Letter to my daughter’s “father”

February 20, 2013

From Flickr user InaFrenzy, used under CC lisense

From Flickr user InaFrenzy, used under CC lisense

Dear Paddy,

That’s what I call you now, in my mind. It is more interesting than your proper name, and you’ll know why I picked it. I’ve been meaning to write to you, to say thank you for the girl. It’s two days less than a month until your 32nd birthday.

On your birthday I make corned beef and cabbage and soda bread from scratch. Someday I’ll explain why to my girl. I do this even when I’m not eating meat. Even when the raw brisket makes me gag a little.

Your birthday strikes me as significant owing to the layers of meaning in birthdays, and how you helped me give someone a birthday. I wouldn’t actually send you this letter. I wouldn’t write to you, personally. I write this letter to you, now, but I write it for me, for other women who have babies with men they don’t know.

I think there are more of us than people talk about. I think we are a secret club that even we don’t know about. I think we don’t seek each other out because of the ugly things society says about us, and that some of us believe about ourselves. That we are sluts. That we are irresponsible. That we are unfit mothers.

I don’t want to think about you, but I do. My girl’s chin is yours, the shape of her eyes, too. I am glad we parted ways before there could be many bad memories between us. I am glad there are good times to recall with you, ones I can shake my head at and think, “God, I was young and dumb.”

I try to think about you meditatively and beam happy thoughts and hopes for success your way. But I can’t avoid bitterness. I ask myself rhetorically, “How can he be so callous?” I ask myself rhetorically, “How can his mom be so proud of him?” She is. You should know.

When I met her last summer, she told me about your hair and your job with the moisture of pride in her eyes. I am a mother, and I recognize that irrationality, and I love your mother for it, because maybe if I love her, she can beam extra love your way, and maybe when my girl decides to hop a train to check out her “real father,” you’ll be better at life than you were then, than you are now.


My daughter’s mother