Where does one begin when the story is so real and the hurt so painful that each letter of every word is like a dagger to the heart? I suppose the beginning is as good as place as any.
Six years ago I was in an emotional free fall. My marriage of 15 years had fallen to pieces and the perfect little world I had created quickly evaporated. In what seemed like the blink of an eye I lost my wife, my house, my career and worst of all….my soul. I wasn’t me anymore. I wasn’t anything. I cleansed myself with booze, pills and anything that would numb my thoughts from the horror that had become my reality.
It was during this somber time that I met a young woman from Ireland. She was much too young and beautiful for the likes of me. Common sense screamed for me to keep walking. I was an emotional fucking mess and a time bomb ready to destroy whatever remaining pieces of my life that still existed. Worse… Any person near me would feel the devastation of my thoughtless decisions as well. Still, I started a relationship.
Several weeks later the 6 words that would change my life forever were quietly spoken….”I’m going to have your child.”
I panicked. For me this wasn’t cause for a celebration or tearful hugs of joy. Any ambition I might of had for the bliss of fatherhood had passed long ago. Instead, my mind raced with fear and the unimaginable, terrifying future of what was to come. I realized how much of a man I wasn’t. My own father was a brutal alcoholic monster, so the concept of raising a child was much too foreign to entertain even for a second. This simply could not be. I wouldn’t allow it. I insisted this all go away and cut ties. Devastated and abandoned, the mother of my child left America for the support of her family back in Ireland.
My cowardly reaction haunted me with unbearable regret. At the time I couldn’t see the gift I had been given. I didn’t want to see it. But 9 months later a letter would arrive with photos of the child, a beautiful girl, who I had turned my back on. They say a women becomes a mother the day she becomes pregnant. But that a man doesn’t become a father until the day he sees his child’s eyes. On that day I became a father. But it was too little, too late. I became obsessed with my own shame. Although I relentlessly sought forgiveness, there was none to be found nor did I deserve it. The damage had been done and for the next 5 years an ocean thousands of miles wide would become the locked door that kept me from the innocent child I had turned my back on.
Despite hundreds of emails– some rational, some begging, some angry–my pleas for forgiveness fell on deaf ears. The only contact I would have with my daughter over the coming years would be via stolen online social media images. I was watching my flesh and blood grow on Facebook with an empty hole in my heart growing larger by the day.
Last week I decided it was time to face my sins and fly to Monaghan, Ireland in search of my little girl. After nearly 5 years I was prepared for whatever waited for me in that wee Northern Irish town. As you might imagine there were no parades or welcome signs. I rode into Monaghan with one thought only…. see my daughter.
When I arrived I had no idea where to turn. There was no address, only some hints of where I might find members of the family.
After a full day of searching for any information I could find and getting nowhere, I stopped off at a local pub to collect my thoughts and contemplate what to do next. A pint of Guinness and some words of encouragement from an understanding bartender were all I had accomplished…And then it happened. The pub door opened and the grandmother of my daughter walked passed me and sat at the end of the bar. I can’t explain how I knew it. Maybe it was the reaction on the bartender’s face or the blurry images from Facebook. I just knew it. It was her.
I approached and was greeted with a reaction one might expect. Again, there were no parades. However, there was finally a physical connection and a step closer to finding my daughter. The next day we met for tea to discuss my intentions at a local cafe and again, there was little sympathy and no hint of forgiveness. But the door so tightly shut for so long had been unlocked and the start of what I hope to be the beginning of a miraculous father and daughter relationship had begun.
There is no penance in existence or spiritual short cut that can cure the past. My long and emotional journey of redemption is just beginning. There is only this….The story that began with 6 words ends with 6 words: Beidh Tu’ mo inion go deo. (You will be my daughter forever).
By Chaunce Hayden