My mother called me late one night in April. Her voice was lethargic. Not her usual steady tone. Like she had been deep in battle and lost. She told me that her husband— a man that she hadn’t seen in the flesh for over thirty years— and my father—a man who I hadn’t spoken to in nearly a decade— called to find out how my brother and I were doing.
“Just out of the blue like that? So what did you tell him?” I asked.
“I told him that you were married and about to have a baby.”
“I told him that you were doing well. A vice-principal. Happy. “
“Did he apologize for abandoning us?”
“But did you ask for one?”
“But why not?”
“Kara, it’s a different generation. Men from back in those days don’t feel the need to apologize for anything….. even if deep inside they know they did wrong.”
“Whatevez. But why would you tell him anything about us? It’s like he wanted the Cliffnotes of two kids over 35 in 10 minutes. You shouldn’t have told him anything.”
She sat silent for a minute before she replied. “I wanted to let him know that we had done well without him and that he should be ashamed of himself.”
Honestly, I couldn’t blame her and on Father’s Day, as I’ve done before all of the stupid controversy with mother-as-father Hallmark cards, I would kiss my mom (whose birthday coincidently falls during the week of Father’s Day”) pinch her booty and tell her that I was grateful for how she mothered and fathered me.
“Well, what else did he want to know?” I continued.
“Well, he wanted to know so many things. What your married name was. If you still spoke fluent Spanish. If you graduated with a doctorate.”
Fire burned in my throat and my eyes. I wanted to hang up the phone but I couldn’t. I had to know more. I had to know why.
But when he wanted to know when I would bring his unborn grandchild to visit him in Antigua, and that he was hoping I would try for a boy when he learned that my first child would be a girl, the fire turned cool and wet. And all I could hear were violent waves in my inner ear.
I was officially drowning.
“What the f*ck kind of game does he thinks he’s playing? You think I’m going to take my husband, my kid, and schlep my ass to hot-ass Antigua to play ‘It’s a Wonderful Life” with an old man that if he knew better wouldn’t let me know where the knives were.
“Kara, listen to me. Kara, listen.” my mother said. Her voice started to return to its normal domineering pitch.
“He’s an old man. Over eighty years old. And whatever he has, you have to make sure that your daughter gets it.”
“Be smart.” She finished with.
I listened to the woman whose life and life choices had characteristically revolved around holding on too tight, ignoring the writing on the wall, fixing the broken, and viewing love as elusive and happiness as frivolous.
I told her that I would consider what she said, although I had no intentions of following any more of her self-mutilating advice.
I would not call him as requested. And furthermore, I would not pay my good, good money to stay in heavy discomfort. I would not subject my husband to that or my child to that for the possible gain of riches that I had learned to make for myself or/and live without.
The cliché part of this story is that I hung up the phone, starred at the wall, and rubbed my pregnant belly. The ugly part of this story is that I had the worst flare up of acne on my neck and face since reaping the benefits of pregnancy skin and my mother’s three-hour conversation with her husband left her with a three-day migraine.
But the happy part to this story (because there always is one) is that this story will end, as every story does. End when it should and how it should. Whenever that is.
I don’t know the sequence because I’ve decided to focus my attention on being a mother to a daughter that has a father and loosen my grip on being a girl that was once a fatherless daughter.