June 4 – A “Dad-Shaped Hole” in My Heart

by Kali´Rourke

Father’s Day approaches, and although I rejoice in the wonderful Dad that my daughters have, I take no such joy in my own.

He was an unsolvable mystery to me. He married my mother when she was seventeen and they had me when she was nearly nineteen. My only impressions of him as I grew up came from family members who shared stories of his selfish, immature treatment of Mom during their short marriage. He seemed unable to connect emotionally with others, and from an adult perspective, I wonder if he may have been somewhere on the autism spectrum.

Soon after my birth, my mother divorced him and married her next husband. He was the one I would think of as “Dad” until that marriage dissolved when I was about six or seven years old.

My father checked back in briefly when I was fifteen; traveling from Memphis to Tulsa to sue for my custody when my mother temporarily gave my guardianship to my manager. I was a professional singer living in Oklahoma with my manager while my family stayed in Washington.

He strode into the courtroom, acting as his own attorney, and seemed totally oblivious to the realities of the situation (no, my mother was not giving me away) or any emotions I might have about meeting him for the first time. He lost his case, but my manager graciously invited him to her home to meet with me. I sang for him for the first and last time in my life, and tears came to his eyes.

Silly me; I thought we might have connected.

Later, I received a bus ticket to travel to Memphis to spend a week with him and his latest wife (he married multiple times) and I must admit, I was hopeful. My strongest memory of this ill-fated expedition was meeting his wife, who immediately gave me a gift. It was a set of shorty pajamas in bright colors and I was thrilled. I wore them when I went to bed and made sure that they knew that I was delighted with the present.

The next morning, she scolded me for “flaunting myself at my father,” making me feel foolish and ashamed. My father said nothing at all. I called Mom, told her I would be taking the next bus home and left, never to see him again.

I find myself wondering how much emotional damage and insecurity his wife suffered in that marriage. He and I spoke a few times over the phone through the years, (I suspect Grandma made him do it.) but he had no real interest in me or his beautiful granddaughters and I eventually wrote him off.

“Ignore me if you like, but my daughters will never deserve that,” I thought.

When he committed suicide in prison at the age of 59, it was as if a stranger had died, leaving the “Dad-Shaped Hole” in my heart to be forever unfilled.

 

Kali´Rourke is a wife, mother, writer, singer, volunteer, philanthropist, and a proud Seedling Mentor. She blogs at Kali’s Musings and A Burning Journey – One Woman’s Experience with Burning Mouth Syndrome.

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14 responses to “June 4 – A “Dad-Shaped Hole” in My Heart

  1. sara etgen-baker

    Wow, Kali, how riveting your post was. I can only imagine the huge whole you have in your heart. I truly feel for you but also appreciate your strength in sharing such an intimate memory. Thank you.

  2. “A Dad-Shaped-Hole” – such an apt way to label what many of us suffer. Well written.

  3. A good reminder that not all dads fit the popular image. It’s a sad story, but you clearly built an amazing life without your father’s help. The hole in my heart came when my dad was killed—I was four. I know that persistent empty space, and its ache, and admire your courage in writing about this life-shaping absence. Thanks, Kali.

    • Thank you, Susan, and I am so sorry for your loss. I mentor children who have often lost a father to incarceration and subsequent deportation, and I know it is even more traumatic to lose that relationship when it has had a chance to form and exist.

  4. Oh! What a moving story. It is a testimony to the human spirit that still is hopeful when all the signs say, :This is hopeless” Thanks for sharing so openly and honestly.

    • Thank you. I think it is the supportive women writers at One Woman’s Day and at Story Circle Network that make it possible for us to speak our truth, and sometimes that is just what we need to be able to heal. Looking forward to the truth-telling to come.

  5. What a heartfelt and well written real-life story. Like others here said, a reminder of what parents can do and the power to walk away and build a life.

    • Thank you, Ariela. It’s all about the choices we make, isn’t it? But some of us have fewer choices than others and that is the area where I will continue to work. Thank you for your kind words.

  6. Thank you for sharing this honest, compelling story. It takes great courage to do that.

    • Thank you, Lynn. Supportive women like you and others in SCN help so much. My hope is that more SCN members are moved to tell their own stories. It really does make a difference in the world.

  7. Pingback: A “Dad-Shaped Hole” in My Heart | Kali's Musings

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