"You created me, so don't you wanna see me?" - Marceline's Song
From the time I was younger, the most I ever heard from my birth father was an 'I miss you' card sent through the mail. It always came certified and I always had to sign for it. The card always had a $20 bill in it, which at the time was more than my seven year old brain knew what to do with.
When the mail person asked me for my signature there was always some sense of dread. Thinking about it to this day even unearths those old feelings that I buried. Could I say that it was resentment?
Perhaps to some degree.
But I couldn't say that my mother and I ever lived a bad life in his absence. We were probably better for it.
Even if that meant that she had to work hard during the day while I stayed at home with my grandparents.
At that time, he would come by on the weekends. I don't remember feeling particularly happy about the visits, nor did I dread them. I just always thought they were out of place.
I knew this man was my father, but it just felt weird. It always did.
He wasn't there when I said my first words. He wasn't there when I took my first steps. He wasn't there when I started school... and then one day he just appeared when I was four and a couple weekends I had to go see him.
Shortly after, my mother married the first man whom I ever called 'dad' and came to raise me. We moved away meaning the man who I only saw a couple weekends a month (whom I was on a first name basis with) disappeared from whence he came only to become sappy, empty Hallmark phrases on manufactured cards.
I asked my mom at seven why he never came to see me if he sent periodic 'I miss you' cards and she didn't have a good answer. She always said she didn't know.
How could she?
I felt like it had something to do with the months of unpaid child support that I heard mentioned - that thankfully, we didn't need - or the fact that I couldn't change my last name when my mother got married. Something about that always set a bitterness in me.
Every time a card came in the mail, my mother and I would have a long conversation about him. I always asked why he didn't want to see me. She didn't know. She asked if I wanted to see him. I didn't.
And that was usually that, though sometimes in those conversations my mother would mention, "He always said he wanted to tell his side of the story when you were old enough."
By the time I became a teenager, those cards came less and less. When I was eighteen, they stopped coming altogether.
And for a while I forgot about him. At least until I was about to start school at a state university. Around the same time, my parents moved to a town that was thirty minutes away from where I knew he was living. I decided for that summer to stay with my parents in their new home while waiting for my lease to kick in.
I also decided on a sunny day towards the end of May to find out the unknown side of the story myself.
Filled with determination, I tied my afro off my neck with a bandana, grabbed a couple of snacks and hopped into my VW Beetle before taking off down scenic A1A.
It was time to give the other side a fair shake.