Holidays happen whether we want them to or not. Whether we are ambivalent about them or not….they’re coming and people will be openly celebrating and sending happy greetings to others based on the the holiday.
The above statement was written yesterday. This was supposed to be a post about how Father’s Day was always different for me. All about me and how I felt about the holiday, but somehow it doesn’t make sense anymore.
Yesterday, I knew from the moment I looked down at my watch to see who was calling…From the moment that I picked up the phone, I knew. I listened to my brother crying on the phone, letting me know that he was gone, but I already knew.
My father has been dealing with his health for most of my adult life, but in the last year or so, it was getting increasingly worse and it didn’t help that he was not following the doctor’s orders. I say all of that as if I knew all that was going on with him, but I don’t. You see despite our talking to each other on and off, I hadn’t laid eyes on him in over twenty years.
Despite spending every summer in DC with my father, after he and my mother ended their relationship, I have no warm and fuzzy memories related to my father. He just…was. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t love him, I just didn’t understand him and how he loved.
Imagine a young girl, wanting the approval of her father for so many years and not understanding why she wasn’t getting it.
For many years, I felt like he had chosen his new family over me. I begin to feel that my visits were like something he checked off a box. So, right before leaving for college, I decided to stop visiting.
Through the twists and turns to our “love story”, there were periods of time that we didn’t talk and when we did, it was filled with questions (at least for me). He was the only person that in the course of a conversation that I reverted to a little girl. It wasn’t what he was saying to me that made me feel that way, but what he wasn’t saying.
I wanted to hear him say “I’m proud of you”, “You’re doing amazing as a mother”, “You’ll get them next time”, but those words never came. I became resentful and stubborn and vowed that if he wanted to talk to me, he knew where to find me.
However, deep down inside, that’s now what I wanted or needed. It wasn’t until I was watching one of Oprah’s Life Classes and TD Jakes was the featured guest on the tour and someone had a question from the audience about love (I don’t remember the context, but I remember his answer). He asked if we stopped to consider that people can only love out of their capacity to love. They can’t give you what they don’t have. (I’ve KP’d the quote a bit)
That was five years ago and it was then that all of the anger, hurt, and disappointment melted away. Now that’s not to say that we went skipping off into the sunset….remember, I still haven’t seen him and wouldn’t until last year.
I was back in DC in October of last year for my sister’s wedding and I still hadn’t made up my mind if I was going to go see him this time.
I had just dropped my youngest off at the airport and in an instant and before I changed my mind, I called him and said, “I’m on my way to your house”. I needed to give myself some accountability and didn’t want to show up on his doorstep after 20 plus years, unannounced. As I drove to the house, my emotions were all over the place, but I knew that I had to do it.
Then, I turned on the street that I used to ride my bike on and
play read in the front yard.
I walked up to the door, not knowing what to expect on the other side. His wife answered the door and I stepped into the house and around the corner, there was my father sitting in the chair, looking frail and not the man that used to tower over me in stature. He had just gotten out of the hospital the previous Friday (it was Sunday) and was home recovering. We talked, mostly about football and what his doctor ‘s orders were. Then, without a word, he pulled out old pictures and while I didn’t know who MOST of these people were, I felt like it was his way of “letting me in”.
I insisted that we take pictures, although I know he didn’t quite feel up to it.
He didn’t say much….we never talked about “our stuff” but there was a knowing that I couldn’t quite understand (at the time). I left with promises (from him) that he would call more, but I knew that even if he didn’t, in that moment, he meant it. As I was gathering myself to leave, he said, “let me stand up so we can get a picture together”.
Who knew that picture ,that was twenty years in the making, would be the last time that I saw him?
As I write this, I’m flooded with emotions, but the one thing I can say that I don’t feel is regret. It was something that my brother said to me after my visit last year. He called to check on me and asked if I had heard from my father. I quietly said no….he said “don’t feel like you’re being rejected. He’s like that with me too. It’s just his way”.
It wasn’t until recently that I found out that my son has been in almost constant contact with my father (whom he only met once) for years. They formulated their own relationship and I could hear the pride in his voice, when he said “I talked to Darrius”. Perhaps in some way, he was able to demonstrate the love to my oldest (son) that he wasn’t able to demonstrate with me and for that I’m grateful…..