I cried in the arms of my father for the first time at age 51

Marcilaughlin
4 min readOct 16, 2020

There are some kinds of heartache that take you by storm. Then there are others that sneak up on you. They make their presence felt in unsuspecting moments. Like they’d been lurking there all along, just waiting for the right moment.

The first type often come in the form of break-ups or loss of some kind. The second variety often occurs when you find yourself suddenly in the presence of something that was absent, but you didn’t realize it.

I experienced a heartache of the second type just the other night when I found myself crying in the arms of my father. It was the first time in my life –at age 51.

It was a momentous occasion for me to be able to be that vulnerable with him and to feel that kind of permission. Especially since he only entered my life 9 months ago. As his arms enveloped me, attempting to console me from Heartache Type 1, Heartache type 2 entered. Only in that moment could I feel the void that had been living in me my whole life. Now I smelled the fragrance of what had been missed. I’d never known what it felt like to take refuge in the arms of a father. I’d only known the opposite with my adoptive father: arms raised in menace, and the desire to flee.

One year ago, I could not have imagined that I would ever know my biological father or mother. I wasn’t even 100% sure that I wanted to. I knew I wanted to know more information about my roots, but I’m not sure I ever dared to dream of actually finding them. Because to dream something first means giving yourself permission to WANT something. And I’ve only recently been waking up to how much in my life I’ve not given myself permission to want what I want, need what I need, or feel what I feel. And I suspect I’m not the only woman who has awakened to this realization later in life.

So it was one of those sweet-bitter moments: I felt the sweet relief of being held by loving arms and letting down my guard. And I felt the pulsing ache of the absence of such arms for most of my life. As all those wise men say, “you don’t know what you don’t know”….until you know. And sometimes knowing isn’t much fun.

As Mark held me tightly, and my tears soaked his white Hanes V-necked T-shirt, I thought of my dad — the only dad I had known until last December. White T-shirts always remind me of him since he wore them under his California Highway Patrol uniform. I was struck by the irony. Same T-shirt, but very different man.

Mark, my biological father has a strong feminine side to him, and he announces proudly that he prefers the company of women, as the conversation is always so much juicier. And he has no problem expressing his emotions: he showers me with praise on a daily basis and starts each morning with, “Have I told you how much I love you lately?”

I tell him he’s too complimentary. He tells me he has 51 years to make up for.

I had no idea a father could be this way. And I’m aware that sometimes it’s hard to let it in. And yet the shouts and criticism from my adoptive father penetrated easily. I would have more easily believed that there is life on Mars than believe that fathers came in the kind and gentle variety. I could never have imagined that I could feel comfortable sharing my thoughts and feelings with a father. Let alone have a good cry on his shoulder, and hear his cooing voice: “oh honey, I hate seeing you in pain. I wish I could take it for you.”

As he hugged me tightly, the K.D. Lang song “Constant Craving” came into my mind. “Constant craving has always been.”

And so had this void, this heartache. I just didn’t know it until now.

--

--

Marcilaughlin

Globe-trotter, coach, master of deep conversation. Loves coffee & correctly using the subjunctive in Turkish & Italian. Happiest when opening minds & hearts.