Who can remember time?

I don’t talk about my parents much, or my siblings for that matter. For me, usually, it’s a box of memories I prefer not to open. You can imagine my surprise when I was in the shower this morning, my mind allowed to wander; not tied to work or to-do lists, went to the beach. When I was 13 my mother married my step-father and we moved from Brooklyn to Long Island. We lived two blocks from the beach where my lungs quickly and happily got used to the salty air and my curly hair refused to adjust.

I can’t remember why, (maybe it was my birthday?) but my stepfather gave me a bracelet. It was a simple bracelet of different colored gemstones. Delicate. Pretty. Thoughtful. Aside from the hairbrush he got me before they were married, this was one of his first gifts he gave me and I treasured it.

Growing up without a father has its perks, but comes at a severe cost. You grow up feeling less than, rejected and incomplete. The perk is that, at the time, you don’t realize this will haunt you for the rest of your life and manifest itself in every relationship you’ll ever have. You’re young. Bracelets are shiny and distracting. My stepfather didn’t realize it at the time (and I doubt he ever will) that what he probably thought was a gesture of tradition; this gift giving on another year past, offset a birthday I had when I was younger. A birthday that I still have nightmares about and that no little girl should ever be on the receiving end of.

On a birthday when I was maybe 8 (who can remember time?), I begged my mother to let me call my father. My biological father. I am sure she wasn’t surprised, I’ve always loved milestones and turning 8 was no exception. We didn’t have a phone in our 2 bedroom Brooklyn apartment and calling meant that I would have to go out to the corner store and use a payphone. My request was granted partly because it was my birthday, but looking back it was more to put me face to face with who this man was. She never tried to hide that he was anything other than a cruel, abusive, drunk.

Always the optimist, I got my coat on and began to plan for the birthday conversation with my father. Even if he didn’t think of it, or care to exercise it, he was my father and I desperately wanted to be Daddy’s little girl. I think a lot of me still does.  I don’t remember the walk to the store, but I can picture every brick building with it’s small patch of frozen ground in front that would soon be covered in snow, or so the weather man predicted. I’m a December baby, born in freezing weather, just before Christmas. I pulled out a little piece of paper that had his phone number scrawled on it. As I cradled the handset between my pigtails and shoulder, I reached on my tippy toes to punch in the numbers that would connect me to him.

“Hello…”

“Daddy? Daddy! It’s Cristina. It’s my birthday!!! Aren’t you going to wish me a happy birthday?”

Silence. He clears his throat.

“I don’t give a *uck. Don’t call me again.”

As I write these words my heart races. I can see me as a little girl, dropping thephoto_1_1 receiver and watching it swing, my mouth slightly open as I watch that little piece of paper flitter down the street, head cocked slightly to one side. Cracked pavement. It’s cold but my tears are hot on my cheeks. The door to the corner store swings open and I can smell coffee that’s been on the burner too long.  I don’t remember walking back home, it was only a block, and who can remember time?

I don’t remember hugs or consoling afterwards. I don’t remember anything really. But it’s connected to a bracelet that my stepfather gave me years later and a glimpse into the daughter I always wanted to be.

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50 thoughts on “Who can remember time?

  1. I am very touched by this story, and it must be true for many, many children in similar family circumstances. But life changes—often for the better. You probably wanted a family like those of some of your friends. Now you have one. God is good.

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  2. Cristina,
    What a beautifully written, and emotional piece–for both you and the reader! The importance of a father in his daughter’s life is so crucial, and as in your case, often non-existent. I am amazed at how you’ve weathered that storm!

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  3. GASP! Oh God no! I have so many emotions about this right now- anger and rage at not only your cruel drunk biological father but your MOM for setting you UP for this scarring pivotal traumatic memory seared into your heart. Why oh WHY did she allow you to call him?!!!

    Oh Cristina… my heart is torn into a million tiny pieces for this moment you have to endure for all time.

    I have a few of those moments in my life as well. Not at 8, but at other ages- when the nightmare of a parent’s rejection scorched the deepest parts of my heart. I understand, a bit anyway.

    And I thank GOD for filling those jagged ripped holes in our hearts.

    And creating in us, a gift worthy of His Love and designing a significant purpose for our lives. Amen?

