This I Believe

Andrea - Manchester, Missouri
Entered on February 12, 2008

The Same Story Yet Again (January 28, 2008)

It’s a story that I’ve told countless times—as a child, as a teenager, and as an adult. It has been a defining moment in my life, but what it has defined in me has changed.

I was in grade school when my loyal dog died. Sad enough—right? But when I told my friends that my neighbor Al would take Snuffy to the pond, a string of conversations revealed something I did not know about myself. Around the playground circle, friends cast down their eyes; boys giggled, and girls whispered behind cupped hands.

Thoughts bound through my mind, I have a father somewhere. So what if I’ve never lived with him. So what if I’ve never seen him or spoken to him. I don’t care that I don’t even know his name.

That is where the story ended when I was eight. I defined myself as foolish and naive.

An element of anger entered the story when I told it from a teenage perspective. Betrayed by my mother and by my older brother and sisters, the story grew longer.

Silent tears streaked down my face as I walked home. Entering the empty house there was no dog to greet me. So I waited, waited for my sisters to return home. After building up the nerve and wiping off my face with the back of my hands, I confronted them with endless questions. Yes, they remember our father. No, he’s not dead. Yes, they know where he lives. No, we shouldn’t write. I needed my mom to explain.

No reasonable answers were offered to my teenage self. I defined myself as a victim betrayed by family, and the teenage story ended.

When I delve deep into my memory, there is a faint recollection of subsequent conversations with my mother. I have yet to recall exactly what was said, but I do remember a feeling. I was filled with hope, faith, and strength even without a father. And that’s the final ending of the story.

This story has taught me that I am not defined by my parents, by my surroundings, or by events that I have no control over. I have been and will be defined by my own actions, by my own beliefs, and by situations that I am actively involved in. I believe who I am and who I turn out to be is wholly defined by me—just me.

And that’s the defining story I will tell again and yet again.