By Mara Kunert
My parents fought so much that they eventually had to break up before I was born. After my birth, they got back together, tried to make it work once more. When I was one year old, they split up for good. After that, I stayed with my mum; my dad moved to Vienna. I am in touch with him. Even after 20 years, he calls me weekly to see how I am doing. But even though he calls, I have not seen him since I was 16 or 17 years old. I know that it is unusual that even though my parents were not together; and I stayed with my mum, my dad’s side of the family accepted me as a part of their family. My dad`s sisters frequently ask how I am doing; my grandma cares a lot about me.
Sometimes I felt ashamed because I did not have the typical, classical, picture-perfect family constellation, consisting of two parents, a mother and a father, being married and living together. So, I “lied” to people I just met. When I would talk about my situation at home, I would say “my parents” instead of “my mum”. All my friends grew up in a “perfect family”. I remember one evening where I felt like an outsider. My best friends were exchanging stories about how their father reacted the first time they got the contraceptive pill. I was sitting next to them, quiet, realizing that I would never experience these kinds of moments with my dad.
In primary school, when I was around 6 or 7 years old, we had to craft a book for our dads for Father’s Day, in which we would explain why our dads were the “best dad in the world” and why we loved them so much; the assignment being for children with a single mother as well as for those whose dads were not “the best”. I remember that I did not know how to act since I had no dad at home. Telling my teacher my “problem”–she insisted I still had to craft the book; she had given the assignment, and I had to complete it no matter what. She told me that I could give my dad the book the next time I would see him. I still have the book; it is in a drawer on my desk. I never thought of giving it to my father, as my relationship with him can be difficult from time to time. I often thought of burning the book, thinking that this would set my mind free from all worries concerning the issues around my dad. But somehow, I never did; it is still there where it was for the last five years. Even though this all happened 15 years ago, I often come back to it. I realize from that age on I seemed to be different than others.
But growing up with my mum being a single parent was not the only thing that made me feel like I did not belong somewhere. There is the aspect of me looking more like my dad’s side of the family. I look like the clone of one of my dad’s sisters; being tall, having dark brown hair and eyes, being so pale that I could be part of a vampire movie. I was doomed to look like the one member of the family my mum did not want to remember.
As I grow older, I think it was for the best that I grew up with my mum. I am sure that the fighting between my parents would have got worse over time. It was good they split up this early as I barely remember anything. I think life would have been more difficult for me when my parents had decided to break up when I was 8 or 9 years old. Some of my friends experienced this; it caused so much harm and emotional damage that they suffered from depression. I could say that I am glad how my parent’s relationship ended. Over time I have acknowledged that even though I look nothing like my mum’s side of the family, I always have my dad’s side by my side, always in my heart, as it embodies what people see of me the first time they meet me.