For lack of one, five.

One of the heaviest weights that I have carried throughout my life has been my father’s absence. It has colored how I define myself–my struggle with my last name–and how I relate to other people in my life, not least of all his other children. It was a constant battle between my mother and I, as I kept holding onto hope that one day my father would mature and we would be able to have an okay relationship.. and I kept getting stood up over and over and over. “He’s my dad,” I would argue, and my mom and I would yell at each other until we had nothing left. For years, I thought that she was just angry at him; bitter over being left behind when he married someone else before I was even four months old. I know better, now–I know that her anger had nothing to do with herself and everything to do with watching me spill countless tears over someone that just wasn’t worth it.

Still, the anguish remained. “He’s my dad” was the refrain every time I had to confront his faults, as if the biological accident that was my conception gave the dude a free pass. Over time, I got better at pretending that it wasn’t a big deal, brushing it off with a flippant designation of “daddy issues” whenever anyone inquired. The first time that teenaged me admitted to someone how abandoned I felt, I said it to my pastor. I was about thirteen years old at the time, an awkward girl who was “too adult” for her peers and desperate for some sort of positive attention. When he invited me to hang out with the youth group, which I was still technically too young to attend, I began to see him as a figure I could confide in. So a couple of weeks later, in the middle of a tearful prayer, I blurted it out. “Every time I pray, I ask God why my dad doesn’t care about me.” In true pastoral fashion, Fernando refused to make excuses for him–as well as for me. “Why are you so concerned with him when God is your Father?” he asked, and the words branded themselves into my heart, being a huge part of my decision to pick a Hebrew name with His name in it.

I now know that God was looking out for me so much that he answered my prayer by sending me several fathers.

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A Yom Kippur Story

As I celebrated my first Yom Kippur last year, sitting among the congregation with longing in my eyes, I kept turning something over in my mind: could I really partake in the spirit of Yom Kippur when my heart still longed for someone’s forgiveness? When I still needed closure?

The questions became heavier this year, post-conversion, as I contemplated standing on the bima–beside the open Ark–on Yom Kippur. I knew I would not feel worthy of standing there anyway, but I felt especially unworthy because I still felt the need to make amends for that broken friendship.

The thought was bothering me so much that I did something scary. About ten days ago, I asked two friends for a big favor–to tell a former mutual friend (whom I had falling out with almost three years ago) that I’d like to talk to her. I did not think that she would reply in the affirmative,or maybe even that they would pass the message on at all–but I wanted to try to reach out to her one last time before I just wrote her and open letter and tried to move on with my life.

Lo and behold, last night I received an email from her stating that, while she believes she did the right thing in breaking off our friendship, she recognizes that she could have been more mature about it, is glad that our falling out did not push me away from Judaism… and she is willing to listen to what I have to say.

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