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I was born in 1987. In 1989, when I was about two years old, my parents divorced. My father was, I'm told, a "non-functioning alcoholic". I only saw him a handful of times after that. Usually, he'd show up, unannounced, to a holiday at my grandparent's (his parents) house. Yet, he never showed when he promised he would.

I remember once when I was around 8-10 years old, my mom and I were picking up my older sister from her friend's house. I looked out the car window and into the neighbor's yard and flew out of the vehicle. It was my dad. I hadn't seen or heard from him in years, and here was, at a random persons' house. That was the best weekend of my life. I got to stay with my daddy; we went camping, I caught my very first fish and he taught me how to shoot a gun at some old tin cans.

After that weekend, he disappeared again. The next I heard from him, was through my uncles. I will forever have this memory burned into my mind. Every detail is so vivid. I was 13 years old, practicing my cheers in the kitchen at home. I had just made the squad and was decked out in the full uniform- so proud. My uncles came to the door, and when my mom answered it, I gleefully showed off my cheers and super cool outfit. They told me and my sister to sit down. They had some bad news. That's when they told me. My father had died.

I was told a falsehood about how it actually happened, in a misguided effort to protect me from the gruesome truth. My father was mauled by a dog. A chow to be exact. It had belonged to his "roommate", who I'm 99% sure was actually his girlfriend. I vaguely remember her coming to his funeral- which was closed casket; apparently, they hadn't done a very good job making him presentable. I hadn't seen my father but a few times I could actually remember in my whole life, but I had never let it get to me. I figured, he just wasn't good at being a dad. I always planned on finding him and getting to know him when I grew up. Well, I was robbed of that chance. But, he wasn't invisible all those years. He lived a life. He had friends, jobs- he existed.

Children, who have been left by a parent, often blame themselves for the abandonment. While they may not think they did something that directly caused the parent to leave, a great many of us have always thought, 'was I not good enough?'. It is a sad thing when a child comes to the realization that they are not enough for someone, especially when that someone, is their parent. I have often had the thought, 'why wasn't I good enough?'. I've finally come to the conclusion that I was good enough. In fact, I was too good. That's why my father left.

My father was an alcoholic. That's the only thing I really know, or remember, about him. Despite this, and the fact that I'd only ever even seen him a half a handful of times, I refuse to believe that he didn't want me. I remember when he was around. He didn't act like he didn't want me. He was fun and funny. He made jokes and was very at ease. Of course, in hindsight, he was most likely drunk the entire time, but I still don't feel in my heart as if he did not want me. He just wanted the alcohol more.

That's the disease. It takes everything from you. Knowing, in my heart, that my father truly did love me, is what makes the fact that he stayed away hurt even more. I've been searching for information on him for my entire life, But, just recently, I found out that he was actually living very close to me almost all throughout my childhood. How can you be that close to your child and not, even in one crazy sober moment, go see her or pick up the phone? I guess I shouldn't say he didn't. We did receive the random call or visit, maybe a total of 5 times. In 11 years. His actions said he didn't care. But I just can't believe that. I refuse to. I found something he wrote to me in a notebook that used to belong to him. After reading what he wrote, knowing he had hopes and dreams for me- that he even thought about me at all- tells me that he did love me.

People have told me before that I have 'daddy issues' (ya think?), and you should see some of the looks people give when I tell them it's been almost 17 years since my father passed away; like, 'shouldn't she be over it by now?'. No. I'm not "over it". I will never be "over it". I will always and forever have an empty spot in my heart. Do you know what it's like to look in the mirror and see a mystery? I do, every day. I have my father's exact face. I could be his twin. But I don't even know him. I only know I look like him from the few pictures I have. Seeing so much of him in me is very disconcerting when he is basically a stranger. I think that definitely touches on a big part of the issues facing children who have been abandoned. The fact that the one(s) who left us, left part of themselves in us. There's no getting away from that, and not knowing the people who contributed to your creation and being forced to see their likeness every time you look in the mirror is a perfect storm for an identity crisis.

When I think about my dad, I feel like someone who's losing their sight (if that makes sense). Looking into the nothingness with a few little particles of pitiful false hope scattered about here and there. Perhaps, if I had more answers as to what he was doing the whole time he was not being my dad, I may not be as affected by this whole 'situation'. But he seems to have been a ghost long before he died. Nobody seems to know where he really went when he left, besides that he stayed 'close by' for awhile. I know he was probably 3 sheets to the wind for the majority of the time he was gone. Unfortunately, a lot of people in my family struggle with alcoholism. I am very glad that the one and only thing I inherited from my mother was her aversion to the drink. I can't stand it. But, in being surrounded by it my whole life, I am very qualified to say that alcohol ruins lives!

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