Happy Father’s day to the man who fathered me but was absent. You disowned me before I was born, denying my existence as well as your other children. You were too busy fighting your own demons to be present. You became an obsession, the focus and deciding factor in my life. I needed to prove to you that I was ok. From a young age, I displayed an unfathomable amount of strength. It was a survival mechanism, I couldn’t let anyone know how deeply affected I was by your life choices, and so I shoved my sadness deep inside. Secretly dreaming that you would return and see how beautiful, driven, and smart I was.

Every time I looked in the mirror I was met with your reflection. It pained me to know that I was more like you than my Mother because you didn’t deserve it. I would have imaginary conversations. I would shift from blaming you, myself, and then my Mother. Finally, there was no one else left to blame. You left us without a worry in the world, leaving my Mother to carry all of the responsibility. I watched as my Mother worried and struggled with her own sadness. Your absence was difficult for her too. We faced many hardships, but my Mother tried to navigate the best she could. There were times I wondered if we would have enough to eat, or if we would lose our apartment. We moved around frequently and anywhere I went I felt like I didn’t belong. I couldn’t wrap my head around the possibility of you leaving by your own cognizance, and so I made excuses for your behavior. Maybe it was your Mother, or wife or some other deciding factor. I hoped that you were looking for me and that one day you would knock on my door and provide everything that was missing. I longed for your love and approval.

I was jealous of the children who had both parents. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t experience the same. I felt ashamed to say that I had no Father. It was as if I was admitting that there was something wrong with me. I always asked my Mother about you, holding on to the little information she had given me. Spelling your name over and over, I begged her to find you and once she did. I was 4-5 years old, and she had applied for public assistance. Without much effort, they found you, and once again, you chose to not be a part of my life.

Through your absence, you gave room for someone else who was far better suited to take your place. Jim walked into my life when I was 8, and we were instant best friends. He was the greatest gift I ever had, treating me as his own. He was everything you weren’t, encouraging me to reach for my dreams. I finally felt seen. He was the Father you could never be, and on my wedding day, he was there to gladly take your place.

When I was 17, I thought my search was finally over. I was determined to find you and prove to you that I was ok without you. For years I searched online until the early hours of the morning. One day I found someone with your name in Ohio. I was convinced that it was you, and I was both happy and terrified to call. “Hello, can I speak to Thomas Gengo?” My voice was shaking. “This is him.” My breathing stopped. I couldn’t believe it, I had rehearsed this for so long and suddenly didn’t know what to say. “Did you work at a trade school in New York City as a guidance counselor in 1985? I’m wondering if you know my Mother” there was a pause then an apprehensive “No.” I continued, “I’m looking for my Father, and you happen to have the same name.” I noticed a softening after I said this. “I’m sorry I can’t help, and I hope you find him.” I didn’t know what to believe, but in my heart, I knew that I had reached another dead end.

I’ve experienced a lot of ups and downs, but I am proud to say that I’ve broken the cycle you created. In spite of the difficulties growing up and the financial strains, I experienced my life is better than I ever anticipated. I have an incredible career, I’ve traveled more than I ever imagined, and I’ve found happiness with a man who is nothing like you. I’ve learned to love myself more than you ever could because you simply didn’t know how to love yourself.

I didn’t know about your passing until I was 30. You lived your life recklessly and was a tornado everywhere you went. You were extremely handsome yet couldn’t get your life together. You struggled with addiction, which led you to have a short life. You left with so many questions unanswered, but I finally feel a sense of resolve. Your whereabouts no longer haunt me.

It’s taken years to forgive, for too long I resented you and felt abandoned. I now understand that your absence was a blessing. You spared me of your addictions, unresolved issues, insecurities, and the negligence of yourself and others. You taught me how to be a better person, to love myself, and to forgive. I can finally recognize the beauty that lives inside of me, that surpasses the physical and reaches beyond time and space.

I’ve found the healing I so fiercely needed. It was there all along in my breath and movement, waiting to be unlocked. Waiting until I was ready to open my heart and come home to myself.

I hope that wherever you are, in this realm on the next, you find the peace you so desperately. May you be free.