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Moving on and going forward

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It had been a week of waiting. My dad said he was on his way to see my mom and I. We hadn’t seen each other in years, and he was finally able to come visit. Every day that week, when I got home from elementary school, I’d race up the stairs to my apartment door. I was hoping that he would be there, waiting for me. Every day he didn’t show up the disappointment grew. He was on his way, he said so.
The ring of my mom’s phone disrupted dinner.

We were having frozen dumplings like we always did. Her eyebrows scrunched and she moved into her room. I could hear arguing. My mom’s voice was strained out of frustration as she muttered profanities. She slammed the door and walked back to the table. When she sat down, her face relaxed and her lips formed a frown. Her hand reached out to mine, an apologetic look consumed her face.“Your dad,” my mom started as she took in a deep breath. “He was arrested again and isn’t coming.”

I shut my eyes so tight they began to hurt. Tears streamed down my face. My arms wrapped around my body, as I slipped out of my chair. The harsh carpet rubbed against my legs, my mom sat next to me and placed a comforting hand on my shaking back. But there was nothing she could do. I didn’t understand why I wasn’t enough for him. Why he couldn’t quit for me.

It had always been just me and my mom. I was only three months old when my dad walked out, and we found out he was in prison a few months later. He has always had a drug problem, but it rapidly increased after I was born. Meth was his vice.

My mom’s hand clutched mine, squeezing it ever so often. Every time a man entered the room I flinched. Up until that day I had convinced myself that this wasn’t a big deal. But now that I was sitting in that freezing room waiting for my dad to appear, and I was terrified.

We had been in the prison’s family area for 20 minutes, but time went excruciatingly slow as we sat in the foldable chairs. I was picking at my nails when he came into the room. He was 6 ft. and had gained weight since I last saw him.

We made eye contact and my stomach dropped, I have my dad’s eyes. When my dad reached me, he pulled me in for a hug. His arms were unfamiliar. “Hey sugar bear,” he used my nickname from when I was little. I used to love that.

He was enjoying what he assumed was a surprise reunion, however that wasn’t the case. Ever since I was old enough to understand what my dad was, having his last name felt wrong. Getting to have my moms last name was the fresh start I was in desperate need of. I was a part of the Middleton family in heart, but not by law. It felt right. However, if you’re minor, you have to get both parents signature when changing your name.

So at 14-years-old, I sat across from my father and told him I wished for my birth certificate to read Skyler Middleton. At first, he said no, but after an extensive argument, he agreed. A couple of months later my mom texted me during my eighth grade U.S. history final to congratulate me on my new last name. I ended up failing that final, but the joy that came with the Middleton name was all consuming.

It took me a very long time to understand that his addiction wasn’t my fault. Getting over the heartache that someone caused you in the past is freeing. You can’t change where you have been but you can decide where you are going.

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Moving on and going forward