Ode to Kelly Clarkson

{ A Mile in His Daughter’s Shoes – Pt. II }

My phone has a message on it.

It’s Rema.

“Btw, have you watched Kelly Clarkson’s performance on Idol? I never heard the song until she performed it on Idol and I instantly thought of you <3”

There’s a link. Intrigued and completely unaware of the song’s subject matter, I click on it.

Big mistake.

It’s 7:15am and I have precisely forty-five minutes to feed and prep my children before the school bus pulls up.

Am I doing any of that? Hell no. I’m curled up in a ball on the couch, half sobbing, half assuring my boys Mommy is so not crying.

backstory:

I’ve reached as far back as I can and the memory in which I am younger than any other is filled with the view from beneath the dining table and two screaming voices one floor above me. With careful deduction, I must be no younger than four and no older than six. I’m alone, hands over ears, but the yelling finds the spaces between my tiny fingers and I still hear it all.

Out of nowhere, feet are clomping rapidly down the stairs and I’m whisked out from under the table and lifted into my mom’s arms. I’m facing backwards, looking over her shoulder. The last thing I remember before the front door slammed shut behind us is my father at the top of the stairs, his voice booming as he thunders, “DON’T TAKE MY CHILD.”

Minutes pass and we’re on the third floor of the building. My mom enters unannounced into my aunt’s home. She walks briskly past the inquiries of my grandmother and my aunt until she reaches the bedroom farthest from the front door. She plops me down before dropping to her knees in a corner and she lets herself cry.

Six years old. I’m watching “Peter Pan” on a blanket on the living room floor. It must be Spring or Summer because when my father comes downstairs, he isn’t wearing a jacket. I take in the bags at his feet before my eyes meet his. He doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t walk over to me or pull me into a hug. I don’t even know if my mom is in the room at this pivotal moment in my life because he’s all I see. He just stares at me for a minute, picks up his bags, and leaves. Unceremoniously.

“And all I remember is your back
walking towards the airport, leaving us all in your past.
I traveled 1,500 miles to see you,
I begged you to want me but you didn’t want to.”

Ten years old. For the past two years on March Breaks and Summer vacations, I had been traveling 1,414 miles solo to spend time with my father and his side of the family. It’s August now and I’m heading back home after a month’s visit. I had only seen him on weekends, cared for by my aunts and uncles one town away from where my father works during the week.

We’re at the airport and soon, I’ll be taken away by a flight attendant who would keep watch over me until the plane touches down. I won’t see him for another seven months and this visit, this month, seemed too short.

I’m crying.

I’m begging.

I want more time.

I’m being escorted away and when I look back longingly at the family I leave behind again, I feel my heart start to really, really hurt.

He’s crying. Two of his sisters hold him close. His brother-in-law pats him lovingly on the back. His niece clings to his leg.

No one thinks to look at me.

He could have waited. He could have summoned the strength to put on a brave face until the doors closed shut behind me. He could have considered how it would look to me, to see him comforted while I had four hours alone ahead of me with no arms to hold me but my own.

That was the beginning of the end for me, I know that now. It wasn’t until I was twenty years old, a mother, and estranged from my father for years that I faced the anger inside me. My father, absent and uncaring, wasn’t there for me to unleash my fury on so like I did as a child, I raged at my mother. Sometimes there’s no one to blame but the one who stays.

How could they let me keep going back and forth from one country to another? I was eight the first time. The last time, I was twelve. If there had been an accident, I would have been frightened and more alone than ever. Seeing through the eyes of a mother was bringing me more clarity than when I was only ever seeing it through the eyes of a daughter.

My mother’s answer? “I didn’t even think of that. I just wanted you to be comfortable on the plane.” To her credit, she never bad-mouthed him. But there were times I needed her to see my side, to put herself in my shoes, and she couldn’t. The man had a saintly status to her in some odd way. At least, that’s how it always felt to me. I’d be crying my eyes out from some hurtful comment he would make and she wouldn’t budge, wouldn’t stand up to him for me. I wonder if she ever did stop loving him and maybe that clouded how she was able to show love for me.

She never stopped encouraging a relationship with my father but it was bringing me more harm than good. Although she had a front row seat to the pain he caused me, she was at a loss as to how to help me cope. She bought me “Amber Brown” and “The Baby-Sitter Club Little Sisters” books, gave me a little too much freedom and a weekly allowance not befitting a young girl, and kept her distance. She was too wrapped up in her own hurt, her own guilt. It consumed so much of her energy that there wasn’t much room in her for mine. Some time ago, my mom let bitterness swallow her whole. She couldn’t save herself so how could she save me?

