I have to be honest. I lie all of the time. Every day, I lie, although the lies range in magnitude. Sometimes, it’s the simple conversational “I’m fine” lie to avoid any awkward tension. Sometimes, it extends beyond words, and becomes an act that I perform each day. Usually, I lie because it’s easier than talking about my emotions. In a way, I suppose I’m protecting myself; if I lie to everyone else, it’s that much easier to lie to myself. Or at the very least ignore whatever emotions I don’t want to confront.
Despite that, I’ve always tried to be honest in my writing. If there’s anyone who knows almost all of my secrets, almost all of the things I’ve felt in the last 5 years, it’s Mr.B, my high school creative writing teacher, who has had access to nearly every piece of writing I’ve done since I walked into his classroom in ninth grade. But still, even he has not read everything. I try my hardest to be completely honest with Linda as well. And I think I’ve done a fairly good job with that, although, there are still certain things I’ve yet to actually say out loud.
I didn’t start this blog with the intention of only sharing with Mr. B, or Linda, or Mikaela, or any one person. I started it because I wanted to write. And I’ve always written my truth, every aspect of my truth, not just the funny, cute, easily presented to the world parts.
I don’t know if I’m being brave or stupid, I just know that I want my writing to remain true. Authentic. An extension of me and the person I really am the person I really want to be. So although, some people may not notice the elephant in the room, I cannot ignore it any longer. He’s been taking up so much space in my mind, and writing this story may be the only way to address him. So I’ll start with last weekend, although that’s hardly the beginning of the story.
Last weekend, I flew home to North Carolina for my dad’s wedding. He got married on Saturday afternoon on the beach. Linda, Justin, and I stayed with my cousins, about an hour away. Most everyone knows that I was not looking forward to this wedding for a couple of reasons. So, I was feeling pretty uneasy Saturday morning. Things took a turn for the worse when I discovered we were running a few minutes late. My dad had told me several times to be there fifteen minutes early, but the GPS said we would be four minutes late. I cannot stand being late; it makes me absurdly stressed. And Saturday was no exception. Halfway there, my anxiety took over. Justin had to stop and get gas, we were going to be even more late, the world was burning, I wasn’t going.
Everyone tried to calm me down to no avail. I would not walk onto the beach late, I told them. I would sit in the car and miss the wedding before I showed up late. I was angry and tense and poor Justin got yelled at for literally nothing. But I didn’t want to go. Not because we were late, but because I didn’t want to see my dad get married. I didn’t want to see my dad ride off into the sunset, a happy newlywed, while me and my family congratulated him like he just did something great. It wasn’t great it was awful.
We made it the wedding, which my dad’s fiance, Erica, had held until we got there. I hung back, clung to Justin and avoided watching the ceremony. Nothing to see, no big deal. I tried to avoid pictures, but realized I couldn’t, so I stood in place with a closed mouth smile. I met Erica’s relatives, tried to be not awkward, and didn’t make a scene. I behaved. I went to the reception and met more relatives and smiled and answered their questions and tried to have a good time. I only freaked out a little bit. Justin got more harsh words he didn’t deserve. Bless his heart, he endured a lot Saturday.
I didn’t want to go to the wedding because I didn’t want to see my daddy happy and in love, I didn’t want to have to pretend to be happy and carefree for hours, I didn’t want to show my incredibly poor social skills to Erica’s family. The whole time, I felt uncomfortable and out of place, and anxious. But I smiled, and talked. I behaved.
So, I think everyone knows that my dad and I have a strained relationship, but not many people know why. I’m not sure I know why. I know that we’ve always butted heads and argued. But I remember that after my mom died, I wanted to stay close to him; I was afraid of losing him too. The summer before my senior year, I remember going to the beach with him and Linda, and having our caricatures drawn and taking those cheesy old timey photos. I remember having such a good time. And then, in the fall, something changed. I got busy with school, dance, work, and my million extracurriculars. He started dating Erica.
But he didn’t tell me about her at first. But he started coming home later, started staying over at her house. I don’t remember the exact process, but one day he didn’t come back. We never talked about; he never told me he was leaving; he just left. No discussion, no talking. I remember lying on the couch waiting for him to come home one night, but he never came home. I met Erica at the same time my dad met Justin, at my powderpuff football game in November. For my 18th birthday, he called me and asked why I had an unexcused absence at school. He dropped off a Steak N Shake gift card while I wasn’t home. For Christmas, he stopped at the house for a few minutes to give me windsheild wipers before I left for work. The rest of my senior year followed in the same fashion. He came to awards night and my graduation, but didn’t come to my last musical, which I had a part in and choreographed, and he didn’t come to my final dance recital. In my eyes, he missed all of my high school lasts.
And while he was missing those, he took Erica’s son to the Cleveland County Fair, to the Renaissance festival, to Carowinds. He went to his Parent-Teacher Conferences, helped him with his homework. All things, he’d never done with me. He found a new family and didn’t bother putting any effort into maintaining his old one. Once I left for Yale, I was gone. He missed the last moments of me being a teenager, his last chance to really spend time with me. Things haven’t gotten any better since. I don’t even know who he is, and I’m sure he had no idea who I am either.
I need to clarify some things at this point; we still talk, although rarely, and he helped me move into my dorms the last two years, and always helps me financially when I ask. And I have no problem with Erica; she’s a really sweet lady who’d been super nice to me. But from where I’m standing, my dad found a new family and suddenly became this “family man” that I never got. He began treating me like some distant adult relative that communicating with was a chore or obligation.
I know that I haven’t done anything to improve our relationship. It’s a lot like my anxiety attack before the wedding; if I’m late, I’m not going. If he hasn’t realized that he’s done anything wrong, I’m not going to try to fix it. I realize that this is not a mature attitude to have; but I don’t know how to fix something no one has acknowledged is broken. I know how to write, so that’s what I’m doing. I know that everyone, including my dad, will probably read this. But I had to write my truth, and this is it. Unresolved, out in the open, uncomfortable. Everyday, I choose to lie, but I today I choose honesty. Hopefully it won’t get me into too much trouble. Or hopefully, it will.