“Anne don’t got no daddy”

Anne Bokma, who grew up without a father, looks at how the experience shapes women, and how fatherless daughters can heal.

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Published in Homemakers in April 2010

When I was four, my father left our family and, except for two brief meetings, I didn't see him again until I was 29 and he was lying in a coffin, dead of a heart attack at 49. Something died in me that day too, and I laid to rest any hope of ever knowing this mystery man whose absence has haunted me for so much of my life.

My father set off for work, kissed my mother, me and my baby brother goodbye, and simply vanished from our lives. "He ran away," was the explanation I was given. In my young mind, I pictured him wrestling into his coat as he took off on foot down the driveway of our rented house, away from our small town and out of our lives forever.

My parents married young: My mother was 17 and my father was 19. I was born a year later. He was ill-equipped for fatherhood - rebellious and irresponsible. He liked to drink and sometimes stayed out all night. My mother once frantically slit the tires of his Ford pickup with a steak knife in a desperate attempt to keep him home.

It was 1966 when he left and nobody in our town was divorced. I didn't know anyone else who didn't have a dad. When I was eight, a group of girls taunted me, chanting "Anne don't got no daddy" until I ran inside and buried my face in my mother's lap, the soft cotton of her apron drying my hot tears. Clearly there was something terribly wrong with me if my own father didn't love me.

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