Cover Photo: image via markos zouridakis/flickr
image via markos zouridakis/flickr

Why I Cannot Write About My Father

“There is no word that explains how girls love absent fathers.”

I’ve finished the book, can we chat?

I wondered, as I had many times before, if it was my lack of a relationship with my father that made these big moments go askew. When I passed the bar, when I signed with an agent, thoughts of my father flitted into my mind, impossible to shoo away. These were the kinds of accomplishments I knew made many parents beam with pride. I want my father to be proud of me, but how can he feel pride for someone he doesn’t know and didn’t raise?

even though we are far apart/you are always in my heart

By the time I was in high school, I had filled journals with poetry. I wasn’t writing about distance from my father, but outright abandonment.

I still have the slam poems about him, written in college, tucked away somewhere with my sociology notebooks. I often thought of mailing him one of those poems, but I never did. Despite everything he’d done, I ached at the thought of hurting him. Poetry leant itself to how I understood my father—in bits and pieces, bright flashes in a story otherwise full of gaps. But there have been no finished essays about him. I cannot see him clearly enough to sustain page after page. I abandon each attempt, ashamed of my inability to capture clear memories and descriptions.

The one-lane road that leads to his house used to be dirt and gravel until the county paved it a few years back. His house sits on a hill. With its log cabin aesthetic and lovely two-story design, you can’t tell it was once a trailer. He built a foundation, knocked down walls, and constructed a home around a double-wide. My father can build anything.

Lucie Witt is a writer, recovering attorney, and gender studies professor.  She lives with her big, noisy family in Louisville, Kentucky. You can find her on Twitter  (@Lucie_Witt) or at luciewitt.com.

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