Brenda Nicholson

I’ve spent more years than I can count searching for my real dad.

Photo by Oleg Kukharuk on Unsplash

I’ve spent more years than I can count searching for my real dad.

People who know me might find that an odd statement, but those who are closest to me understand.

I’m fascinated by shows about adopted adults finding their birth parents.

I did one of those DNA tests, and I have fantasies about finding out my dad was someone else.

The truth is, as far as I know, the man who was there while I was growing up is my real dad.

No adoption, no affair that I’m aware of.

But the man who is my real dad disappeared about the time I became capable of disappointing him or making him look bad.

I was a good child, an only child born late in life to two people who weren’t prepared to be parents.

My mother was sure she had stomach cancer. When the “problem” turned out to be an unexpected pregnancy, she convinced herself that the baby (me) would never survive.

There was nothing waiting for me when I came into the world. No diapers, no bottles or clothes, not even a name.

I know my mom loved me, though. Her anxious nature meant she tended to be overprotective, but I always knew she loved me.

My dad, on the other hand, seemed to love me when it was convenient or in his best interests to do so. A therapist would tell me years later that he sounded like a narcissist.

I know that he was proud of me when I learned to identify different makes of cars at an early age. I guess it proved what a smart child he had produced.

The bar was set when I was young; I was smart, therefore good grades were expected, demanded even.

If I brought home a report card with all A’s and one B, he questioned why that grade wasn’t an A as well. No mention was made of the rest, no praise given.

When I got my first C — in handwriting — I cried all the way home from school.

At home, everything was done to suit him.

We went to bed at 9:00 p.m. every night, because he had to get up early in the morning for work.

No one was to use the bathroom or get a drink of water after lights out. I’m 65 years old and I still have trouble flushing the toilet if I need to get up.

I got reprimanded for coughing, crying, and being “too sensitive”. There was “something wrong with me” and I was “weird”.

Once, on a vacation to Florida, we went to the beach. My mom stayed with her sister because she had a migraine.

I must have been about 15 at the time.

And I met a boy.

I took him to meet my dad and told him we were going for a walk. I got permission and we left.

About an hour later, when I returned, my dad was nowhere to be found.

We searched and searched and finally alerted the lifeguard. I think he called the police; I’m not sure.

What I remember is being scared and alone. We were staying with my aunt, but I didn’t know her address or phone number. I’m not sure I knew her last name.

It turned out that when I hadn’t come back in the time he expected me to, he assumed that I had drowned and went back to my aunt’s.

When my mom questioned him as to my whereabouts, he was very calm and unconcerned. No idea. Maybe she drowned.

I have trouble wrapping my head around that one, even now.

Of course, there were good times too.

He made sure I had a nice birthday party each year and took me to professional baseball and football games when I was older. He bought me my first car: a 1968 Ford XL convertible.

There were glimpses, now and then, of a man who was my dad and loved me.

I just never knew when he would show up.

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