| This is the 551st story of Our Life Logs® |
The year was 1981. I was fresh out of high school in Las Vegas, Nevada, and I had just turned 18. People started calling me an “adult” and the world began to open up for me in ways it had never opened up before. This included love. I met a man who showered me with attention and, though he was 5 years older than me, I was in love. He looked so mature and so handsome, and it seemed like he adored me. All he had to do was smile and he could get anything he wanted. I was smitten.
I was blinded by love. He never took me to his home and I never met his family, but he was with me every weekend. He was very controlling. I couldn’t go any place with him in town because he said that “my place was at home.” I was so young. I didn’t see the red flags even though my family warned me.
We dated for almost a year before I got pregnant. This is when I started to see a change in this man that I loved so much. He began being busier and busier on the weekends. He used to take me everywhere all the time, but now he was never available. This went on for weeks until I just stopped hearing from him altogether. To put it mildly, I was devastated. Still, with my strong Latin Catholic background, I didn’t even consider abortion. I knew I had to go through with this decision.
I can admit now that a small part of me believed he would reappear. Maybe when I had a baby bump? And when that happened and he didn’t show, I thought he might come back once I had our baby. But I was wrong. I went through my entire pregnancy alone. I was embarrassed and felt ashamed. Here I was, 18 and pregnant. I had dreamed of going to college but now I would have a new focus in my life.
Around the time I gave birth to my son, I found out the truth. The man who I had loved was married and had moved his entire family to Mexico City. They had been gone for months. How could he do this? How could I be so stupid? Just as I was really starting to worry about him, and he was simply fine and dandy off living with his real family. I tried to track him down, but it was a lost cause.
I secretly hoped he would find me one day and realize the mistake he made, but he didn’t. I guess he really didn’t want anybody to find out about us. He must have really loved his family.
The first year of my son’s life was so very hard. It was difficult for me to move on because there was no closure—not even a hint of what was to come. And every time I looked down at my baby’s face, I saw his father. It was surreal.
I knew in my heart that I needed to stop waiting and continue with living my life. Even though it was hard, I decided to enroll in college to pursue a nursing degree. And between night classes and a lot of help from my mother, I did it. By the time my little one was in the first grade, I was 25 and had finally got my degree.
We moved to our own apartment, and I was so happy that I was finally able to provide for my son on my own. I thank God that I had my parents who supported me because if it were not for them, I would not have survived such devastation.
For the next 12 years or so, it was just me and my son against the world. And our battle wasn’t easy. There were days, weeks, months when the money stretched so thin, you could see through it. We ate a lot of cheap meals. We had a lot of fights. There were times when homelessness was only a few hundred dollars away.
At times, my son would go astray. I had no man to help reinforce discipline and there were some lessons that I simply could not teach him. I could, however, teach him to be respectful. I could show him how to be motivated. I drilled in his “please-and-thank-yous” as best as I could. By the time he was a senior in high school, he soared academically and athletically.
When my son was finally going to graduate, he had already been accepted into a great college with multiple scholarships. My family was proud of us both and we were both proud of each other. I took pride in the way I raised him because it was not always easy to raise an all-around great kid.
The month my son was graduating, I had received a random graduation card in the mail at my parents’ house. The sender’s address was in Mexico. I watched as my son peeled the envelope. Suddenly, he furrowed his brow.
It was from his dad. As he began reading the very words this ghost of a man had taken time to write and send, my blood started heating up. All the frustration that I thought I had let go of seemed to erupt at this gesture. For so long, there was silence. Why now? What changed?
I blinked away my own feelings and finally realized how upset my son was. My son’s whole demeanor was turned upside down. He threw away the letter and said to me, “You are both my mother and my father.” That was that.
There wasn't a cloud in the sky on the day of my son’s graduation. Even the weather knew how bright his future was to be. I watched him walk, so handsome with his cap and gown, like an adult with every possibility ahead. I could see the joy on his face as he tossed his cap in the air.
After the ceremony, I went to him on the field with my parents and the rest of my family. However, we were not the only ones there to support him. His father, the man who abandoned us and broke my heart so many years ago, walked up to him as well.
We were all somewhat shocked to see him. He fumbled around with his words and his movement, and honestly, I felt sorry for him. He had aged so much and stood heavier. He was no longer the young handsome man I once loved, but rather, an older reserved version of him. He had my son’s eyes and stance. I thought about all the years he missed, and I was stunned at my first glance at him. I was speechless.
My son was not. He walked right past his father off the field in disgust. He turned around only to look at me directly in my eyes and ask, “Why is he here?” I did not have time to answer him before he walked off the field. I gave his father a look of wrath and followed my son while the rest of my family followed me. My son fell into my arms and told me again I was his mother and father.
He never went back up to his dad, and when we turned around, his father was gone.
When we got home that evening, we had a talk that would change the way I looked at myself. We didn’t just talk about the tough times that we’d had up until that day; we talked about how we made it through. All these years, I felt like I was doing this thing alone. Turns out, my son just figured that we were in this together. My son saw me as his mother, father, friend, and confidant, not his “single mother.” How could I not see myself this way? I was his everything.
That night, for the first time I felt like the lucky one. Look what I got. This wonderful young man. I was the winner in his eyes. That night, I left misery, I left pain, and I left confusion.
That was 20 years ago, and we never saw his father again. My son went on for his college degree and later a Master’s Degree. He is remarkably successful and I couldn’t be prouder. I raised him with God as my main helpmate. I enjoyed the bond and did not feel like I was lacking anything. My son is more than I could have ever asked for and better than I could have ever imagined.
This is the story of Theresa Harden
Theresa was born and raised in Las Vegas. Fresh out of high school, she fell head over heels in love with a man and they dated heavily for almost a year until she got pregnant. She then found out he was married and had fled to Mexico with his family. Theresa was devastated but managed to pick up the pieces and raise her son by herself. When her son graduated high school, his dad tried to pop back up in his life, but he refused his entry. Her son reminded her that she was his hero and that he lacked nothing.
Theresa has retired from nursing due to a back injury and now lives her passion by working with mentally-disabled adults. She says this is the most precious stage of her life. She is a grandmother to two little girls and her son still calls her almost every day. They are best friends. In her spare time, she enjoys seeing her granddaughters and doing all the girlie things she missed out on from having a boy. She says her son and her grandkids are the light of her world.
This story first touched our hearts on December 7, 2020
Writer: Melodie Harris | Editor: Colleen Walker