No one else had divorced parents. I was an only child. I’m the eldest of my first cousins. Not one adult sat me down, hugged all the hurt away, and reassured me that this was not my fault, not my loss. They labeled me as “trouble” not “troubled”. They didn’t pause to consider that my anger was there to mask my fear, that it was shooting uncontrollably in all different directions because it wasn’t being addressed. I was misunderstood, misguided, and misjudged.

Most of all, I was lost.

“And all of your words, they fall flat.
I made somethin’ of myself and now you wanna come back.
But your love, it isn’t free, it has to be earned.
Back then, I didn’t have anything you needed
So I was …worthless.”

He willingly climbed out of my life and wanted me to fit into his. He was erratic. When I was a small child, I’d vehemently refuse to blow out my birthday candles until he got there, never mind that they were already lit and I was surrounded by friends and family. When I was a teenager, he’d change his number without informing me and I’d call him on his birthday, heartbroken to make the discovery through a recorded message saying the number had been disconnected. The phone calls I did endure were stilted, flat, and the physical response it ignited in me was taking its toll. My stomach hurt whenever his name popped up on caller ID and I’d feel it for hours after I hung up on the phone. When I did talk to him, I’d feel two feet small.

He took and took and he expected me to have so much to give. He would try to reenter my life but he brought with him illogical expectations, lectures that were uncalled for, demands that I wouldn’t meet. He thought that being my biological father was enough, that because his blood flowed through my veins I was supposed to bend to his every “suggestion”, heed to his every “request”.

Any love he had for a daughter, my cousin got it all. He watched her grow, he was the first rose at her debut, and when she marries, he’ll be there; a proud uncle who could say that he was there for the entirety of her life.

The part that kills me the most is that he started out as a great father. I was daddy’s little girl. I worshipped the ground he walked on, I looked at him with an admiration that ran down to my core. Mine was the dad who spent his afternoons playing Tag with us neighbourhood kids and would call me Anak (my child) when my mom never had any terms of endearments for me. I used to think myself lucky.

Lucky.

When I turned fifteen, I met the great love of my life. For the first time in what seemed like a lifetime, I felt loved and wanted. I put my all into him …and my father wasn’t there to see it. He wasn’t there to stand by my mom when she watched us walk off on our first date. He wasn’t there to comfort me and assure me all men weren’t scum when we had our first fight. He wasn’t there to watch the signs as I fell in love. He wasn’t there when Mark proposed to me in front of family in friends. He wasn’t there to see my sons as babies, as toddlers, as children.

He wasn’t there.

My childhood is the reason a song like this and a show like “Grey’s Anatomy” resonates so deeply with me. “Grey’s taught me that so much can be traced back to one’s childhood and that I’m not alone in feeling like so much of the way that I am now is caused by what I experienced as a child. The episode where Richard gives Meredith a long-awaited apology for his role in how her life turned out is a sad and beautiful moment for me. I know that there are little things that can bring me back to my childhood self because she still lives in me. Meredith Grey may be fictional but she is representative of girls like me and I commend the writers for acknowledging the importance that childhood has on fully grown adults.

bounce back:

It’s 7:30am and I’ve wallowed in the past for fifteen minutes. I’ve cried a river but like always, it ended up being a good cry. Because whenever I shed tears for my father, I end up thankful for the father my children have.

Ask little girls what attributes they desire in a future spouse and nine times out ten, sitting at the top of the list is that he must either be handsome or kind. That was never me. Above all things, I wanted my future husband to be an outstanding father.

After all my suffering as a daughter, the universe reward me. 

 

“But piece by piece, he collected me
Up off the ground where you abandoned things, yeah,
Piece by piece, he filled the holes 
That you burned in me at
Six years old
And you know,
He never walks away,
He never asks for money,
He takes care of me
‘Cause he loves me.
Piece by piece, he restored my faith
That a man can be kind
And a father could …stay.

Well, piece by piece, I fell far from the tree.
I will never leave her like you left me.
And she will never have to wonder her worth
Because unlike you, I’m gonna put her first.
And you know,
He’ll never walk away,
He’ll never break her heart.
He’ll take care of things,
He’ll love her.
Piece by piece, he restored my faith
That a man can be kind
And a father should be great.”

