As if a magician had waved his magic wand, my father vanished into thin air when I was four years old. He and my mother decided to go their separate ways after four years of marriage. As a child, I didn’t understand what it meant for a marriage not to work or the concept of “irreconcilable differences.” All I knew was, for the first three years of my life, I had a father who wrapped me in bear hugs and kissed my cheeks until they burned from his facial stubble; and then one day, he disappeared. While still a small child, I’d ask my mother about his whereabouts and she’d tell me that she and my father were now “separated.” I wasn’t sure what that meant either. Would he come back some day? Had he gone off on a trip? Was this something grownups did from time to time?

The years bled into one another and he never came back. When I turned eight, a letter from him was delivered to my grandmother’s house which was where my parents had lived during their marriage. At the time of its delivery, we no longer resided at my grandmother’s so my grandmother, in turn, brought the letter over to our house. My mother assembled my sister and me and read it to us. I hung on to every word she spoke: How were his daughters? He was sure our little faces had changed a lot since our babyhood and wondered what we looked like now.

Listening to my mother reading his questions, I perked up, thinking that, finally, we’d get to see Daddy; but Mom shook her head. She told us that someday, when we were grown, we would have the freedom to search for our father; until then, life would go on without him. She never actually came out and said she wanted nothing to do with our father, but her apparent disinterest made her feelings clear. Two or three times after that, she came home with stories about how she’d had unexpected run-ins with him. One encounter happened right outside our home when he happened to drive down the street we were living on and my mother happened to be outside at the same time. My sister and I were inside our house, completely oblivious that our Disappearing Daddy had, “Poof!” reappeared and that our parents were sharing a brief conversation that would once again end with my father going his way and my mother going hers.

Each time my mother recounted the stories of these random “Daddy-sightings,” I couldn’t help feeling disappointment and frustration. In my mind, a “Daddy-sighting” had become an impossible event—like pancakes raining from the sky, or Hell freezing over—and it seemed like I was never around for the action. I wondered why we hadn’t been brought outside to see him; why arrangement hadn’t been made for us to spend time with him at a later date; why a story was the only thing we were given to show for Dad suddenly popping up and quickly disappearing again. I swallowed my helplessness and the feeling that he had been right within my grasp yet had slipped through my fingers. The memory of him was like a ghost haunting the back of my mind. There were times when I wondered if he ever existed at all or if my mind was playing tricks on me; but then I’d look at old photos of him holding me and remember times like when he and I made mud pies in the backyard, and I’d know for sure that he was real and not imaginary.

In our house, Father’s Day was a holiday we never paid much mind to. While the rest of America made the effort to run out and buy cards, cakes, and hideous, yet well-meaning, neckties for their dads, my sister and I were used to treating the third Sunday of every June like any other day. Ironically, Father’s Day often falls on, or within a day of, my birthday; but, I had accepted at a very young age that there was nothing for me to celebrate on Father’s Day. I focused instead on being happy because June meant birthday fun but it pained me that I felt excluded from Father’s Day participation.

When I was about 15, my mother was on a mission to find my father. She wanted her divorce papers signed and finalized and wouldn’t give up until they were. She interviewed several of my father’s old friends and they shared scraps of information about the last time they’d had contact with him. Some provided addresses where he might still be living. We stitched the clues together, hopped into our car and took off on a wild goose chase to find him. Empty-handed, we returned home, no closer to locating him than when we started. Eventually, my mother was able to have the divorce finalized after the passing of so many years and the grounds that my father failed to contest it.

In 2005, after 21 birthdays and 21 Father’s Days had passed, one amazing event triggered a chain reaction: my boyfriend of one year popped the question. Although I was ecstatic about my wedding day, which was planned for the following year, I couldn’t help feeling bittersweet about the idea of walking down the aisle because the question of who was going to escort me had always bothered me. I carefully observed the weddings of my girl friends who married before I did, taking close note of their escorts. One walked down the aisle with her uncle and another was flanked by her brother and mother because her father was deceased. Somewhere, deep in the crevices of my heart, I’d always held out hope that my father would be the one to walk with me down the aisle on my big day. I had no idea how this was supposed to happen because I still had no idea where he was.

