The Good Thing About Having a Not So Good Relationship‚Ä¶.With My Father
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.