The Daughter You Didn’t Know I Had

* NOTE: This article was published merely months before my daughter looked me up, and now we have an awesome long-distance relationship!

This would be a surprise to many that know me, but I have a daughter.

This is a surprise, because I don’t talk about her. I don’t really have pictures of her. I don’t talk to her. I don’t see her. I don’t refer to her, because I’m embarrassed—I don’t want to be that guy, the absentee dad.

I do think of her often though, almost every day. She had just turned sixteen. So I imagine her driving in her car. I imagine her going on dates and dances. I imagine her in school plays, and maybe playing softball like her mom did years ago. I don’t know if she’s doing those things, but I imagine she’s having a good life. After all, don’t we all deserve a good life?

Sometimes, I feel like I shouldn’t have the good life I have. I’m married, own my own house, run several small businesses, and I make money doing what I enjoy. I have great pets, have decent health, and eat balanced meals my wife and I prepare. But do I deserve these good things? Perhaps. But in mind, I feel like I got a cake-walk.

I wasn’t the single mom, I’m not the sacrificial step-dad, I’m not the hurt grandparents. I wasn’t the one abandoned to pick up the pieces. I wasn’t the one trying to make ends meet to provide for a child.

My daughter was conceived with my ex-girlfriend after we went to the mall with her friends. It was essentially a one night stand with someone familiar. I liked her, and I enjoyed dating her, but I was pretty much a drunken asshole at the time.

I was fiscally irresponsible. I used people. I kept having my utilities cut off. I lost jobs. I was a loser. I was resentful that in my early twenties, I was going to have to settle down, trade in my wild ways, and provide for a family. I couldn’t do it.

We broke up after trying for a year. After that, I got even more wild, and lost yet another job.

I moved three-hundred miles away from my college town back to Chicago, my childhood hometown and place where I still had friends and resources. I got my old job at an ice cream shop and moved in with friends from my church. I had to get my shit together.

As soon as I moved, my daughter’s mother married someone new and he adopted my daughter, saying I abandoned her. This wasn’t really the case, as I had moved to get my life back on track so I can build a better life that would include her. I’ve sent cards throughout the years, and mailed letters to my ex pleading for some level of involvement. I never got one response.

While I hit some more bumps in the road, causing me to again realize that simply moving to a new location doesn’t necessarily mean that old demons stay put. Long story short, I had a wake-up call, and completed my transformation into adulthood.

My ex’s family still keeps in touch with my grandmother, where I hear secondhand how my daughter is doing, what she’s up to, and how good of a step-father my ex’s husband is. They have built a life together, and seem to be doing well. And it makes me feel horrible that I brought a child into this world, and not be the person I should have been at that time.

It also hurts that she knows about me, knows I had left, but probably doesn’t know my side of the story. She probably doesn’t care what my side of the story is. All she knows is, she was born and I left. She might know more, but as this piece started out with, I tend to imagine.

I do hope that someday she and I could reconcile on some level. She’ll probably have a lot of venting to do, but that’s okay. I can deal with that; I’ve earned that anger, I know. But I want her to know that I always wanted the best for her.

My biggest regret is not having had a child, but for thinking that I could do better by her by leaving town.

Originally published and relunctantly retitled in 2015 at: http://goodmenproject.com

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