A hidden picture and a broken heart

Alexis Sendejas, Featured Columnist

When Sunday morning rolled around, I found the energy to clean my room, which was sadly destroyed by my terribly messy habits. I hung up clothes. I put away random papers or shoes. Lastly I stripped the sheets off of my twin sized bed.

As I started to do this I realized that some of the sheets were caught under the mattress. Using second grade problem solving skills, I lifted the mattress up to extract it. That is when I saw the picture. At first, I didn’t realize what it was. I assumed it was a mattress tag, but when I picked it up, I saw it was a picture of my father and me, from probably 10 years ago.

I looked at the picture and I didn’t see what a typical 16-year-old girl would see. I didn’t see a tickle monster or a shoe-tying expert. No, instead of seeing all things a girl should see in a dad, I saw a stranger and a master of hateful words.

It had been six months since my dad kicked me out and two years since our never-ending fight began.

I wanted to scream. I wanted to rip the stupid thing into shreds. Most of all, I wanted to forget him.

At the age of 3, my parents got divorced. My split-house life started. I never knew anything else. Seeing my dad wasn’t the always the easiest due to the fact that things ended bitterly between my parents and the fact that he was in the Army.

As I entered my pre-teens he resigned and gradually our relationship grew stronger, while my mother’s and my relationship spiraled downwards.

Before I knew it I was 14, a freshman in high school with step-parents on both sides.  I had two families.

At this time in my life I was in between a custody battle between my parents, one I had stupidly initiated. I claimed I wanted to live with my father, but it only took me about three months to realize I wanted to stay with my mom and step dad, at my home.

The court battle continued for five months and it was then when things between my father and I whirled out of control.

Sure, my dad and I had good times, but we fought a large amount of the time. We seemed to agree on not a single thing anymore. He wanted to control me and I wanted to control myself.

The following Easter, my dad “met his breaking point” and kicked me out. It broke my heart. I had never felt so abandoned. I felt useless, like I didn’t deserve the love from a father.

Seasons changed, holidays came and went and birthdays passed. Over a six-month period, I had only exchanged a handful of calls with a man I used to idealize.

So there I was, staring at the old picture, feeling as if I was riding the Texas Giant of emotions. When a parent abandons their child in a way my father had, it makes them question themselves and old memories.

When I was little my dad and I had a saying. He would ask me “Who loves Lexi more than Daddy does?” My response was clearly “No one!” Then he’d tell me “Who loves Daddy more than Lexi does?” Again my response was “No one!”   

Why this came to my mind then and there, I had no idea. What may have been true then was no longer…it was now a lie.

Days passed and the picture remained back in its secret spot, hidden like the bad secret it was. Never had I loved or been hurt by someone like him.

Finally one Sunday a month later I was brave enough to pull out the picture again. I looked at it for almost an hour. I studied the man who God had made my father. The questions surfaced – why was he not a dad or father to me? Was I broken? Did I not deserve this?

The answer was not an easy one to decide, but I figured it out eventually one day. I saw a little girl, probably 5, walking hand-in-hand with her daddy through the grocery store. That’s what gave me my answer.

We are put in this world to love and to learn. The two major teachers in life are your mom and dad. Things had gone terribly bad between my father and me, but that didn’t mean it was my entire fault. My dad hadn’t done his job. He hadn’t been my tickle monster or shoe-tying teacher. He quit on me – a person he chose to put in this world.

Since then I haven’t thought much about him, but every time I see a little girl with her dad, a part of me prays “Be the dad that she would be proud of, sir.”

Currently, I have no wishes to amend things with my father, but I have taken a lot from this situation. It has taught me the value of a relationship and that at the end of the day we choose who our heart loves. But sometimes we have to get out of toxic relationships, rather than staying there and allowing things to escalade and get worse.

My heart will always love my dad, and the picture still remains under my bed. I will not forget him, no matter how hard I try, and I will always know the imprint an absent parent leaves on a heart. I will not let it hold me back from loving myself or people in life.