Sometimes, you have to remove that iron clad shroud of privacy and open up your heart and share your story, so that others can learn, so that others can truly appreciate the lives that they have, so that others can stop waiting in vain for what was, for what might have been, or what they hope will be and just be thankful for the blessings that they have been given.
Growing up, I never longed for my biological father as I have heard some people retort. There were no feelings of emptiness or feeling lost, or not feeling whole as a person because there was a part of me that was missing. These are feelings I have heard too often in conversation with others but just could not relate to. I never felt rejected or dejected by him, nor did I hold any animosity towards him. How could I? I didn’t know him. As a matter of fact whenever I thought of him there was rather a sense of gratitude for having played a role in my procreation, and for choosing not to be a part of my life because from all accounts he was not a very good person, but other than that it was sheer indifference.
In recent years I have stumbled upon relatives of his, and just as recent as today one was trying to reunite me with a long lost uncle, and somehow seemed perplexed as to my indifference, and I had to explain that I just didn’t see the need because there was no connection. It was not like I was searching or longing for some lost piece of the puzzle, and by meeting this man that this would be key to my healing; again something I have heard many people say. I had to explain to this man that I felt complete, because I did have a father, and a paternal family, something I don’t think quite registered with him, because he kept saying, “but they were not your blood, this is your blood, you need to get to know your blood,” that struck a very deep nerve because I have never equated family as merely “blood” but rather as love and acceptance.
I knew that this man’s intentions were well meaning, and I understood his perplexity especially given our culture where “blood” trumps all. I thought it pertinent to provide a thorough explanation on why I felt the way that I did. It went like this, “I get that you may not quite understand but I have never viewed Mr. Charles as my father, because I did have a father. I had a father who loved me, and cared for me, a father who was my backbone, and my biggest cheerleader. I had a father who called me Princess M, and told me the sky was the limit. I had a father who knew my dreams and aspirations and set me on the path to making each one of them a reality. I had a father who was my best friend. I had a father who knew every friend and foe. I had a father who rushed me to the hospital when I had a high fever, and who took me to every physical therapy appointment when I fractured my left hand. I had a father who took the time to know each of my teachers personally, and show an interest in every hobby, music, or fad that I seemed to be caught up in.”
“I had father who took me to dance class, tennis lessons, and piano lessons, Mrs. Elizabeth Condell can attest to that. I had a father who took me to his play rehearsals, at the Police Training Complex. I still remember the play, “The Fungi Love Affair.” I had a father who ensured that my name was at the top of the list at every Police Christmas party. I had a father who allowed me to climb the tower, frolic and run wild at the SSU, while he did his job or tended to his garden. The SSU was actually my second home, Assistant Commissioner Ian Queeley, Hobson, Wattley, the Rev, and my childhood friend Carson from Newtown can attest to that. I had a father who gave me a wonderful life, great memories, and a warm, big, loving extended family. I had a father who gave me a brother and sister, who would without a doubt lay down their lives for me, and I love them dearly for it, to this day people think that my sister and I are twins. We are the same age. I had a father who told us at a very early age, “If anybody ask your age or question you, tell them you are twins, then tell them ask your father any other questions they need answered.”
“I had a father who gave me a Papa who boasted to the world about his grandchildren, ME, included. I had a father who I knew no matter what I did he would still be there, no matter how disappointing, and there were a few moments. I can still hear his voice, “You shouldn’t be concerned about whether or not you have disappointed me or anybody else, you need to consider whether or not you have disappointed yourself. I do not know what is going on with you, but you need to find yourself, not for me or anybody else, but find yourself for you.” I had a father who assumed the responsibility of another man when he didn’t have to, and did a stellar job at it, and I wouldn’t be who I am today if he wasn’t a part of my life. I think that that’s the way it was meant to be, and I am eternally grateful that God meant for it to be that way. I had a father who made me forget that he wasn’t even my biological father, and that is how I knew he was in fact my father.”
