There's something a lot of people don't know about me; in fact, only my closest friends and family know this, but I will share my story now.
I'm adopted, but not in the traditional sense of the word. I grew up with a mother and a father. My mother is my biological mother, but my father isn't.
I didn't know this until I was 15 years old. There was always something off, something unstable between us — "Dad" and me.
I never understood why, being the eldest of five kids, I was treated differently. I remember crying to my mother, telling her how I couldn't see Dad ever walking me down the aisle... when I was 9 years old.
One of my earliest memories as a child is when I was flower girl at their wedding at age 4. For their first dance, it was the three of us on the dance floor. One little happy family.
The only thing I remember about that night is that dance and what Dad said to me: "You have to call me Daddy from now on; Mammy and Daddy." It didn't make sense to me then, and it didn't make sense to me until I was 15.
I sat with Mam on her bed as she read through a box of old letters from friends and cousins, back when there were no cell phones. We read for hours, but some things didn't add up.
The dates of when she received "Good Luck!" messages and "Congratulations!" about her pregnancy with me weren't in sync with when my "Dad" came into the picture.
Then, one letter came when I was 2, which said, "Great to hear that he gets on so well with Leanne, must make it so much easier!"
To say that I felt every emotion under the sun in the minutes that followed is an understatement; I felt each emotion with extreme velocity. I was so completely and utterly overwhelmed that I got up and left without saying anything.
I didn't know what to say, but I knew. I don't know how — call it a gut feeling, if you will — but I knew it was true.
I'll never forget that night for as long as I live. I sat down with Mam and asked her straight out: "Dad isn't my Dad, is he?" I had never seen my mother cry before that night -- it's something I hope I never see again. She wept like I've never known anyone to weep; it was so strange.
But, I was okay. It all made sense to me then: why I wasn't a Daddy's girl; why he never talked to me like he talked to my sisters; why we never saw eye to eye.
However, here I was, with news that probably should have thrown me off the edge completely. I was consoling my mother, who was absolutely heartbroken.
That breakthrough was a defining moment in my life. My mother and I had always been close, but to see her in that state, showing the evident torture she put herself through of how best to protect me felt like role-reversal.
I suddenly felt extremely protective of her for all she had been through, how hard she fought to keep me, as a 19-year-old single mother with absolutely no support from my biological father.
As it turns out, my biological father plainly told my mother he wanted nothing to do with me. Oddly enough, being told that a parent wanted nothing to do with me didn't have the detrimental effect I assumed it would. I don't have "Daddy issues"; I don't hate or disrespect all men.
I don't feel incomplete not knowing about half of my genes and family. I don't feel the need to find myself by finding him. I can say this now, but I couldn't when I was 15.
I soon learned that my biological father lived 10 minutes away from me for my entire life. No birthday card, Christmas card, text or phone call -- no contact whatsoever for 15 years. It was then that I said to myself that I would never go looking for him.
I would never go searching for him because, to be honest, I didn't feel the need. I didn't feel like I didn't know who I was because I didn't know him. I didn't feel the need to have him in my life because I had already made it this far and was more than okay.
I was 15 with, in my opinion, no father. I am 21 now, and I don't feel like this knowledge held me back in the slightest. If anything, it spurred me on to do well in life.
My drive is not tied to showing him the kind of a daughter he missed out on knowing, but rather, to show my mother I can become anything I want because I know she loves me.
To me, that is the best way I can repay her for protecting me — showing that her love was enough and always has been.
To the father I never knew, I made it without you. I am happy; I am strong; I am confident. I don't need you now and I never will.
I will happily walk myself down the aisle toward a man I know will be a loving and caring father. The man I marry won't walk out when times are tough or when he feels he has his "own life to live."
I do want to thank you, however. If you hadn't walked out, I wouldn't have the amazingly unique bond I have with my mother, one that I wouldn't trade for the world. I also wouldn't be the person I am today.
Photo Courtesy: We Heart It