My mom said: ‘Val has something to say to you.’ I was sitting on the stairwell, crying.
And he knew right away that I was pregnant. He didn’t yell. He didn’t say anything. He just started pacing.
But I knew what he was thinking: I was eighteen years old, I was his only daughter, and he thought that having a child would ruin my life.
When he finally stopped pacing, he told me: you can either get an abortion or leave the house. I knew then that I’d be entirely on my own. I started saving money from each paycheck to spend on clothing and supplies.
But I had no idea what I was going to do when the baby came. My father wasn’t speaking to me. There was no eye contact. No nothing. Not that he’d ever been good at expressing his emotions. His mother had died when he was a baby.
He’d had a tough life. From the outside like he didn’t care, but my mother told me that he was crying himself to sleep every night. After a few weeks he began to soften. He asked to see the sonogram.
It wasn’t exactly a celebration—but at least he asked to see it. On the day of my C-section, dad spent that day drinking alone—which he rarely did. He was pretty drunk by the time I left for the hospital.
He didn’t say a thing. My mom just looked at him and shook her head. But I was in the hospital for five days after my son was born, and every day my dad would visit.
He’d bring us food. He’d hold my son for hours at a time. And when I came back home, there was a letter waiting for me on my bed. I’ve only read it twice in my life. Because it makes me cry too much. But he apologized for his behavior. And he said that we were going to be fine.
My son is eight years old now. And whenever it’s Father’s Day at school, he brings home art for Papa. The two of them are inseparable. They’re always playing something.
My son is always giving him hugs, and kisses, and saying ‘I love you.’ And Papa says it back. It’s the only time he ever says it to anyone. With my son he has no choice.
It’s not in Papa’s nature to be affectionate. But it’s my son’s nature. He’s so open and natural with his emotions. He’ll give love for no reason at all, and his Papa has no choice but to accept it.
About the author:
This story first appeared on Humans of New York Facebook page and is published here with permission. HONY began as a photography project in 2010. Somewhere along the way, the writer/photographer began to interview subjects in addition to photographing them. And alongside their portraits, he includes quotes and short stories from their lives. For more amazing stories and photography buy the book HUMANS by Brandon Stanton.
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