Six months before my wedding, my mother and I were strolling through the supermarket doing some light shopping and I resumed discussing with her how badly I wanted my father to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day. She listened quietly, pushing the shopping cart we were sharing while I talked. Finally, my mother came to a standstill, reached into her coat pocket and removed a slip of paper. I could see that a telephone number was written across it in her neat handwriting. “I’ve been told that this is your father’s cell phone number,” she said, placing the paper in my hand. I stood there frozen, holding the scrap of paper in my palm. I’d had so many false starts before: Internet searches I’d paid for that always turned up nothing and hours spent digging through public records online. After all of that, did it really boil down to this one moment? I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but I fished my cell phone from my purse and, standing right there in the grocery store, I dialed the telephone number. When I heard the groggy male voice fill my ear, my heart pounded so hard, I could barely breathe. “Yes?” the voice asked.

“Dad?” I heard myself respond. Not waiting for an answer, I plunged headfirst into the conversation and started talking a mile-a-minute. “This is your daughter Kesha and, well, I’m calling because I’m getting married this year in July and I really want you to be there with me and give me away at my wedding and I’m hoping that you will be able to. Do you think you can?”

There was a moment of silence on the other end of the phone as I sensed that he was caught completely off guard. “Kesha? Is that really you?” he whispered. “The last time I heard you speak, you had a little girl’s voice and now…”

“Yes. It’s me. I’m 25 now, Dad…and getting married. Can you believe it?”

I think I almost gave my poor father a heart attack because both my phone call and this news were coming out of the clear blue. Turns out he worked long, erratic hours as a souse chef at a hotel and I’d interrupted his sleep. But when he realized who was calling, he was suddenly wide awake. We talked for several hours and he immediately booked air travel from Atlanta, GA, where he was living, and flew to Philadelphia, PA two weeks later to visit my sister and me.

The day my father came to town, I met him on a street corner in Center City Philadelphia. The moment I looked at him, I instantly recognized the flat face and deep brown skin color we both share. He was much shorter than four-year-old me remembered, but his bear hug and the pleasant sting of his facial stubble against my cheek as he kissed me were still the same. We stood on the street corner, wrapped in a tight embrace as endless streams of traffic barreled by. Looking at his face after 21 years felt like a miracle to me. I wanted to laugh, cry, or just stare at him to study every line, muscle movement, and eyelash flutter so that I could burn it into my memory in case he ever slipped from my grasp again. I was afraid to look away in case it was a dream. My sister and I dined with our father that night at an elegant sushi restaurant and beamed when he proudly told the waiter that we were his daughters.

In the months that followed, Dad and I shared many tearful phone conversations in which I told him how much I missed him over the years and asked why he’d left my sister and me when things hadn’t worked out between Mom and him. He told me that he was sorry we’d been hurt by his absence but that things had just sort of turned out that way. It pained me to hear his answer and I won’t deny that I felt anger and frustration at both of my parents’ inability to give a clear reason why my father had been away for the majority of his children’s lives. In the end, though, I had to make a decision to be happy about having him love me now, instead of choosing to cry about the 21 years of his love I’d missed out on.

So, on July 23, 2006, just as I’d always dreamed, he was there on my wedding day. With my father gently holding my right arm and my mother holding my left, I walked in my white dress into the arms of my husband.

Dad hadn’t been there for most of my life, but he was there for the first of my big life-changing events. For that, I thank him.

© 2015, Shalena D.I.V.A. – Personal Branding| Content Marketing| Product Creation. All rights reserved.


  1. Quiana on June 21, 2010 at 8:02 am

    Kesha, this was very well written and insightful. Your story dares to ask the question that all children of “re-appearing” fathers have, “Should I just be happy and grateful that’s back in my life now, or should I continue to be bitter about all the years that I missed out on?” For years (and due to my own immaturity), I chose to hold on to my hurt and bitterness. Starting now, I will just be happy that he’s back in my life and forgive the immature father that he once was and now celebrate the mature father and grandfather that he now has become. Thanks for sharing your story.

  2. via Facebook on May 24, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    I think a little girl needs her father or a positive male role model who can show her how to be treated by a a good man. He needs to school her in the game if you will. I think many of us who grew up without fathers tend to look for love in other places. We may have been looking for daddy’s love.

