On January 15, 1990, I was born at Grossmont Hospital. Since then, my mother (who at times has worked two jobs) never failed to take me to my softball games and has waited in lines at four o'clock in the morning for the must-have Furbies. For the majority of my childhood, my mother was the only parent. My father was in the Middle East on the day I was born, a soldier involved in Operation Desert Storm. He moved from California within my first two years of birth. Yet, I didn't learn of his whereabouts until I was a little bit older. I didn't know much about my dad except what my mom told me. The situation wasn't really talked about. What could a four-year-old do? I was old enough to realize my dad wasn't there, but I had not yet learned to organize those feelings and discuss them with my mom.

I used to have dreams of opening the door to see my father dressed in a white military uniform with a smile and open arms. At the age of six, it seemed my father would remain in my dreams. It wasn't until I was around nine years old that I had a relationship with my father.

One evening at my old house in Allied Gardens, I had just come out of my bedroom, skipping through the small hallway that led to the living room and kitchen. My mom was leaning on the white tile counter, talking on the phone to someone. She mentioned my name and said something that made me turn around in my path that led to the TV -- the name of my father.

I was anxious, like on Christmas day when the whole tree is surrounded with presents that are begging for you to unwrap. Staring at my mom, my big blue eyes screamed, "Is it him? Is it really him?" My mom, always being a great interpreter of facial expressions, recognized my question and replied with a nod. She then went into the other room to ask if he wanted to talk to me, so she could protect me in case he said no.

I prepared myself for the worst; I felt myself creeping back into my shell. When my mom returned, she smiled and handed the phone to me. My hands trembled...this was it, I was about to hear someone I had been longing to hear from for years.

The situation was surreal; I waited for it to be a horrible practical joke or just another one of my dreams that I had not woken up from yet. Any kid my age might have cried for hours at the two contradicting emotions of happiness and sadness in their extremes. Yet, I wasn't like the other kids. My mom's friends used to always say that I was 9 going on 30 years old. With my mom being a single mother, it was often necessary for me to behave older than my years.

As I talked to my father for hours, I twisted the fabric of my red dress in between my fingers, forgetting the physical world around me and slipping into my own dimension. Even when the call had ended and I came back to reality, I sat there in disbelief. The phone call didn't give me answers to my questions: Where had he been all this time? Did he ever think about me? Did he want to know me? What did he look like now? I didn't have a vivid memory of him, only the old picture that my mom had kept, which was worn from my handling of it. The call didn't really satisfy me; it was more of a temporary fix for what would become an addictive curiosity.

Many phone calls have led to many plane flights to visit my father in Minnesota. I've met my half-sister and her mother, and they all plan to come see me graduate from high school in about two years. Even though my connection with my father seems to be successful, there are still the scarred memories that tend to get stuck in my head.

Until I had that phone call with my dad, I had felt like the abandoned child, one not worthy of a father. I would always question what was wrong with me, as if the situation were my fault. What struck even harder blows to my insecurities were the father-daughter

dances and other school-related functions. I would watch other children who walked hand-in-hand with their dads, my eyes soaked in envy. "It's not fair!" I used to scream. "Why, why, why? Why me? What did I do wrong?" Then I would crash and burn like all the previous times, surrendering to the discontent.

My mom helped out as much as she possibly could; she was aware of the psychological toll. She tried to provide both the feminine and masculine influences, which created my fascinations with football and competition in general. She raised me to kick other kids' butts. My mom also taught me to be in competition with the boys, which at that age were my athletic competitors. So, I was more aggressive than most girls, which caused a slight rift. It almost came to a point where I could get along better with males than females.

Although my father's absence during my early years limited some social aspects of my life, it made it easier to create stronger bonds with certain people; I currently have three friends without a father. When we do feel moments of resentment, we have each other to talk amongst and lean upon. Yet, empathy is what we try to stray away from; we choose to set an example, that regardless of what society may say, some individuals are capable of raising a kid on their own...one of them is my mom.n -- Casey Koehly, Monte Vista H.S.

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