A Letter to Him

A Letter to Him

Parenting… what do I know about parenting? Short answer… nothing, which is why I’m not going to dive into a post about my experience on the matter. Wait, what if I actually surprised you all and have been raising a kid for the last five years? I suppose I really wouldn’t be in a position to give parenting advice, as I would’ve been partaking in a ‘Room’ sort of scenario. Okay, moving on. I thought about how I could write on this subject; I initially considered a letter to my parents, except most of you that have been reading my blogs have already learned a lot about my relationship with my mom, and a bit about my relationship with my dad, so I decided to take this time to write a message to my biological father, since I never had the courage to knock on his front door. I don’t intend for this to be a sob story, nor am I going in with a martyr mentality, but who knows what’ll happen when the words start flowing.

Let’s do this.

Dear Joseph,

This is your daughter, Devon. I sometimes wonder if you forgot you had me. As I understand it, I was three when we left, and you very well may have been blacked out when my mom delivered the news. I think about my first memories, in dance class, coloring a picture, playing dress up, or learning how to do a forward roll… and at many stages, I resented you for not being there to lift me up and tell me how special I was and how proud you were. Of course, at the time, I would have zero inclination something was manifesting inside, signaling “trauma” somewhere deep in my brain. I watched Inside Out recently and all I can picture is Sadness pushing the button to release a blue “forever memory”…

But I want you to know how loved my mom, grandparents, aunt, and uncles made me feel during your absence – allowing me to play and dream and learn without judgement or frustration. That’s not to say I wasn’t a handful, because of course I was – as I’ve been told, I was always very inquisitive, starting at a young age, which I’m sure can be exhausting, especially as a single parent. I can picture myself playing the ‘why’ game with my family now, and being genuinely interested in the answer, including the ‘why’ after ‘because I said so.’

My mom ended up meeting the love of her life when I was five, and suddenly, I had a dad. But because I subconsciously thought you were looking for me, I didn’t give him a fair chance. Although I’ve blacked out a lot of those early years, I can recall the hardened feeling in my heart when he would push me to do something, thinking it should’ve been you there.

I skipped kindergarten, as teachers said I was bored with the material they taught (not to brag). I would excel in elementary school, making lots of friends, falling more in love with dance, performing in school talent shows, getting straight A’s, and thinking I was a great singer every time I got a solo in choir (I nailed twinkle twinkle little star). I also had a strong affinity for boys, which I suppose was normal.

My mom always helped me with projects to ensure mine stood out – I remember how much time we spent on my Valentine’s box one year… you know, where you take a shoe box and cut a hole in the top so classmates can slip cards in? Well, mine was painted white with perfectly spaced pink and red glitter, gems, and rhinestones; we installed a rod with a large red heart at the top, which was decorated to match. I’m sure there’s a Polaroid of it in a shoe box (how meta) somewhere.

After school most days, I would go to the dance studio for jazz, tap, ballet, or hip hop – something I looked forward to immensely. I was drawn to almost everything about it – the community of girls I shared the space with, the feeling of memorizing a routine in a short time frame, then performing in small groups for the teacher. Recitals were the MOST special, as we would perform for billions of people at the local college… okay, obviously not billions, but there were a lot of people watching, and my name was in the program! Walking On Sunshine was a personal favorite, as we wore bright yellow onesies with a matching hat – I think I was missing a front tooth for that performance, which was adorable. I remember the feeling I had in my stomach when we’d walk to our places on stage while the lights were still dim, then the immediate jolt of excitement when the music started and my body went into muscle memory mode with each different note. I could only make out faces within the first few rows, but that was enough – I loved playing to the crowd, throwing in a wink after nailing a side leap. My whole family would be there to greet me with flowers afterwards and we would go out to dinner – I still had my full face of makeup on, so I would get even more attention from people in the restaurant. I’m not sure if the attention I so craved could be attributed to your absence, but I suppose it doesn’t matter.

I would soon be on the studio’s competitive team which gave me an even more heightened sense of community. I had sleepovers with my teammates and we would travel around the state for competitions, where the audience was even bigger and the lights were (seemingly) even brighter. I’m still looking to track down a tape of some of those shows, which would also mean I’d need to find a way to play the tape, but one step at a time. Side note – I wonder how many moms are saying to their kids, “we already have Disney plus – go get the DVD’s from the garage!”

When it was time for middle school, I remember walking the Granite Mountain campus feeling like I’d entered a completely new universe – something about having a locker was extremely compelling, and I filled it with magazine cut outs, pictures from the disposable camera, and of course, the $2 Target mirror you could hardly see into. I continued dancing competitively and joined the track team, which really brought out my ambition for winning.

We had a field day, where the class split into teams of four to compete in different obstacles, which started with carrying 50 ping pong balls in your shirt while running a lap, so not only were you scored on time, but on how many balls remained after your lap… also, let me clarify something – they weren’t folded into a shirt that was tied up, we had those mesh vests on. We weren’t living in a Euphoria-like world, where girls wore bras and revealing pants to the local fair, though, the rodeo dance – that’s a different story. Back to the field day – one of the other events was hanging from a bar (the goal post) – our team was in the finals and I hung next to another girl, feeling the blood start to form under my calloused palms; I would’ve sooner let my arms snap from my hands than let go, and we took first place – I’m now missing only four fingers (joking… maybe). That said, I quite enjoyed middle school and had the most caring administrator that talked to us like actual human beings – not pre-teen annoyances.

I don’t recall many nerves heading into high school, but that may be because I’d already formed a bond with the dance team I tried out for. English was my favorite subject all four years, with art being a close second. I dated the captain of the football team (on and off), made friends with older kids, partied too much, studied a little less than I should have, though still maintaining good grades, and absolutely LOVED performing at pep assemblies, football games, and basketball games. I thought about you with less regularity throughout these years, which is not to say my dad and I became super close, but I had him as a constant in my life, and that was important.

I guess it makes sense that I would start thinking about you more when I turned 18 in college… you were only a 30 minute drive from ASU and I’d planned out how I would knock on your door and allow you back into my life. But that didn’t happen – the fear of rejection outweighed my desire to meet you and I would let that frustration manifest into poor decisions, specifically revolving around men.

As I became more self aware, though (which came after my rock bottom), my connection with my dad improved and I was no longer attracting low quality “relationships.” I would also learn the majority of my approval seeking behaviors stemmed from what you didn’t give me, which I understand, you couldn’t. I also understand you’ll never read this, as you’re no longer a part of this world, but perhaps we’ll meet again, in another life. I think I’ll be a Swedish man – maybe you’ll be the barista I see at a coffee shop every morning, and maybe then, I can tell you in person, that I forgive you. And then you could form a question mark in the foam, hand it to me, and say ‘here’s your coffee with a question.’

Sincerely,

Devon Herrera

Committed To Curiosity

Instagram: @Coffee_With_A_Question

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