I wonder what it would have been like if you were around
From birth to a teenager, would I have made you proud
I’ll never hate or dislike you, in fact I pray for you and miss you
Would my life have been better if you were here, or would it have been worse- that’s a fear
God only knows why it happened this way, maybe we’ll meet when we’re both grey
Would I have been a daddy’s girl and a spoilt brat or maybe you wouldn’t have raised me like that
Would you have shouted at the men who hurt me
Would you have scared off the girls that hated me
I don’t know… I just wonder
By Vean Torto- written in 1998
Looking back at this poem I wrote at 19 years old, my feelings then haven’t much changed from how I feel today. I knew my dad and have flashes of days out together. as a little girl. He would show me off then back to mum I would go. Who could forget the big promises that never materialised and my inability to call you ‘dad’ because when you’re raised by a superwoman who is both mum and dad in the most testing circumstances it seemed a betrayal to honour you like that.
I was 13 years old when your last visit became your final visit to no. 96, our family home full of memories you didn’t feature in.
As a maturing woman experiencing relationships that often left me in pain I would cry like a baby for you. I was equating their rejection and lack of commitment with yours. A horrible pattern was emerging. I was just haunted by the fact that you could have us and then just leave like we were something that had gone out of style, things that could be replaced. But the thing is we could never leave you. My laugh is loud and brash and amongst family when I let it loose the infamous line emerges ‘my God Vee you laugh like you father’. I’m told constantly my opinionated, no holds barred approach to communicating and inability to tolerate nonsense also hails from your gene pool. Then there’s that pointy chin of yours that me and my second child have. You are everywhere and nowhere at the same time. You are D A D.
I would pray to God for you and then get angry because you might already be dead so what am I praying for. Lord I needed to know. Then one day….
At 28 years old after the birth of my first child I took a random trip to Shepherd’s Bush Market with my mum and older sister (who is not his child btw) as we browsed I suddenly looked up as I heard a familiar voice -a smooth, heavy Grenadian accent over by the display of watches. It was you dad. I was sure of it. I nudged my mum the only person I trusted to confirm or reject my claim, she looked over and confirmed. Yes Vee, it’s your dad.
I boldly walked over and said excuse me are you …….? Yes he answered. Well I’m Vean your daughter.
I will not share what happened next but I left with a photo, we shared stories we exchanged numbers and for a little while I wasn’t fatherless. We lost contact again but I’m grateful for my answered prayer. My prayers have started again let’s see if I get another meet before you’re gone for good.
My dad not being around did affect me. I’m not gonna front and say I was better off without him. Yes, I had all the love I needed. A warm home and food in my belly every night but a good dad brings a dynamic to a young girl that cannot come from other sources. When I see my daughters with their amazing dad I stare at their interaction like they are some lab experiment. You see it’s alien to me. Hearing him tell them how beautiful they are, warning of future boyfriends leaving the girls in fits of giggles. I totally cannot relate. I love it but I had to get used to it. In my home women did everything and I had a lot of retraining to do. I didn’t actually know what men did in the home. I know now and it’s beautiful and just how it’s meant to be.
My girls have a reference point for a good man, a template that they will use to measure future suitors. I know girls with fathers still choose bad but I still believe they have a head start.
So if you’re a dad, living your life like its golden while your estranged children navigate their way through life with your image constantly in the forefront of their mind like some 90’s hologram pendant. Put them out of their misery. They are 50% you. Validate them, love them, take the blame and absorb their anger. Under all the brokenness is a little girl or boy that missed out on you and is full of unanswered questions. Make this second chance count.