Flying Blind on a Leap of Faith
My parents divorced when I was two. My father wasn’t part of my life after that. My half- brother was born when I was ten and my mother and step-father separated a year later. Mom worked nights and I was the primary care giver for the baby.
One night, as I was making dinner, I heard a knock at the door. We didn’t get visitors very often so this was curious. I made sure the chain was on the door as I opened it. There was a man with a grocery bag in his arms. He said, “Hey! Aren’t you going to let your dear old dad in?”
He looked vaguely familiar but from where? He said, “Your mom told me it would be dinner time, am I too late?”
I searched his face and remembered seeing him briefly on my fifth birthday, he was, in fact, my dad. Immediately I thought, “What the hell is he doing here?!”
I let him in. He took his bag of goodies to the kitchen where my brother was sitting in his high chair eating cheerios. As the stranger unpacked the groceries it was obvious he had no idea what kids like to eat, but then how would he?
Mom came home early that night, which was very unusual. She was as giddy as a school girl and falling all over her ex-husband (twice removed). I was actually embarrassed for her.
He stuck around for almost two weeks. Most nights he hung out at the bar where my mother worked. Sometimes he brought dinner home for us, and once he actually took us out to dinner.
Then he was gone. Just when I got used to seeing him when I came home from school he was gone. I wasn’t all that emotionally invested but it seemed odd.
Mom came home and informed me… “His other daughter is sick… he loves her more than he loves you so he went home to her. It’s your fault.”
Fast forward eleven years… I’m married, living in New Jersey with my husband and two small children of my own. I found a letter in the mail from Florida. A letter from the sister I’d never met. The sister my dad left us for because he loved her more than me.
She had just discovered she had a sister and nephews. She wanted to know anything and everything about this ‘wing’ of the family. The letter seemed heartfelt to me. I answered her.
Soon after the letter was sent I got a phone call. I heard, “Barb?” I said, “Yes.”
“This is your dad.”
Stunned silence from my end.
“I saw the letter you sent your sister.”
That seemed so strange to me… my sister. What the hell did I know about a sister except YOU love her more than me?
“I would love to see you and really love to see my grandsons!” he said.
Trying to think on my feet I said, “I really can’t afford to fly to Florida right now.”
“I’ll wire you the money!” was his answer.
Holy shit! What do I do now?? I said, “That’s really nice of you but I can’t just pick up and fly to Florida right now.”
“Why?” he asked.
I had no answer.
“Think about it,” he said, “I’ll call you back tomorrow.”
Needless to say I got absolutely no sleep that night. Why would I want to take my kids into this, potentially, hostile environment? Hadn’t he proven he relegated me to second class?
But… there was a sister. I had never had a sister. She seemed genuine about wanting to meet me, learn about my life… get to know her nephews. A sister. I was intrigued… and I had never been to Florida.
My husband thought it was a good idea even though he couldn’t join us. He suggested I leave the return flight open. If I was uncomfortable when I got there I could return the next day. That was my safety net.
I didn’t have an extensive wardrobe in those days but I had every bit of it on my bed trying to decide what to pack as a million questions ran through my head. What if his wife hated me? Would she be the shrew my mother said she was? What if _____ (fill in the blank). My stomach was in knots.
As it turned out I stayed a week. His wife was lovely and I really enjoyed being with my sister. Time with my father was awkward. He kept trying to find common ground and the sad truth… there was none.
He had a horse… I’m not into horses. He had a boat… I don’t swim and fear deep water so that wasn’t happening. He played golf… I had just taken lessons. Eureka!
So on a balmy and overcast day we went out to play golf. I was terrible at it but we enjoyed a peaceable couple of hours. It was a start.
I felt it was good for my kids to get to know their grandfather, since they had no relationship with my mother. Unfortunately over the years my father has shown his true colors and we no longer have a relationship.
I’ve never regretted taking that leap of faith and flying blindly into uncharted territory. I’ve always felt it’s best to know the truth than to wonder.
Barbara Hammond is an Artist, Writer/Blogger and Published Author and illustrator of The Duffy Chronicles, her first children’s book. Blogging made her realize we all have a story. Sometimes we don’t want to expose the underbelly of our story but that is often where the true lessons come from. Our circumstances do not define us. She is a true optimist and living proof that a good sense of humor can get you through almost anything.
Barbara, I admire what you did. You rose above the heartache of hearing your mother say, “His other daughter is sick… he loves her more than he loves you so he went home to her. It’s your fault.” I cannot imagine the impact of such cruel words on a small child, and the fact that you were willing to give a chance to your sons to get to meet their grandfather, and to yourself to meet your half sister is heroic.
Please share your comments with Barbara below and she’ll be over to answer. I met Barbara online, and know she’s very giving and caring. You can connect with her on Facebook and Twitter @hammondart.
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Sonia Marsh says
Thank you for sharing your painful childhood and how you reached out later on in life, to your father and your step-sister. I wanted to know if you’re still in touch with your half-sister.
My half-sister and I lost touch several years ago. We live in different parts of the country and quite honestly have little in common. Unlike my parents and those failed relationships I have no ill feelings for my sister at all, we just aren’t close.
Sonia Marsh says
I don’t have any siblings, but I can see with other family members how some siblings aren’t very close.
Thanks Sonia for your generosity and encouragement of others to share their Gutsy stories. You’ve amassed quite a Gutsy community and you bring out that element in others. It’s a gift!
