(Pic: My daddy and me, Updated: 6/16/16)
I spoke to him. He was calling to “scold” me about not calling my grandmother (his mother) for mother’s day (which I did). This was less than 3 months after my birthday–the 26th birthday he never called for, sent for,…maybe didn’t remember? The last time I talked to him he answered my grandmother’s phone and didn’t recognize my voice. The time before that eh…maybe a few years?
Funny…he has to refer to himself as my father. Something like, “This is your daddy/father, ****, I was calling to…”
I’m his ‘only child’ that he keeps pictures of posted on his wall, the one he tells everyone graduated from college and is doing well wherever she’s located. He never made it to those graduations though. He wasn’t there to tell me I was pretty before taking those pictures. He wasn’t the one on the phone talking me through silent tears–reminding me of how great I am. You were. You see. I’m his trophy daughter. But… they don’t have no rewards for that…right? (#CueDrake).
Unless, the reward is the result of a little teary eyed girl. He never wiped a tear but he caused some though. His response: “I did all I can do.”
We never talked about him before because: “Why talk about something that’s nothing?” But, the truth is: it was something. I realized that I let that “nothing” in my life define me.
A few weeks ago, I was watching a video of Oprah speaking to some business school graduate students at Stanford University. I was feeling a little defeated—juggling several projects and a “9 to 5.” I needed to re-up on inspiration. One of the students in the audience asked Oprah a question and her response started with the story of how her parents met. They never had a relationship. She said her father was just curious about what was under her mother’s skirt. So, she was conceived under an oak tree. She said the purpose of her life was bigger than that moment. That moment under that oak tree did not define her.
I started to cry. Who knew I would get a personal revelation instead of career inspiration?
I realized that I allowed those moments when he wasn’t there define me. I let sarcastic remarks from strangers define me. She’s light skin. They’re dark skin. They’re pretty. She’s different-looking. I let opinions of your relatives, who felt it was important to make me feel less than your daughter, define me. I buried those feelings as I’ve gotten older. I thought those moments were nothing. But, the truth is, I let those moments of nothing define me.
I didn’t grow up without a father. You were there since I took my first steps, lost my first tooth, and said my first words. I watched you and mommy sacrifice for my sisters and me. You set a high standard for relationships. You showed me how a man should provide for and protect his family. You showed us how a man is supposed to respect his Queen and little Queens. Remember your 50th birthday? You told me how one of your proudest accomplishments is being a good father to your daughters. You always wanted to have daughters because you didn’t grow up with your sisters. What about the many times you took us around Barnwell–showing us where you grew up and telling us your childhood stories we loved hearing over and over again? I learned to take pride in who I am and to never forget where I came from. Those stories will be passed down to grandchildren. Where would I be without those defining moments I had with you?
I remember that time you gave me a book about womanhood to take with me to college. Your oldest baby was going far away. You stood in the airport teary-eyed but so proud. I will never forget. At that very moment, I realized how much you and mommy instilled in me: the strength, the courage, the knowledge, the confidence. I love being a woman because of you. You taught me to never feel less than. No matter my gender, I can do what anyone else can do.
People say it takes a certain type of man to love a child that is not his. I think that’s easy. If you’re not a psychopath, the love comes when you’re living and spending time with someone. I’ve loved friends, teachers and even roommates. It’s beyond that. You raised me as your own. It takes a certain person to unconditionally love someone, care for someone and protect someone because they feel it is a part of their purpose. You feel like one of your purposes in life is to pass down your knowledge, wisdom, and legacy to your girls. I’m one of your girls, and you never treated or looked at me differently because I’m not bonded to you biologically.
I forgive him for me. I forgive him for you because now I know that it’s not taking anything away from what you’ve done for me.
When I think “Daddy,” I think love, which is you and only you.
Happy Father’s Day, my love.
Your oldest daughter,