To My Son’s Absent Father: Thank You For Leaving Us
By Vanessa Palencia
I made so many excuses for you.
He just wasn’t ready.
He’ll realize his mistake eventually.
He’s just confused.
He didn’t have a strong family foundation.
It was my fault.
I never realized that by making excuses, I was preventing myself from realizing that you had left for good. You weren’t coming back. Ever. You were the source of all my insecurities and distrust in other guys. If you couldn’t stay for your son, then nothing could ever make any other man stay. That was a lot for my sixteen-year old self to take in because I wanted to believe in fairytales and happy endings. Because of you, I lost that dream for a little while. But because of you, I was able to mold a better version of myself.
Having my son in my life has taught me more than any amount of schooling or preparatory classes could teach me. Lessons I never imagined I would learn. I may have stormed out from the bathroom at Great America when the pregnancy test said positive, I may have bursted into tears when our mothers found out and your mom started throwing vulgar words at you, but I knew that regardless of all the drama, I was keeping my baby. Even when you left so suddenly after supporting me throughout my whole pregnancy, I knew that I wasn’t going to give up on the dreams that I had for me and my son. In fact, you gave me the motivation I needed to chase them.
I know you were scared, too. That’s why you had to step out of the room after Christian was born. The reality of seeing that baby and knowing it belonged to you scared the shit out of you. I know you were confused as to how you were supposed to feel because you said you didn’t like that I was paying more attention to the baby than I was to you. Giving birth hurt like hell, but hearing those words come out of your mouth was like a stab to the heart. I didn’t realize it then, but I already knew you were gone. Our whole lives had shifted during those hours of birthing, but my world was turned upside down the moment you uttered those words. You were just the shell of the boy I once knew, and all the heartbreaking moments you were about to put me through were going to prepare me for the woman I was to become.
So yes, while I wasted a good chunk of my time writing poems about you and singing sad songs that reminded me of you, I am thankful you left. If you hadn’t, I wouldn’t be where I am today. We wouldn’t be where we are today. If you hadn’t left, I wouldn’t have attended the community college across town to avoid seeing you and met the love of my life. If you hadn’t left, I wouldn’t have understood my own strength and how far it could take me. Thanks to you, my family is strong, fearless, and loving. I used to think that without you, we would crumble, but I have found that that isn’t the case. Without you, we have flourished.
Today, my son is a strong seven-year-old. Today, my son understands the meaning of ‘family.’ Today, my son has a dad, someone who assumed the role of ‘father’ and accepted those responsibilities. Today, my son understands the importance and the value of memories and experiences over materialistic things, which is something you wouldn’t have been able to teach him. So while you’re in Mexico spending the weekends alone with a Patrón bottle in hand and blaming me for the lifestyle you live just because I won’t lift the child support order (even though you haven’t paid a single penny since you’ve left), we are here creating the life we want for ourselves. While you are there feeding lies to all of your girlfriends that I’m the reason why you can’t see your son (even though you can come here to California to visit one of your other many girlfriends), we are here enjoying ourselves and planning our next family vacation. While you continue playing the victim and letting your family and friends believe that you are the helpless soul who ‘tried’ his best to see his son, we are here taking control of our lives when others thought that we would fail. We have proved you and the rest of the world wrong because we have done it without you. We didn’t need you and we never will, so thank you for teaching me that.