My Dad told me he was proud of me today. It came in the form of a simple text message but that was enough. I cannot remember the last time he said that to me. Maybe when making the honor roll in elementary school. Maybe when I graduated. Maybe. But nothing sticks out in my mind.
I’ve always felt like a disappointment to my Dad. He grew up the oldest of 6. He was the tall handsome one. He was a popular kid in high school. He was physically fit, played sports and dated the prettiest girls. He was charming. A high school standout.
I was an average student. Always a few pounds overweight and more than a few in my adult years. I was born blind in one eye, so most sports were out of question for me. I ran cross country briefly and tried my hand at soccer once. I hated both so I stuck with cheerleading. My friends were considered the cool crowd but I was never a star at anything. I ran for student council once and lost. My biggest accomplishment in high school was in 1995 when I taught myself to use Microsoft Office 3.0 on friend’s new computer. I worked in Word, recreating school report cards, printing them out then using the library’s photocopier to copy the school’s seal to the page. As far as my parents knew I was an AB student. They never questioned me when the honor rolls were printed in the local newspaper. Thank God because I never thought that far in advance. My fake grades were good enough for a handful of decent scholarships for college. My real grades were good enough to graduate high school a year early, and so I did. I started college but my Dad cut off all financial assistance for school when I moved in with a boy – a dagger in the last bit of our symbiotic relationship. Then a month before my 20th birthday, I gave birth to my daughter. At the urging of my family, I married her father less than a year later. Then I finished college.
See, I didn’t do great things and when I did do things, I didn’t do them in traditional Christian southern order. But I felt like a disappointment to my dad much earlier than that.
My parents divorced before I started 1st grade. Daddy would pick us up from daycare every other Friday then we would spend the next 48 hours at his house with his new bride – the one he started seeing while still married to my Mama. The new bride didn’t like my Mama and she made that known, even to two young girls who loved their Mama more than anything on earth. For that reason, I hated going to Dad’s house. To her, our clothes were never nice enough. Our shoes never new enough. And when we brought clothes over for our weekend stays, they had to be clean or it was assumed that Mama never washed them. Dad never took up for Mama.
On holidays and during the summer months, Daddy would take us to visit his mother and father on our weekends with him. We’d pack up in their grey Aerostar van and before that their dark blue Buick and take the two-hour drive to the north Georgia mountains. I treasured those weekends because Grandma and Grandpa, along with Dad’s brothers and sisters knew my Mama was a good woman and even though Dad didn’t love her anymore, they loved her. They always asked how she was doing and that always made me love them even more. Every time we’d visit, I would venture down to my Grandparent’s bedroom. There was a family portrait that hung on the wall there. I’d sit on the end of their king size bed and stare at it for hours. The photograph had been taken on my Grandparent’s front lawn, before Mama and Daddy divorced. It included my grandparents, their six children, spouses, and the growing brood of grandchildren. I was around 4 years old in the photograph. Over the years people had been painted out of the photo as they left the family through divorce. But my Mama was never painted out. I cherished that photograph not because I wanted my parents back together again but simply because my Mama was still in it. I still long for that photograph to hang in my home one day. But I digress. Aside from those weekends at Grandma and Grandpa’s, I felt like a disappointment simply because I belonged to my Mama.
Things got better though when Dad’s new wife gave birth to her first of two sons. I had a brother that I loved so much and she had something else to focus on during our weekend visits. Still, when seeing Daddy with his boys I couldn’t help but feel like had I been a boy he would have been more proud of me. Like the time he tried to teach me to swing a golf club. My form was perfect, grip exact, power through my swing on point. I just couldn’t connect the driver and the ball – ever. Being right handed and blind in my left eye made hitting the ball quite difficult for me. I remember feeling embarrassed and like a disappointment. So, the seed was planted early.
Sometimes I think that my feeling like Dad isn’t proud of me is simply because he does not know me. Sure, he knows me as his daughter but he does not know me like my Mama knows me, like my friends and co-workers know me, like my daughter knows me. He does not know that I enjoy writing. He does not know about this blog. He never knew all the times I was named to the Dean’s List in college or how I maintained a 4.0 GPA until my last semester when I look statistics and probability. He does not know that I love cutting grass and planting flowers in my yard. He does not know that I love entertaining, white linens, and that Mexican food is, by far, my favorite. He does not know that I have an unimpeachable work ethic or that my current job will go into the books as my career.
In my mind, he’s always only known me as the average overweight girl who had a baby out of wedlock, is blind in one eye, and who misses the golf ball 3 out of 5 times. Then again, maybe I am wrong. Maybe he knows me better than I think. Maybe it’s age. Maybe it’s life. Maybe it’s regret.
“I am so proud of my girls,” his text said. “Luv u very much.”
“That means more than you know, Dad,” I replied.
And it does. That means more to me than he will ever know. And I guess the reasons don’t really matter much anymore.
My Daddy is proud of me and in the end, I think that’s all I ever really wanted to hear.