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    1. And I don’t blame anyone. Anymore. It is what it is. It’s mine and there’s a reason for all of it. For me, it’s made me a great parent to my boys. I’d go through anything to be that for them.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I can’t bring myself to “like” this, but I do want to honor you for the strength it took to go back to that place, to that pain, and to get it out. I can’t help but think that it will draw healing. Love you much 🙂 xoxo

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  5. Wow. You know people like that exist in the world, but you pray you and your loved ones never have to experience them. You’re right, it shapes you into the person you are today, and you are awesome, no thanks to him. I hope this is a memory burden that doesn’t weigh on you often because there are so many good memories out there. I have a few of those past memories I visit momentarily, but I always push them to the side. Kudos for addressing it and putting it down in words. Honestly, have you ever considered slam poetry? I got the same chills reading this as I do listening to some of the stories told through slam. Love you sweetie!

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    1. I wrote a lesson plan including slam poetry, but I never thought I’d be any good at it. Sadly, this is just the tip of a craptastic iceburg that I keep solidly frozen on the very top shelf of my memory freezer. I think if it all thawed out…what does that leave? Who does that leave? You know?

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  6. Moving. Thanks for posting. I’m a father and I pray that I be the kind of father that you would have loved to have as a child (and even now long for). I’m thankful too that God the Father is there to embrace us and give us love that knows no limits.

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  7. Oh Christina (((HUGS)))
    I know that kind of pain (caused by an alcoholic mother) and all I can say is you have thrived in spite of your earth father. Your heavenly father loves you dearly.

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  8. I am sending you a huge virtual hug right now. It’s difficult to comprehend the things that such people do and say, but in the end there is Grace. For them if they ever choose to accept it, but for you and all of us. God is your father, and he will never let you down. ❤ LOVE YOU!!

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  9. I am so sorry that this has happened to to Christina. I cannot imagine the horror of that moment when your dreams became your worst nightmare. I pray that someday your heart will heal on this. Our priest recently said in his homily…when we forgive but do not forget that is not yet full forgiveness..it brought some things to light in my own life. Our Blessed Mother knows the kind of Father you deserve and she is bringing you to Him every day. This horrible cross that you have been given is a tough one. Pray that you will be able to let this go someday for your sake.

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    1. I am healed, I think. If I wasn’t I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed, maybe? Or be an awful mother to my kids, perhaps? How do you know?

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  10. *sniffle* You made me cry. This is a good post for Psalm 34:18.

    I have a cousin who had a similar father. She was 8 when her parents divorced, and she bottled up all her emotions at that point. Her mother never remarried, but did her best to fill both roles. Her dad didn’t disown her like it sounds like your father did to you, but he showed up late and drunk to her high school graduation. He wasn’t invited to her wedding, and her mom walked her down the aisle.

    It’s great to hear your experiences have given you insight and empowered you as a parent. I know you’ll do right by your kids, where your father failed you.

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    1. My biological father shows up again. I don’t know if that’s something I’m willing to share. It actually gets worse. I tell people now, that he’s dead. That’s a lie. He’s alive somewhere, but dead to me. I saw him last when I was 21.

      Thanks for being so awesome, Loni. ❤

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  11. This post speaks to me like a memory you want to bury in the sand. I grew up without a father too, heck I can’t even remember his face! Drugs killed him. Well not actually, but he was killed because of drugs. It makes you think what the fuck is so special about drugs and alcohol that you let it take over your being that you forget that there’s a little child waiting for you at home. Sucks. It haunts you. We tell ourselves we wont let it define us. But who are we kidding? I think I’ll go cry in a corner now. Hugs

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    1. If you’re crying in the corner let me know so I can find you. I’ll bring tea and some laughs. That’s how I coped. Making everyone laugh so I could forget. Works, I guess. People say I’m pretty funny.

      And when we’re all done with tea, we can get to some rum and cokes!

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  12. When I look back it’s always silver lined by now. Although I didn’t know an amazing father or even a good one for that matter, I did marry one. Chris has shown me what a father looks, sounds and acts like…and that led me to God my Father.

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    1. Yes, that’s what my Mike does for me. Sometimes, he too, knows that all I need is a “it will all be ok”. He knows me so well. Aren’t we blessed?

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  13. My heart hurts for you and with you. I’m not going to trite it away or cliche you toward your next thought. I am grateful you’re here, open to the memory. Even when it stings and tugs, yes. Enough said with that. Even when it stings and tugs.

