Happy Father’s Day to all of the Dads, soon-to-be Dads and would-be Dads out there. I just got off the phone with my Ol’ Dude and as usual, he was just as nonchalant and unexcited about the whole thing. As I jubilantly said ‘Happy Father’s Day’ and ‘Happy Belated Birthday’ (he turned 63 earlier this week), he issued a dry reply, “Mmm Hmmm. Thank ya.” No big deal. That’s just my daddy.
I saw the picture above posted on the Good Day to Be Black and Sexy fanpage on Facebook. It reminds me so much of my father and I in our earlier years. When I was a little girl, my daddy was my hero. I used to throw temper tantrums when I couldn’t follow him whenever he was going somewhere. As I grew into a young woman, things changed between us. It was the typical Father-Daughter conflict, I was growing up and he wanted me to stay a little girl. Somewhere between my high school and college years, my Dad checked out of my life. He didn’t go anywhere, physically, but we did disconnect due to some household turbulence and issues, so emotionally, we fell apart. I realized that he didn’t understand me and he wasn’t truly making any effort to do so because he was being pulled into another direction. He seemed less concerned about being a good husband and father, and more consumed with working, making money, and hanging out. He wasn’t my hero anymore.
Over the years, we’ve had some tough arguments and for a long while, I wouldn’t really talk to my Dad at all. Last year, he was diagnosed with Stage III-IV Hodgkins’ Lymphoma, which resulted in a month long hospital stay. He was placed in Intensive Care two times and on the second visit to ICU, he was placed on a ventilator after he stopped breathing due to complications of pneumonia. My family and I spent many days praying for him, all the while, my mother and I sorted through our feelings about him over the years. During those long weeks, I thought about all of the times when we argued and the problems we’ve had as a family. None of that really mattered, at that time, and I reasoned that it was better to have him here as long as possible — whether we’re arguing or not, than to lose him that way. After a year’s worth of chemotherapy and continual prayer, my father is alive and well — and, for the most part, he’s still just as difficult to deal with as before. But he’s here — and that’s the most important thing. Truth be told, I don’t expect him to get any softer, if anything, he’ll probably become even more ornery.
To give him proper due, my father was an excellent provider as I was growing up. He paid for my undergraduate education from his overtime wages, bought and paid for my first car, helped me out with bills when I was short on cash, and took care of the down payment on my house. Of course, I would have to get a sermon before he did it, but he would begin to slowly count out the money or make his way to the bank to put it in my account. At times, when he was actually ‘there’, his advice to me was to be an independent woman with my own things (car, house, money, etc.) and whenever I needed help, I should rely on him instead of ‘these niggas out here ’cause once they start doing shit for ya, they’ll think they own you and shit’. By the way, my father is not the most tactful person you’d ever meet. Often, we have to remind him that he’s dropping just one too many shits, damns, and m-fkers because he’s completely unaware of it himself. He’s a certified ‘cusser’. But that’s my Ol’ Dude.
Now, we’ve come to the meat of this post. You see, Dads have a hard time anyway — and there’s not much sentimental favor that Dads receive, period. When it comes to Black fathers, even less fanfare is poured on them. Of course, being a Black man in this country is a complicated experience, but when compounded with being a father, it becomes even more of a quagmire. It’s easier for the society, at large, to determine that most Black men are absentee fathers, thus a host of problems that plague the Black community are seemingly placed squarely on the shoulders of these inactive daddies. With television shows like Maury Povich, a particular sensationalism surrounds the so-called dysfunctionality of Black fathers. Those shows only project the negativism of Black men — but in reality, I know several Black men who are great fathers — or they are trying to be — in spite of the mirky relationships with their children’s mothers (that’s another post).
All women tend to structure their relationships with men based on their relationship with their fathers — or lack of, and certainly, when it comes to Black women, many of our struggles with having a healthy intimate relationship are a direct result of Daddy issues. Definitely, I’ve had my battles with being vulnerable and trusting enough when it came to men and that could largely explain why I’m not married now. You see, I took my Daddy’s advice about being independent, which left me unable to truly relinquish any control of myself over to a man for the sake of growing in love with him. Also, when my Daddy checked out of my life and became difficult to talk to, this transferred into my inability to effectively communicate my feelings with a man. For a long time, I was quite ashamed of the imperfections of my father and, because of it, developed idealistic, or, rather completely unrealistic expectations of men. But after growing spiritually and just maturing as a woman, I realized that my task in life, if I wanted to be at peace, was to tell the truth about my father — and remove the judgements about him as much as possible. I had to learn how to accept his imperfections and love his contemptuous ass anyway. :-)
Believe it or not, this has helped me tremendously in love. Now, when it comes to men, my acceptance of my father has cleared the cloudiness of my heart enough to help me determine what I want — and don’t want in my man. I’ve been learning how to try and understand the men that come into my life and be as patient with them as I can. In doing that, I accept them — just as they are. In his own jacked up way, my father taught me this powerful life lesson, even if he doesn’t realize it.