I often share with friends that I gave a talk at a primary school once, and I asked the kids how many of them did not know their fathers, and about ninety percent of the children in the classroom raised their hands. I was saddened by this, but then one friend reminded me that had I been in that class I might have been raising my hands, and I responded in the negative, after all I had a father. I knew my father. I spoke to him almost every day. It was years later that I did realize what my friend was making reference to, that is how good of a father I had. He made me forget. I had a father who I miss every single day because he lost his battle to cancer several years ago, one of the most painful experiences in my life.
I went on to explain to this man that at the age of thirteen or it could have been fourteen, my biological father wrote me a letter, enclosed in the letter was $500.00 USD and enclosed there was also a Parker pen set. In the letter he wrote that he was sorry for not being a part of my life, and that he intended to make it up to me, and he wanted a relationship with me, and he wanted us to begin that relationship with me calling him Daddy. I showed the letter to two of my closest friends who were in awe of the money of course, for a child my age that was a lot of money. I showed the letter to my grandmother and I asked her opinion on how to handle the matter, her usual response was, “Do whatever your heart desire!” I knew she would discuss the letter with my father so I showed it to him, and when I saw his heart break before my very eyes as he read the letter I knew the answer to my question.
Always the writer, I was one of those kids always writing someone a letter; I penned what I thought to be a very nice letter to my biological father. I thanked him for playing a role in my procreation. I thanked him for my grandmother, who was his mother, and who was very present in my life, (to think on it, my father actually took me to visit her on weekends or whenever we drove through Cayon, such irony isn’t it, and when she died my father attended the funeral to console me, while my biological father stood off in the distance, grinning like a Cheshire cat, I was ten then but the memory is still there and this is only one of the three times I can actually recall ever seeing my biological father, the other two were a blur).
As I wrote the letter I thanked my biological father for the siblings that he gave me. I also went on to explain that I had a father who was doing a fantastic job. I even mentioned that he ought to meet him because he was a good man. I told my biological father that I would welcome a relationship with him, however it could not be as my father, and I would not be able to call him Daddy. Needless to say that was the last time I heard from him, and I was fine with that. I went on living my life. A friend once asked whether or not I regretted that decision, and the answer to that, even to this day, is no. I had empathy for him, as it must have been a difficult letter for him to write, however there is no remorse on my part. I just couldn’t see myself turning my back on the only father I ever knew, and embracing a total stranger who had shown no interest in my life for almost fourteen years, much less calling him Daddy. It wouldn’t have been decent or fair, not because he was “blood.”
It so happens that seven years ago both my biological father and my father passed away. A family friend asked how I felt, and my response was for the former again it was indifference because I didn’t know him, and for the latter, I was totally heartbroken. My biological father died I think it must have been June or July, all I can remember is that I was at the beach with the UNESCO Youth PATH kids, when my older sister called, and informed that she had learned that he had passed a month or two ago, and had been buried. I felt sad for her because she had lost someone, other than that there was nothing. I thought that it was tragic not only the way in which died, but the fact that he died and was buried, and his own children didn’t even know.
This was such a contrast I thought. I suppose there was some truth to the way in which you live is how you die. My father on the other hand died surrounded by a loving wife, his two children, I had left St. Thomas the day before he died, and his extended family. I remember packing to go to Paris to represent the federation at UNESCO, the flight was scheduled to leave at 12:20 I think, as soon as I closed the suitcase I got the call, it was my aunt’s husband. He delivered the news. I would never forget that call. I closed the suitcase, and said, “I am not going!” I called Hon. Sam Condor informed him of my father’s passing.
I explained that I would not be able to make the trip, as I needed to be with my family. I apologized for any embarrassment that might be caused, but I explained that this was my father, and I needed to see him off. Hon. Condor was very sympathetic. He explained that he would try and work things out so that I could return in time for my father’s funeral, and so said, so done, to this day I am grateful for the care and compassion he showed during that time. I went and did my best like the brave little soldier my father had raised. I made it back in time to be with my family. We said our farewells, and that evening the four of us slept in the same bed, to this day ‘we don’t know how we fit, ‘Mom’, my sister, my brother and I. It was just us now, and we knew it.
