I grew up with my dad and an absent mother. Oh, she didn’t abandon us but she could as well have. My dad was a very significant part of my life. He knew me like no other person could. We lived in the suburbs.
I had an amazing childhood thanks to my papa. I remember him fondly. We were so happy. Now I realize we were poor but then I enjoyed so much love and attention from Papa that I didn’t notice.
Papa could make a meal out of anything. He was there when I opened my eyes. Mama was loving in a detached way that even as a child I felt it. She would be out working all day and would only return at night. She would come in looking really tired and Papa would hug her and make her sit and eat. Papa was my hero. We would talk and laugh while mama ate, then she would go to her room to sleep.
Papa would give me a bath and then read me a bedtime story. This was how it was everyday. Don’t get confused. Papa wasn’t sitting at home waiting for mama to bring in the paycheck. Papa was a plumber. He could fix anything. I always went out with him whenever he had appointments. He used to work in big houses. Every time we entered a big house, he would kneel so he could look into my eyes, then he would say, “My princess, papa is going to buy a house as big as this for you and mama one day.”
I would giggle and say, “As big as this papa?”
“As big as this sweetheart.” He would respond, then I would stretch out my pinkie and we would link fingers.
Papa used to take me to Sunday school. I really loved all the Bible stories. I would tell Papa all the stories Miss Laura told us. He never got tired of listening. He would laugh when I talked about Joseph’s coat of many colors or Daniel in the lion’s den. He knew those were my favorites.
Papa used to home school me when he had the time. He couldn’t afford to pay the rent as well as my fees. I loved it when papa taught me. He was always so patient and kind.
Then when I was five years old, I asked papa why mama didn’t love me. I’m not sure but I think I had wondered about it but I never asked.
If papa was shocked he didn’t let on. He just smiled and said, “Mama loves you princess. She is just really tired a lot of times.”
I must have looked really confused and sad because papa shook me gently and said, “Princess, mama and I love you very much, okay?”
I smiled, “Promise?”
He tickled me and said, “Catch me if you can.”
I knew it was play time and I was so thrilled. I managed to catch up with him when he slowed down. Then he lifted me up, kissed my forehead and said, “I love you sweetheart.”
That night papa and mama had a nasty argument. I don’t know what it was all about but I heard papa mention my name several times and he sounded really angry.
Our house was really small with only two bedrooms so it was easy to hear when voices were raised. I was so scared I started to cry. I didn’t understand what I had done to make papa so angry.
Papa came into my room and carried me. He soothed me until I stopped crying.
I looked into his face and said, “Are you angry with me papa?”
He hugged me fiercely and said, “No, no, no sweetheart. Why would you think that?”
“I heard you shouting Sarah when you were talking to mama.”
“No princess, I’m sorry. I was angry but it wasn’t at you, okay?
“You were angry with mama?”
“No princess. Daddy was just being naughty. You forgive papa?”
“Yes papa. I love you.”
“I love you too honey.” He held me till I slept off.
They didn’t fight again but papa didn’t talk much to mama after that. We didn’t sit and talk with mama at the table in the evenings. She just came in, went to her room and slept. Papa was always with me.
I wondered why mama always seemed so distant but I never asked again. Then a month later I started school. Papa took me to school every morning and was there when school let out. I loved school. I had friends and it was fun playing on the swing.
When I turned 8, I think things became increasingly difficult because papa decided to join the army. I cried rivers when he told me he was leaving. I didn’t care about anything, I just wanted my papa to never leave me.
“Please papa stay with me.”
“Look at me princess, I’m going to work really hard so I can buy you that pretty big house. I want to give you the life you deserve sweetheart.”
“I don’t want the house anymore.” I cried loudly. “I want you. Papa please stay with me.”
“You are breaking daddy’s heart princess. Promise me you will be good.”
“I promise papa.” I stretched out my pinkie and we linked fingers. I hugged his neck. “I love you papa.” I said, sobbing loudly.
“I love you princess. I’ll call you, okay?” He hugged me again and released me. He stood and turned to go but I held his hand. He knelt beside me, kissed my forehead and whispered, “I’ll be back before you know it.”
Okay, before you scream, the story has only just Begun!