“I’m sorry.”

A tear fell down my cheek, yet my body looked calm compared to how tangled my mind was. My eyes were locked on the floor, unable to look him in the eye. “I”–I cut myself short and bit my lower lip, struggling to keep everything together.

I woke up suddenly, not because of any noise or interruption, but because this recurring dream had finally come to its usual conclusion. The movie had ended in a cliffhanger and the credits were rolling. Now, it was time to engage in the real world once more.

It’s been two years since I learned about my father’s name, the reason for his absence in my life, and my parents’ ill-fated relationship. But if you’re wondering if I’ve met my father since then—I haven’t.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t expect a dramatic reunion afterward—a moment where he’d apologize for his absence and I would slowly learn to forgive him as he tried to make up for lost time. I thought that meeting him and getting to know him would mend my relationship with men, and slowly but surely fill this indescribable void that I had within me.

But I guess I had watched too many heartwarming TV shows and commercials to believe that could be my reality—that my problems could be solved by meeting a parent I’d never met before.

That bubble of delusion was burst when I first typed his name on Facebook.

I was met with a long list of profiles that had the same name as him, filling me with dread. I spent hours searching his name in other social media sites, looking through each photo and trying to find a man who somewhat resembled me. My sweaty hands would grip the mouse, hovering the cursor shakily over each profile, only to be met with disappointment and confusion.

I spent 18 long years constantly wondering about his identity, his whereabouts, his reason for leaving us, and what life would be like if he were present in my life. And now that I finally got some answers, I am left with more questions, “what ifs”, and theories. Questions like “how can I find him?” and “will I ever meet him one day?” regularly crossed my mind, but I guess the most important question to ask was: “Why do I want to meet him?” I knew deep in my heart that nothing spectacular would happen—but why?

It was then that it hit me.

If he really cared about me, he would have reached out a long time ago. He would have been anxiously looking through social media sites, typing my mother’s last name in an attempt to find me. But after almost 21 years, he has never cared enough to even try. Unlike me, he never had to experience that dreadful mix of excitement and disappointment each time he clicked on a new profile with a similar name. He never had to wonder about my identity, my whereabouts, or what life would be like if I were in his life.

After I had this realization, I let out a long sigh of defeat as I lightly pushed my laptop away from me in frustration, feeling disgusted and ashamed of myself for having been so naive. I laid down on my bed and closed my eyes, trying to forget this unrealistic dream of mine.

“I’m sorry.”

The next thing I knew, I was in the same dream again. I quickly wiped my tears away, finally wanting to put on a bold front. I exhaled deeply and looked up, only to see my mother in front of me. I thought it was my father apologizing to me in my dreams, but it was actually her all this time.

I furrowed my eyebrows in confusion. “For what?”

“For letting you grow up without a father.” The confused look on my face was immediately replaced with sadness as I felt my heart break when those words left her lips. My mother stared at me like she was expecting anger from me—anger that doesn’t exist. I have never blamed her for this. Why is she apologizing?

“For the pitiful stares that you get, the loneliness that you feel on Father’s day, and for being the odd one out in your group of friends.” She bowed her head slightly in deep regret as tears rolled down my cheeks.

I took a step closer to her, still shaking my head. “No, mom.” I reached my arms out, wanting to hug and reassure her. “It’s not your fault.”

I woke up abruptly and sat up. I gingerly touched my face, feeling the tears that had stained my face during my sleep. I swung my feet out of the bed. I had so many things to say to my mother, but I didn’t know how. All I knew was that I needed to see her and hug her.

“Mom?” I saw her, and she had her eyes glued to her laptop, typing away as she bopped her head to the music on her earphones.

She turned to look at me and took off her earphones. “Yes?” Without saying anything, I hugged her tightly, feeling suddenly overwhelmed with gratitude and regret. I had spent so much time yearning for someone who was never there, and taken for granted someone who always was.

If I’ve learned anything from growing up with a single mom, it is how to be a strong woman, a woman who is not afraid to strive and persevere even when life gets tough, and a woman who will never back down even on her weakest day. And for that I am grateful.

“Thank you.”

After this, I never had the same dream again.

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