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  14. Ouch. Crap, My heart.

    And yet, thank goodness your Stepfather gave you something so meaningful and nice. I hope your relationship with him was/is a good one. As to the other, it sounds like you were better off out of it, no matter how hard it hurts.

    Cos it’s hard enough being rejected once by a father down a phoneline. It’s much harder to live with, tangibly and inescapably on a day to day basis, and I hope you at least escaped that.

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    1. I never said my stepfather was great. He gave me a bracelet. I don’t speak with anyone – not my stepfather, not my mother or cousins. None of it. I do have a line of communication with a few of my brothers. It’s all very strained.

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      1. No I noticed you skirted around that, and wasn’t sure *sigh*

        Families suck. And even when we pick our friends as the family we wish we could have had, somehow it’s not the same.

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      2. I created an entire clown to keep it happy the other night. These things happen, ey? We live, we learn, we love, we learn, we cry, we learn, we learn, we learn (as the song goes…)

        Liked by 1 person

  15. You, my dear, never cease to amaze me. Thank you for sharing such an honest and raw piece of your heart. Praying for your continued healing, as well as for your birth father. I know that can’t be easy for you to tell this story, thanks for being such a witness 🙂

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    1. Thanks. I think he needs prayers too. It can’t be easy to look back and know you’re the one who inflicted all this hurt. Ya know? I pray for him too.

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  16. Christina, …..his loss….. As an adult, never let that innocent, vulnerable and loving child, lose that anticipation and love with which you approached that telephone….. I don’t think you have, reading your amazing blogs. That’s who you are……
    P.S you may have the same birthday as my wife, 23rd December?

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    1. Aw thanks David. And thanks for showing me a perspective of myself I overlook. I never lost that innocent vulnerability, the skip in my step even with the cold wind trying to warn me back home.

      My birthday is shared with St. John of the Cross’ feast day. That’s why I say I’m a Domnican with Carmelite rising 🙂

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  17. What a beautiful example you are to others, Cristina! To have suffered a terrible situation such as the one you just wrote about – and to have risen out of it and above it … to have not let it beat you down – but to have bloomed into an amazingly wonderful woman (such as the one you’ve become) — you’re the type of example this world needs WAY more of, Cristina! I’m so very sorry that your young heart had to suffer this way … but so very proud of you for rising above it! 😀

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  18. Oh man! Sorry you went through that and relived it again. Though my father was kinda involved in my life (sometimes two weekends a month until we moved), I always felt second best to him around my older sister. It wasn’t until I started college that we became closer through phone calls. He started making his life better and then a drunk driver took him from all of us too soon. Of all the time I hated that he never fought for custody, I feel bad. I wish he could still be here. Sorry for rambling on, blessings to you!

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    1. I feel like maybe my brother/s felt second best to me. I was the only girl for a while. I guess what I don’t understand is how they, too could overlook that it wasn’t all roses because I had a pretty dress on. You know?

      God bless you more.

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  19. I am so sorry you went through this. While I was lucky to grow up with both parents in my life, I still dealt with some bad situations that left a permanent mark on me. Props to your mama for raising a beautiful woman regardless. 🙂

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  20. Cristina,
    I honor your for sharing this – and while I never experienced that kind of suffering, I did have some really nasty stuff happen when I was a child. The good news is that Jesus can transform the worst cross into resurrection and glory!

    We seem to have a bit in common – I, too, was raised in Brooklyn, and also share a birthday with St. John of the Cross’ feast day!

    And – (related to one of your other posts) I have admired your art on the A-Z posts – so you are not the only one!

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      1. Ditto to that (all of it!)
        I grew up in Bay Ridge – lived a few years in NYC after college and then headed out to the ‘burbs. You can take the girl out of Brooklyn but you can never take the Brooklyn out of the girl.
        I’m so glad to have cyber-met you!

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  21. The wisdom I have gleaned from growing up with generational alcoholism and emotional deprivation is that love does not expect something from someone that they are simply unable to give. Hard to live out, but true.

    From what my parents did well, I learned how to love. From what they were unable to give, I have learned forgiveness. So you see, everything does work for the good for those who love Him. And I should mention Al-anon since my mother was able to find serenity in the midst of turmoil, thus teaching us a philosophy that is wise for all walks of life.

    Born Only Once, by Conrad Baars is a short and excellent resource as well.

    Liked by 1 person

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