Saturday, June 22, 2013

"Are you out there somewhere..."

"Sometimes I think about you.
And I wonder if you're out there, 

thinking about me.

And would you even recognize
the woman that your little girl
has grown up to be..."

I fell in love with Kellie Pickler during her tenure on ABC's Dancing with the Stars. I'd never listened to her music.  But after watching her breath-taking performance -- with partner Derrick Hogue -- I couldn't help wanting to understand the woman behind the feelings she shared so nakedly.

When I finally came across her heart-breaking "I Wonder," it was almost too much to bear.

It reached deep inside of me, and touched a place I thought I'd long-since silenced, and buried alive. So much so that I'd almost forgotten what it felt like to be the "me," that I thought she was singing about. Almost...

I am writing this post, not to resurrect sadness and pain, but to encourage others who may be feeling helpless and alone.

Here's my story:

I was four the year that my birthfather disappeared from my life. The details of how that happened -- and why -- are not pertinent to this post. When I turned eighteen I saw him for the first time in over 14 years.  We had a brief visit at a park. And afterwards, he evaporated. Then at 36, just after the birth of my first child, I found him again. And again, he chose to disappear after an emotionally draining reunion.

I grew up with a stepfather who provided for all eight of the children he shared with my mother. Six of us were his own biological children.  My sister and I were from our mother's first marriage. Nevertheless, resources were shared equally and I never knew hunger, homelessness, or grave illness. For this, I will always be grateful.

But I also grew up knowing that I was not his "real" daughter.  I knew that somewhere - out there - I had a father. I had fleeting memories of being held in his arms, pushed on a swing -- loved. I dreamed that if only he knew where I was, he would come find me and love me.

In the end - after our first awkward reunion - I would have to be the one to find him. And each time, he would tearfully tell me that he loved me.  He would say how much he wished he would have been there for my childhood -- to see me grow into the woman I'd become. He'd stir up girlhood hopes and sorrows and then disappear on a cloud of promises -- never to be heard from again -- until the next time.

A year ago my sister sent me an email. She'd discovered that our father had passed away 16 months earlier. I was devastated.  Feelings of devastation that I could have never anticipated.  All hopes of him caring about me, showing interest in my children, pride in my accomplishments -- were gone.

I grew up in an instant. I was no longer a little girl secretly dreaming that her own father would someday - finally - wake up, and discover that he missed her. I was a woman who'd worked very hard to be a good person in hopes that one day he would notice -- he never did.

For fifty years I'd secretly never given up hope.  Suddenly, I felt bereft. And it wasn't just about me and what I had missed out on. I was sad for him. I knew I wasn't "all that," but I had been a good girl, a hard-working student, a loyal daughter, and a good mom. He'd missed it all.

I didn't know what to do with those feelings. On the outside -- and in those first few layers of patted down emotions just below the surface -- I was fine. But deep inside I was a waif. I was a woman-child who'd never been cherished by her father, and now it was too late.  It was too much to bear.

Sorrow, anger, and confusion bounced off the walls of my heart and echoed through the empty chambers of all I'd lost. I could no longer push it down without experiencing unbearable pain. I knew I had to find a way to process it spiritually, or it would take me down.

Mary Baker Eddy's Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures was my constant companion in the darkness. One night I revisited a long-loved statement:

"A mother’s affection
cannot be weaned from her child,
because the mother-love includes
purity and constancy,
both of which are immortal.
Therefore maternal affection
lives on
under whatever difficulties."

I've often thought about how this statement empowers both mother and child. If a mother's affection cannot be weaned from her child, then a child's affection cannot be weaned from her mother. Eddy promises that this truth lives on under whatever difficulties -- immortally, eternally, forever. Lives on beyond the false limitations of death. Beyond whatever difficulties.

My right to love my father -- to want him to know his beautiful daughters, to feel part of a family, to know himself as a good father -- was something he couldn't take from me.  It was mine.  My affection for the office of father wasn't going to be defined by his behavior. My love for my own sweet, innocent daughterhood couldn't be undermined by neglect -- or apathy.

The blighted buddings of hope in me started to blossom again. My right to be a good daughter was as changeless as God's appointment of me to that office. I could pray for my father's heart. I could include him in a spiritual expectation of good, as Eddy counsels us to pray in the second line of her "Daily Prayer," which reads:

"And may Thy Word
enrich the affections of all mankind,
and govern them."

My father's affections were under the immortal influence of God's Word. They were constantly evolving -- higher and higher -- from a boundless basis. Death could not interrupt his spiritual self-discovery.  Nothing could deprive him of all  the blessings that fatherhood promised -- not even death. And likewise, death could not undermine my childlike hope, innocence, trust.

This clear message of love from my divine Parent - for His perfect daughter - began to heal my heart and empower me.  Nothing could stop me from exercising the right to honor my own affections -- for my father, my stepfather, all fathers.  Not because of their deserving, but because of my own right to be true to myself.

I now know that there is never a lost opportunity to love.

shared with a daughter's affection,


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