"I didn't have a happy childhood until I met my 'father.' When I was very young, my mother introduced men into my life all the time and would say 'This is your dad. Be nice so that he'll stay.'

Whenever one man left (which was usually after a month or two) another would come into the picture. She would instantly tell me, 'I was wrong. He wasn't your real dad, but this one is.'

This happened a handful of times, and each time I was heartbroken. I didn't know why because I wasn't even 6-years-old at the time when this was going on in our lives; I just felt like every single person who was my 'dad' kept leaving me. When I was about 8-years-old, my mother had me dress up in my best clothes and we had a serious talk in an elevator.

She told me that the man we were seeing was definitely my birth father, so when I see him, I had to run up to him, hug him, and say, 'Dad!' She told me that if I did this, she would be very proud of me for being a good girl. Being young and frightened of my mother, I spent a good portion of time trying to please her. So, when we walked into the office, I saw this man standing there, looking fairly upset and angry. He frightened me, but I was more frightened of making my mother upset. I ran up to him, hugged him, and said, 'Dad!' I don't remember much. He sat me in front of his computer, asked me if I've ever played a computer game, and he set up pong for me to play when I said I didn't. I remember them arguing, but he was so nice to me.

He eventually ended up marrying my mother. Thing is she was never a nice person and was very abusive. I remember one bad fight in particular. She was about to hit me and cut my hair because I fell asleep with gum in my hair. He stepped in front of her and took the hit and got cut in the process. Eventually, she stopped noticing me and he took all the physical abuse. Whenever he threatened to leave, my mother told me to beg him to stay. I did as she asked because I selfishly wanted him to stay. I didn't want to be left alone with her. And, in the short time he was in my life, I needed him. So, he stayed.

On my 16th birthday, he told me he wasn't my birth father. I always knew that he wasn't my biological father, but I also wanted to believe that he was. It hurt very much when he told me. The illusion of having him as my birth father just shattered, and it hurt because I wanted a good parent. It hurt even more when he told me about my real birth father, who apparently is also not a nice man (serving time for killing a pregnant woman for a parking spot...and had to be put in jail very quickly because of political ties -- corrupt foreign country politics). At that moment, I felt like I was the devil spawn, and I started living in fear that genetics would take hold of my senses and I'd end up just like my mother. I cried. He cried. He told me that blood meant nothing, and I was still his daughter.

A few months later, I told him to leave my mother. I told him I would be okay, but that he had to leave. He had been speaking to a woman online for over a year and fell in love with her. We even met her (under the guise of visiting college campuses), and I liked her. So, I told him to leave. I always felt guilty for asking him to stay, even if I was just a kid who didn't know better. He left with my blessing, just about four months after I turned 16. The last thing I remember was him hugging me and telling me that 'good-bye really meant 'I'll see you later.' All I could do was cry like a baby.

That was the last time I saw him in person.

I lived my messy teenage years, and I left my abusive home life to build my future. I followed all the advice my dad gave me through the years he was in my life. 'It's okay to see people before getting married.' 'Use college to find yourself.' 'It's okay to try new things, but be careful and don't let yourself get addicted.' 'Don't be afraid to question authority.'

I made it on my own, all the while thinking about his life and hoping that he was happy. I spent all my years after he left trying to be the daughter he could be proud of. All that time, I lived my life in a way to thank him for all that he had tried to do for me. To this day, I owe my strength to this man.

About six years ago, I found him online. I sent him a few emails, and he never emailed me back. I had gotten engaged, and I was very sad because I didn't have my dad walking me down the aisle. My family had vilified him for abandoning us (and to be fair, he did leave without a single word to my mother). I guess that's why I really tried to find him at that point in my life.

It took about a year before he finally sent me a response. He was afraid that I hated him, and he was riddled with guilt for leaving. So, he didn't want to contact me. But his wife. the woman for whom he left my family for, told him to talk to me, so he found the courage to. We chit-chatted for a while, laughed over silly happy memories, and avoided the proverbial elephant in the room. Eventually, I thanked him for my life and he just... he just kind of laughed at me.

He told me that I was actually the person who saved him. He was a miserable person before he met me. His life, while fairly glamorous, was empty. He never wanted kids until he met me. The moment I wrapped my arms around him and called him dad he loved me. He loved that I listened, that I cared, that I wanted to learn. He felt like he finally had a legacy, and he learned what he had missed all those years. He hated that we had to suffer together, but he would have made that choice again and again because he felt like it was his purpose. He told me that I was the reason he stayed, and I never had to ask/beg him to stay. For the longest time, I thought I was the worst burden in his life. All I did was need him, and for him, that was all he wanted."

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