of making it through that abandonment. We weren’t just a single mother and the product of that, we were a family no one wanted. It does not matter how old you are or how long you are alone for- abandonment is a jagged blade that leaves wretched wounds. They don’t heal unless you treat them properly.
You can’t tell a child something like that is ok because a child doesn’t know that they aren’t ok. My mother tried by showering me with love, giving me everything I wanted and protecting me from the world. In a lot of ways this enabling treatment stunted my growth. Maybe I did blame her somewhere inside. My years of misogyny would’ve made more sense. Ether way, I can’t tell you. I am just now, as a 27 year old father of two, beginning to deal with the feelings that he didn’t want me.
I only have one memory of my father. Maybe two years old in his dank house with shag carpet and fake tile linoleum that curled around the edges. He was sitting in the living room on his stained brown couch drinking a long neck. “Dad” had just gotten me a Mr. Freeze Batman toy. It was sick, man. You filled it with water and put it in the freezer and it would form this impenetrable layer of ice around Mr. Freeze’s suit. I spilled the water all over the curled, dirty linoleum floor. He beat me senseless. All I remember is cowering, hands above my head.
Soon after that he left. I’ve been told that he called on my third birthday and I said I didn’t want to speak to him.
Just like that picture, our life became just Mom and I for a few years. I kept her going without knowing it. We lived in a dank basement apartment and Mom lived off venison a neighbor gave her. My first real Christmas was thanks to a hundred dollars her boss gave her Christmas Eve. No pot to use and no window to throw it out of. We were so broke we couldn’t even pay attention.
Now, my mom remarried by the time I was five, but irreparable damage had been done. Our relationship, my soul and the way I dealt with men would be forever changed. My mother became my protector and later on my greatest enabler. To her my real father leaving our life was her fault and she spent the rest of my childhood trying to make up for that. Even after she remarried it was just her and I in an odd way. Dad (as I’ve come to know him) tried his best to fill that hole in my soul and replace what my real father (John) stole.. There was nothing he could have done our said, though.
I am not complaining. My mother and my Dad did the best they could to make me a whole man. Mom even took it a little far at times, not truly allowing Dad to be a father and discipline me as he should have. They tried their best, though. Being only amateurs at the whole parenting thing and the way I’ve turned out, I’d say they did well with the busted hand they were dealt.
My mother taught me a lot. Most everything I know. Even if an apple has a hole in it, it can still be good. She would tell me to look in the mirror everyday and say, “I love you,” to myself. When times got hard the best place to be was on your knees, praying to something bigger than you. We all have some defective parts, but a person worth loving is the one who sees yours and loves you still- warts and all. Pencils have erasers because we make mistakes. Crawl before no man. Everyone needs a mental health day sometimes. These were just some of mom’s lessons.
We have, little by little, let time and distance mend the parts of our relationship that were codependent. She wore a lot of hats in my childhood. Today I have respect for her. I look at my life and realize that none of it would be without her courage.
We have no control over which way this magnificent sphere we exist on turns. Sometimes fathers leave. All we can do is try our best. My mother told me a story that at her new job as a flight attendant she had met a young man with severe disabilities. He worked in the airport picking up trash and driving the cart people put their luggage on. Her first Christmas with her new company required she worked and she was very upset about it. When she got to the airport she was surprised that the young man (Joey) came to pick her up and take her to her gate.
“What are you doing here, Joey? It’s Christmas! You should be home with your family.”
“Yeah, but who would pick up the luggage?” Joey beamed back with a puzzled smile.
It was through no fault of my mom or my dad that John did not want to be a part of the miracle of raising a child. She could have done what he did or turned to the bottle or more abusive men. She didn’t though. Dad could have passed on the instant family (just add him). They put their needs aside and decided they were going to raise a man. They tried their best, but he had no clue what they were doing. Together, though, they made a patchwork quilt that now is becoming whole over time.
If you are a single parent, do not give up. If your child and you were abandoned, remember it is not your fault. That is not your cross to bear. Try your best every day. Focus on the small things. Make every sandwich as good as you can, fold every shirt as perfect as possible and make every hug count. When you add all the small things up they will take care of the big things themselves.
I hardly remember the mistakes my parents made when I look back on our life. I remember a dad that let me eat sherbet and watch cartoons Saturday morning while he cut the grass. Did I wish for a long time that he had made me go out and work so I could’ve come into adulthood with a stronger work ethic? Yeah. I wouldn’t trade that now, though. And my mother, I remember chicken noodle soup, grilled cheese and a blockbuster movie when I was sick. Did this give me a feeling of entitlement that has been tough to overcome? Sure. But they raised me to be strong enough that I’ve overcome it.
Your kids will have issues no matter what you do. Give up the “perfect parent” idea if you haven’t already, At times they will blame you for them not being able to get what they want. C’est la vie. If you teach them the fundamentals of being a good person, they too will have the ability to not live in that bitter resentment. Give them attention and show them through the way you treat life and other people that they matter. Teach them to laugh at their mistakes. Above all else love them. Even when I felt unlovable I knew somewhere deeper, my mom and dad loved me.
Give yourself a break today. No one is perfect and I know that because my parents told me!