Sometimes in life we tend to keep our lives or our stories to ourselves and not share whether out of fear, not wanting to be judged, not wanting to appear weak, or vulnerable but then again what good does it do if we don’t share so that people may learn from what we have experienced, or learn how truly wonderful others were to us, or be reminded that behind what we may consider to be a dark cloud, that there is a silver lining. I remember getting into a heated debate with a friend who grew up without his father, and blamed all his misgivings on this fact, and he shot back at me, “Look at you, what do you know about life, with your little cookie cutter life, ” and I suppose that struck me, because that was the furthest thing from the truth. I suppose I could have been one of those people who wallowed in pity over not having my biological father in my life, be bitter about it, and for some people I can really understand that it is no trivial matter, because they feel rejected, they want to feel wanted by the person or persons who were responsible for their being here, but why not look at the absence as a blessing?
Maybe you should ask yourself whether this person was truly equipped to be the kind of parent that you deserved. You may not have had a father, but you might have had a strong mother, uncle, or grandmother who tried their best to fill that role, so count your blessings and be grateful for this. I can honestly tell you that after hearing reports of who my biological father was, I really do thank him for his absence, and I do sympathize with his situation and whatever ordeal or pain he might have endured that made him the way that he was, but in my heart there is gratitude because his absence might have been his gift to me. You know that Beyonce song, I suppose he turned out to be the best thing I never had.
Don’t get me wrong, having a father in one’s life is important, and maybe this article may cause some men to reflect on their roles and responsibilities as fathers, and not shirk their responsibilities in the hope that years down the road this child would embrace them, and give them a cup of sugar water to drink or rescue them from going to the Infirmary because of this connection called “blood.”
Maybe this article would cause young women to reflect on the choices that they make in terms of a partner or who they choose to have children with, to date that is the best decision that I have ever made. It is also my hope that mothers raise their sons not to look back and give them bread as one mother said to me once, but to be good fathers, to support their children emotionally and financially. It is my hope that society realizes that it literally takes a village to raise a child. It is not just a figure of speech. Who would I be today if my father didn’t step up to the plate? I don’t even want to imagine it.
In ending, I suppose I am very reflective as it is the anniversary of my father’s death, and as the years go by, it is easier to smile because I think on him with fondness and I know that he is still with me, and I know that he will always be with me. When I visited him to say my farewell, I turned to his wife, who was holding me up, and asked her just what I should I say, because my feelings couldn’t be put into words.
What do you say to someone who has always been a part of your life; you have no recollection of life without this person? What do you say to someone who had given you a life? What do you say to someone you knew you would never see this side again? What do you say to someone who had been your strength, your rock, and who gave you wings so you could fly. ‘Mom’ whispered, “Just say thanks! He understands.”
I climbed on the bed next to him, kissed him, said thank you, and I love you for what seemed like an eternity. I knew I was saying goodbye, to date that has been the most difficult and painful thing I have ever had to do. I wanted to make sure he knew. I wanted to make sure that he got it. His last words to me were, “I am sorry. I wish I could stay with you all longer, but it’s not to be. I am ready. Keep a calm head Princess M, and just be you. I had a good life. I love all of you. I did my best. I want you and your brother and sister to stick together love each other, you are all you have, that’s how I raised you, and always remember you are my daughter! In my heart you were always my daughter!”
Even as he was leaving, he tried giving me one last gift, a gift that was so self less, because for the week that I spent with him, he kept counting the days on his fingers, and asking what day it was, and I would tell him, and he would say ok, three more days, two more days, and he departed the same day that I was supposed to fulfill one of my life long dreams, a dream that he helped cultivate, and I knew he was holding on so that I could realize it, that was my father!
We miss you and love you ‘King Dad,’ Prince Drew, Princess S, and Princess M.
This article was actually an entry into my diary but after receiving a very inspiring email on the importance of family, from Mr. Elvis Newton, someone who has provided me with the best advice over the years I decided to publish it. Thanks Newton, you are a blessing!
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