This isn’t living now
A thing my father said to me
And get a haircut, boy
If you want a chance in respectable society
Why did you stop writing?
I knew you had some trouble, son
But you should know by now
That my number doesn’t change
Because my dirty deed is done
All I need from you
And that’s all
Regardless of whatever you do
And that is that you understand
That I’ll never turn my back on you
Terrence Trent D’Arby
My Dad and my mom dated as teenagers. My mom got pregnant at 17 and the relationship never progressed. My mom ended up moving to the US when I was four and remarried eventually and I have a younger brother. My Dad married and had three children. My parents eventually divorced after ten years of marriage. My mom became a single mom. We struggled so much after the divorce. Things got very hard for us. I don’t share the story too much but my mom had a really hard time for a few years. Two kids, she lost her job and neither Dad was really in the picture. For me, I grew up a little angry. I often wondered why neither one cared about me. My mom was working so hard to give us whatever we needed and she never complained in front of us, but now, as a mother, I know how hard it must have been for her.
My mom ended up getting a small part time job at a Hospital. I am so proud of my mother. She started as a clerk admitting patients into the hospital. Checking paperwork and insurance, etc. She became the Director of Admissions in that very Nursing Home/Hospital through sheer hard work. We had so many rough times together and I guess because I was the oldest and her daughter, we really share a special bond. Many times, I had to drop a class at school because I just couldn’t afford the books. I never told my mom because I didn’t want to put pressure on her finances. Instead, I did what she had taught me, I got jobs and did the best I could. I worked hard. I always had good grades but I made sure that I studied and worked harder than the other kids. I learned all of that from her. I want to thank my mother for always being the best PARENT I could have ever wanted. She never left me. As a young girl, pregnant in a time when it was not accepted so easily, she could have easily chosen not to have me. She could have continued on under her academic scholarship and who knows what she would have become…but instead, she chose me. She didn’t run away from the situation. She faced it. I am who I am today because of the choices she made. Mom, whenever you read this, please know that I am glad you made that choice.
In all fairness, my Dad had tried for many years to stay in touch with me. I would often get word from aunts in Trinidad that he had asked about me. I remember being younger and my aunts snuck me out to a park where I got to see him for a few minutes. It was an awkward situation because my mom was married at the time and my Dad didn’t want to rock the boat of the man who was raising me. I was young and very introspective. I didn’t talk about my feelings. It was hard for me to see my father. I knew that my brother had his father but I was very confused as to why my father didn’t try to be with me. My young mind couldn’t comprehend the dynamics of the situation.
When I was thirteen, I went to Trinidad for a month with my brother. I remember that my Father immediately called and wanted to see me. He picked me up and we spent the day in Tobago. We swam at the beach and had a good time. Later that night, he took me to his house where I met his wife and his two sons. The boys were young. Maybe three and five? They were very cute and playful.
At 13, I wanted to be a part of my father’s life very badly. I was hurt that he had an entire family that I knew nothing about. I had brothers. Cousins. Uncles and Aunts. In my mind, I had imagined that he was mean and just didn’t want me around. In reality, he was very sweet and he was a good father…to his sons. I could tell they were a loving and happy family. I just felt so much on the outside looking in.
My parents eventually got divorced. My stepfather remarried and disappeared. He never sent child support for us even though he knew my mom had lost her job. He bought a house and had another son. I was so angry with him for leaving us like that. We had been a family. He raised me from the age of 7 to 17. He was the only father I had ever known. What made me even angrier was the fact that he did that to my brother. My brother was his oldest son. He turned his back on him to a certain extent and because it had happened to me, I knew the pain my brother was going through. I don’t think my brother has ever recovered from that experience.
In a way, I had lost two dads. I had lots of trouble in relationships with men as I got older. I think I was just looking for someone that would not leave me. I would stay with folks for too long or lower my expectations. I didn’t have that steady father figure to guide me and give me that unconditional male love at home. It took a while before I learned what it was that made me happy.
A few months before my wedding, my mom called to tell me that she had run into my father in Miami. He wanted my phone number and she gave it to him. In my mind, I decided that if he called I would talk to him but I didn’t expect him to call me. He called that same day. He flew up for my wedding and since then, we have stayed in contact. I have reconnected with my family in Trinidad.
His wife has embraced me and my family into her home. My father is so happy to see me and the boys. My brothers and my Little sister have grown up always knowing they had a sister. Deep down, my Dad never really left me.
When I watch him with his children, I can clearly see that he is a great father. He is stern yet kind. Loving and Playful. They are a well adjusted family. No matter how much fatherhood scared him when my mother told him she was pregnant…he ended up doing a great job with his own children. He just wasn’t ready at the time of my birth.
We have lost so many years. I get overwhelmed sometimes when I think about it. I would love to say all of this to him. I want him to know that I am no longer angry. That I do know he loves me and that he always has. I know he is sorry for the time we can’t regain. I know he wishes things had happened differently. I can see it all when he looks at me and tells me how proud he is of me.
Like I said, I heal a little bit more everytime I see him. I am going to keep moving forward and continue to embrace whatever time we have left.
All of these years have passed and at 37, it’s nice to discover that the father I thought didn’t want me…..has never given up on me. He has loved me for my entire life. Just from a distance. He was there to meet my future husband and make sure he was a good guy. He was ready to argue with my mother to walk me down the aisle. He was there for the birth of both of his grandsons and I now know that he will always be there for me. As he said to me tonight on the phone…he can’t change the past but he can share my future.
Love you Dad.