My children have an amazing father. He’s that down in the dirt on his hands and knees, playful kind of dad. He never leaves the house without giving our kids a hug and kiss …and always humours our younger son who always needs about five more hugs, kisses, and squeezes (they’re separate things to him) before he lets go. He coaches our son’s baseball team and never misses a school performance. He’s so affectionate with them.

I could go on forever about how fortunate my children and I are to have him.

With all of that being said, the first thing I want to do after “Piece By Piece” entered my life is to wrap my arms around my amazing man and thank him for every little thing.

But he’s at work and our sons need to start their day so I do the next best thing: I hug my kids. I squeeze them and tell them I love being their mom. I hold them with all that I have in me, knowing there’s more where that came from.

I said that my father kept expecting me to have so much to give. It turns out that I did have a lot to give.

Love.

It was just being poured into the wrong person. Now, when I pour all that love into this beautiful man and these two little men, I don’t feel like my heart is empty, that I was bled dry.

I’m only ever full.

So I go through the morning’s motions and on the short walk home from the bus stop, I text Mark to tell him that I hope he has fun at work, instruct him to please drive home safely, and remind him that I love him.

And I experience one of those moments where you feel happy and you feel lucky and you’re lucky enough to know that you’re happy.

My kids have the best dad in the world.
And they have me; a mother who won’t hurt them like her father did her.


So, thank you, Kelly Clarkson. 
Lindsay Lohan’s “Confessions of a Broken Heart (Daughter to Father)” was the Daughter song of my childhood. As an adult, your song is so fitting, it hurts. You were six, I was six. You traveled 1,500 miles, I traveled 1,414 miles. You gave this part of my soul a voice. And I’m so happy that you are also able to say that your husband is the kind of father you would have loved for yourself and that your children will grow up to know a father’s love. I love that I think my husband is the #1 dad in the world and I love that there are others who feel that same way about their husbands. Thank you for adding to the soundtrack of my life in such a profound way.

xoxo,
F


LINDSAY LOHAN x KELLY CLARKSON


sneak peek:

{My IG posts on past Fathers Days}

Growing up, the impact of having a deadbeat dad always hit me hard. A knot would form in my stomach to see the gentle ways in which my uncles adored their children. I forced myself to endure father-daughter dances at debuts and weddings. I hated myself on Christmas, when my aunts had husbands to adorn them with expensive jewelry and all I had to give my mom were my stories on lined paper. I learned to stop missing my father; instead, I missed the idea of what a real one would be like. But if having a shit father is what caused Karma to give my children better, I would do it all over again. I now have a reason to take pride in this day, to look forward to them all. There is peace in the knowledge that our children will grow under your tutelage, defined in part by their father’s love, and that they will be fine men because of their father’s guidance. I always said, “You either want to emulate your parents or you want to be nothing like them,” and our children would be crazy to want to be anything other than the example you have set for them. So the man I admire most in the world, Happy Father’s Day baby. You have the luckiest family in the world.

They say a girl’s first love is her father but what some people don’t know is that he can be your first heartbreak too. When you realize a parent doesn’t always love you unconditionally, when you’ve had your heart twist at the sight of a father’s love, when you discover that absence can be present …your faith plummets to the ground and hope wears thin. So when you know what it’s like to go without, seeing your own children live every day with the joys of having the greatest dad in the world means the world to you. My identity as a daughter is nearly nondescript but I trust that we were always supposed to find one another …so maybe that was the plan all along. I believe that I was handed those crosses to bear so that I would appreciate you as a father even more. And I do. More than I can say and more than I can show you. If you only knew my younger self who had to walk the world alone. Thank you for mending so many holes in my heart. And simply put, thank you for being the kind of father who does all he can to keep our boys’ hearts whole, full, and happy. You are everything.


 

screen-shot-2016-03-18-at-1-11-07-pm1

{thank you to whoever wrote this gem of a quote.}
kelly clarkson x an empty tissue box
his arms x their words
thank you x i love you

mark-joseph . jennifer . nicole . jesserie . kristina . rachel

note: featured image taken from
[hiddenjamsmusic]

 

 

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Ode to Kelly Clarkson

    • thefourteenthofapril says:

      You don’t know what that means to me. Most of the time, writing pieces like this is just a purging of sorts – something to free the the ache whilst also serving as documentation to remind myself it was real. So it isn’t until someone takes the time to type out a few kind words that I’m reminded that it doesn’t have to be for just me; it can be someone else’s form of catharsis as well. So thank you ❤ PS I clicked on your blog and I already know there are so many posts I'll be reading and loving!

      Liked by 1 person

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