  3. Tia Higgins via Facebook on May 24, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    The girls just like the boys still need bothe parents there are things that fthers need to teach their daughters that mothers just can’t. You can try but its not the same as having that father show and teach a girl how a man is supposed to treat her, what to stand for and what not to stand for, the sighns of ones that just want one thing and the list goes on.

  4. Vuyelwa Manganye via Facebook on May 24, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Yes it’s sad but true

  5. Korey Harrison via Facebook on May 24, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    Yes they do if not their father they need a good male role model. I see girls/women that like guys much older than them why? I think it due to that lack of an older male role model in their lives. Not all but most women go threw that just my opinion. Either way a stable life needs to come from a stable life….atleast in my case. I wud be better if both parents/positive male role model were in my life.

  6. John Shinkenred Evans via Facebook on May 24, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    I’m gonna have to agree with you, Shalena, I also believe that a girl absolutely NEEDS her father or grandfather or some positive male role model. There’s this ancient old-folks expression that has some grain of truth to it: boys tend to be closer to their mothers while girls tend to be closer to their fathers.

  7. via Facebook on May 24, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    @John–since most of the fathers are missing– who do the girls get close to? Older men as Korey suggested?

  8. John Shinkenred Evans via Facebook on May 24, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Uncles, older brothers (if applicable and if the age difference is big enough), grandfathers, etc.; perhaps teachers…yeah, pretty much. 🙂 Someone who will teach them positive things.

  9. via Facebook on May 24, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    @John–I don’t really see young girls getting closer to other male relatives as much. It really saddens me that she–the little girl–doesn’t have a backbone anymore, the men in her life that need to protect her. The Song of Solomon talks about this how the brothers protect their little sister.I find that some men won’t try to abuse women if they have brothers who they knwo will protect them.

  10. John Shinkenred Evans via Facebook on May 24, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    That’s true.

  11. Karen Wilson via Facebook on May 24, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    If God uses two to conceive than it should take to raise. God does not make a mistake,it is when we do what we do. Both parents should b involved and in agreement in a child’s life

  12. via Facebook on May 24, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    I just think that girls’ needs for positive male role models is underserved and neglected.

  13. John Shinkenred Evans via Facebook on May 24, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    It is. Badly. It’s way past time for the few good men out there to step it up and serve as positive role models. Not just for the girls, but for the boys as well.

  14. Karen Wilson via Facebook on May 24, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    I agree with you 100 percent Diva positive males are essential and they to be able to practice positive if they are going to preach it.

  15. MsDebbie MsEdmonson Boyd via Facebook on May 24, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    I Also Agree.Shalena. I had my Dad All my Life. But My Sisters didn’t. I was 19 when My Parents Broke up. And with my First Marriage My Kids was Young when I went my way. But Never Stopped Them From Seeing Their Father. But. Another Story.Anyway I agree.

  16. Maurice Ambayo via Facebook on May 24, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    you guys r jas the best place to learn life,amglad that bible teachings is involvd.shalena ijas dnt know how 2thank u for your daily topics,guys views wow.thank u al guys you are al amazing.

  17. MsDebbie MsEdmonson Boyd via Facebook on May 24, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    [email protected] you know that is True. About Girls Closers to Daddy And Boys Mom.

  18. Anita Wilson via Facebook on May 24, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    For me I think tht ever boy deserve a good father figure too incourage him to b tht man tht he is.. role model plays a big role in the future of any kid… most of them repeat wht they were taught and the they were raised…. It start at home….. Thank GOD tht my son has a good daddy – father figure…..

  19. Gabriel Tiki via Facebook on May 25, 2011 at 11:41 am

    i got a 15 month old gal,i really feel its my responsibility to raise her into a proper woman and to be an example of how a good man behaves n takes care of his family so when she grows she will know what things to look for in a man

  20. Laticia Ashby-Mcdaniels via Facebook on May 26, 2011 at 12:12 am

    i think they do. a girl needs her father to show her what a real man, as a father & a husband. to show her how to pick the good men from the bad men. and to show her what real love is from a true man. so she won’t b putting her self out there trying to find love.

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