What’s in a name?

…that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;

I’ve had this title and blank post drafted for a couple months now and every time I plan on starting it, I tend to erase everything but the title and quote and leave it again.

It can be hard for me to open up about my relationship with my biological father and normally, I wouldn’t, but this is a blog about me and my life and my experiences and how I handle them so… here we go.

Back in April, I decided to legally change my last name. I had been toying around with the idea for several years but had never fully made a conscious decision to do so and, when I had, I found I had to take my time to bring myself to it.

Our relationship hadn’t always been strained. My parents divorced when I was a toddler and like any little girl, I idolized my father growing up. I knew he worked hard and I would visit on the weekends. As I got older, I started to notice that when I would visit him, I would feel uncomfortable or irritable when I got home and unable to explain why. I realize now that I couldn’t understand the complexities of my emotions then and sometimes even now. There were many layers to what, I think, contributed to these feelings:

  • I felt pressured to make up for the opportunities that I had being a first generation American which he lacked in his own life. Pressured to be better, to be smarter, to be more than I wanted to be.
  • I felt conflicted about the way he would praise and also criticize my mother.
  • I felt his emotional distance from me.
  • I felt hurt by his teasing words and condescension.

In my head I would rationalize these things as his yearning for me to be better. His aching for me to have a life better than the one he had.

I began to notice a pattern in our communications. He would often be really kind and loving and that would turn into him being critical and nasty which would turn into apologetic and remorseful and back to really kind and loving. Sometimes it would manifest in minor ways and other times it manifested in bigger arguments.

I hadn’t spoken to my father in a long time — about five years. I wanted to patch things up back then and we had had a productive and good conversation and had planned to meet for dinner a few weeks after. The night of the dinner I went to his apartment to meet him and he wasn’t home and when I called he wouldn’t tell me where he was or what he was doing. I was devastated. I had been looking forward to it for weeks and I had told him that even if we went to the supermarket together I didn’t care. In the end, I left and I didn’t look back. A few months later, after no word from him, I got a nasty text from him and it solidified my decision to cut ties.

The night I was admitted to the hospital, I reached out again. I had been talking to so many nurses and doctors and techs in the ER and I realized that I knew nothing of his family’s medical history. So, after an hour of consideration, I called him. When I finally got a hold of him, he was surprised to hear from me and after offering what he could, he asked to see me. I was scared at that moment. I had been in the ER for close to eight hours at that point and I didn’t know what was going on. I declined. I wanted to see him but I didn’t want the first time we talked in years to be in a hospital. So I told him that. And he reluctantly agreed.

The rest of that night I was reeling. Waiting for a CT scan, waiting for a room, waiting for a nurse, waiting for the doctor. Later the next day, I received a barrage of texts from him. Horrible texts. And in that moment I realized which part of the cycle we were in. I blocked him and I smiled at my family, who were visiting me at the time, and continued the night. Sad, but not surprised. It wasn’t the first time… but I decided then, it would be the last.

I wish that I could be the kind of daughter my father wanted me to be and I wish that he had been the kind of father that I needed him to be. I wish that we had a better relationship and that he would let me in. I wish that he would get the help he needs to understand the layers of his emotions and the levels of his pain. But I cannot fix these things in him. I wish I could tell him how much I love him and how much it eats at me not to see him. How much it tears me apart to feel like this. I wish I could make things right and make him understand all the pain he has caused and that I miss him with every moment. That I miss the man I hoped he would be. I miss the father that I needed. I wish I could explain to him the hole in my heart that I feel when I think of him. I wish I could hate him for all the times and all the ways he has left me. I wish I could tell him that I forgive him but that I cannot let him in. I cannot let him hurt me anymore.

I chose to write about this because I wanted people to understand that my decision to change my last name is not a whimsical one. For those of you who are friends with me on social media, you know that my last name is different online but I am going through with the change legally. I’m changing my last name to match my DAD.

Ten years ago, my mom married a man that would be the ultimate father figure in my life. From the moment we met up until now, my stepdad — whom I now call my dad — has been my rock and my support when I needed him. He has been through the birthdays, Christmases, graduations, breakups, heartaches, and so much more.

Through the hardest times of dealing with the fallout with my biological father, my dad comforted me and made me believe that I was worthy of having a man in my life to care for me in a way that did not mean hurting me. He showed me what it meant to be in healthy relationships by being a loving husband to my mother and a loving father to me. He set the standard for how I would want to be treated by anyone who entered into my life and for all of these things I am grateful.

It was a hard decision to make — changing my name — and it took years to follow through. I had hoped that one day I’d be able to mend the relationship with my father and that hopefully, we would be able to fix all the years that we had been apart. Even after I ordered the paperwork through LegalZoom, I took my time to fill it out and bring it to the courthouse. Part of me was apprehensive. It felt like I was closing a door and in those moments I remember that I was not the one who slammed it. I was not the person who was shutting someone out. I was the person being shut out.

This is the longest post I have written to date and I’m not even sure if it makes any sense and maybe, to you, it doesn’t need to. But to me, it means so much.

I wish there were a better way to describe what my dad means to me now. A way to show you what I see when I see him. He is my hero and I am so proud to be his daughter.