16 Jun Fatherhood to Her
“I’ve sent text to both of my fathers,” Sahleah stated nonchalantly in recognition of Father’s Day.
But, things weren’t always so casual when it came to this holiday. For years the role of fatherhood was filled by her grandfather, her uncles and I did my best to cover where I could. My husband became a solid figure in our lives inheriting and owning the role of father to Sahleah as we married June last year.
Her longing for a connection to her biological father surfaced in various ways, including sadness, anger and resentment. Her stepfather and I supported her through these feelings and provide her with various resources to help her process the void she felt.
Sahleah and her birth father’s (as she calls him) relationship frequency could include daily phone calls for a month and then only a few times a year following the sprint. Visits were less, occurring every three or four years for a few days at a time. The 800 miles and personal struggles of her father continued to be the barrier between their father-daughter relationship.
So, six months ago, when Sahleah asked her birth father to visit over her Spring break, the anticipation of the impeding disappointment made me hope they’d both forget this request. But, she didn’t forget a thing!
The weekend before Spring Break, Sahleah called him to confirm his attendance.
This would be the first time that they would spend time together in three years, the first time that he would see her since her “rough period,” and the first for both fathers in her presence.
Five days following her confirmation call, he drove his black Cadillac with Disabled Veteran license plates more than 12 hours and arrived at our door step. When she realized that he was physically at our home, Sahleah, now only a few inches shorter than him, ran to him and yelled, “Dad!”
Sahleah’s entourage for those few days over Spring Break included me and both fathers trailing behind her. We were all in attendance for her art show, doctor’s appointments and just relaxing at the house. They also took time for themselves to grab food and shop.
This visit provided an opportunity for Sahleah to see both fathers engaging in conversations about the world, art and autism. An outside observer could mistake the two as friends.
For birth father, he was able to see Sahleah as a teen who is maturing into a beautiful, intelligent and talented young lady. He was able to see a day in the life of Sahleah, understand her strict schedules and get a glimpse into the loving environment that me and her stepfather have created.
“I’ve sent texts to both of my fathers,” is a statement that has so much healing behind each word.