Sonia Marsh says
Jill Fales, a previous writer and winner of the month, mentioned the same things as you. I think it’s wonderful that we can learn and help one another with our stories. Thanks, it’s nice to hear.
Miss Footloose | Life in the Expat Lane says
Barbara, what an amazing story, most of all because you have “conquered” the difficulties of your childhood and your family relationships and become a strong person.It takes courage to work through these issues and come out with a positive outlook.
Miss Footloose | Life in the Expat Lane recently posted..Expat Life: Miss Footloose Goes on a Hedonistic Jaunt
Thank you. I’m not sure I would say I’ve conquered everything but writing about it helps work through the issues.
Anne Schroeder says
Good for you. And thanks for sharing. A lot of pain there, but you made it through.
Anne Schroeder recently posted..When Your Body Says “No:” The Stress/Disease Connection
Thanks Anne. It helps to write.
Cheryl Stahle says
What a heartbreaking story told with beauty and strenght. I am in awe of your leap of faith. Love those who love you back! May you surround yourself with nothing but those who love you.
Thanks Cheryl, that’s my plan.
I am awed by your stories and the strength you have, Barbara. You are truly gutsy 🙂
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Thanks Bella. It’s funny but when Sonia asked me to contribute to this great series she has here I couldn’t think of anything that I felt was ‘Gutsy’. It’s all relative I suppose.
I love your background.. So beautiful! I really enjoyed reading your story.. I want more! 🙂
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Doreen Cox says
Phew, Barbara. What an admirable woman and mother you are…a warrior, exploring a path that seems dark & dismal yet with a potential light at the end. Question: do you have a relationship with your half-sister?
I did for a while, but as life sometimes unfolds you realize you really have nothing in common other than genes. We’ve drifted apart but there’s no animosity.
Thanks for the kind words.
You are really a very wonderful mother.. I admire you for being strong..I really hope for the best on your life’s journey!
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Thank you Vanessa.
Forgiveness comes from the heart and not just a word to say, its been express with your foolish heart…. You have a great story which most of your reader can relate to it…
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Thanks for sharing. It must have been really tough. A really wonderful future must be lying in front of you. Best wishes to you and your family.
Thank you Carol. I’ve never regretted that trip and I believe we have to give people the opportunity to ‘show up’ or not. Over time my father did not, but he was given many opportunities.
Lady Fi says
A sad story – yet so gripping.
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Lee Romano Sequeira says
Gusty lady, gutsy writer – you have my vote Barbara!
Alice Trego says
I shared your hurt when your mother let you know about your father’s daughter and that it was your fault that he loved her more. There is nothing so awful as a mother’s hurtful words…
A real gutsy story, Barbara. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you Alice.
‘It’s all relative, I suppose’…..how true that is Barbara. Somehow we never equate what we ourselves have done as being anything out of the ordinary. It’s just what I did, what I needed to do, we say. Only when others comment on what a formidable hurdle we leaped do we perhaps understand the enormity of it. Your story is amazing, I can hear the shock you experienced when your dad phoned you and I am in admiration of you making the effort to go and visit your sister and him.
Thank you Maggie, for understanding and for your lovely comment.
Pat Yeager says
Great story of survival Barb. I agree with Maggie, We do always say I did what I had to do and I think deep inside we would like to be able to say, it isn’t fair having to deal with so much, or why me? But somehow we simply do what we have to do. I never knew my father at all as he dissapeared when I was less than a year old, and I heard all of my life how cruel he was, so in some ways we’re lucky. I’m glad you’re happy now.
Thanks Pat! Yes, I do feel lucky in many ways. All the things I went through as a child have helped me shrug off many things in my adult life as insignificant. It’s all relative, isn’t it?
Style Maniac says
Barbara truly embodies the concept of Gutsy Living. An inspiring story for sure.
Trying to vote for her but not sure where and how — can you fill us in, Sonia?
Style Maniac recently posted..Crazy. Colorful. Fun.
Sonia Marsh says
Style Maniac. You can vote on the top when you open the story on the side bar. Only one vote per person though.
Style Maniac says
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Bob Lowry/Satisfying Retirement says
Not having a family life even remotely like yours I find it hard to understand a dad or mom like that. Neither can I fully grasp the strength you have had your entire life to deal with such emotional turmoil. To share your story takes real courage. To learn from your experiences takes a special person.
Thanks Bob. I know a lot of people can’t relate to my family life as a child. The only explanation I have for what I learned from it is, when you know in your soul this isn’t the way life is supposed to be you strive with everything you’ve got to make a better life. I continue to do that to this day.
Sonia Marsh says
I think in a strange way, your difficult childhood has made you stronger than most adults. You are aware of things that many may take for granted.
Penelope J. says
Great story! Took some guts to go see a father you barely knew – and who had let you down so badly years before – and your half-sister, and to overcome the trauma caused by your mother’s wounding words. In your place, I would have probably told my almost non-existent father that I wasn’t interested.
Your tough childhood seems to have prepared you to take on challenges, such as the ones in your story, head on.
Penelope J. recently posted..Never Give Up on Your Dream
Penelope it was more about getting to know my sister than any desire to see my father. We tried for many years to make it work but the bottom line is he’s a jerk. I have no regrets about that trip or consequently divorcing the relationship years later. When someone shows you their true colors it’s best to believe it.