Incoming text message for Afrocity:
DAD: Come watch me run the 5K next week. Soldier Field
AFROCITY: (After a long pause, disbelief) When?
AFROCITY: I will try…
Wow. My father invited me to watch him run. To support him. The loving daughter standing at the finish line cheering dad on, waiting with open arms and a bottle of cold Evian. Even clad in a “GO DAD GO” tee-shirt perhaps.
Up until now Autographed Letter Signed has been terrifically informative about my relationship with my mother’s life and death. I have never got into a deep discussion of my father’s life. How could I? I have only known the man since 2005 when I looked up his name on the internet.
Make no mistake, dad and I are a work in progress- nothing more to say really. We speak on the phone and see each other in person maybe three times a year despite living in the same city.
I invite him over for dinner. He cancels at the last minute.
He invites me to a family wedding and I play paddy cake with my decision which is ultimately NO. Too many paternal family members too fast. One on one would be best for now.
Can I ever really forgive and forget? Will I let myself?
He wants me to watch him make it to the finish line at some race. I am proud that at the old age of 63, he runs marathons. It makes me feel proud and like shit that my mother died at 68 because she was overweight and never exercised. She died of hypertension- the silent killer.
How dare he ask me to watch him be all senior and healthy when my mother dies because she was unhealthy?
What the hell do I look like cheering on this man who never changed my Pampers at a race which raises money for kids – ironically?
Kodak moment potential aside, what would my mother think of me?
“Trader daughter bitch,” mother would say to me up from far above the sky’s clouds in heaven while watching the Montel William’s show in her government subsidized housing. “I am dead now and look at you hanging out waiting for the prodigal dad to return home just so you can knit some perfect black family life that you never had.”
Dead momma is right.
Let’s face it. Nothing you ever do Afrocity. Nothing, will erase the fact that you did not grow up African American and Cobsy Show perfect middle class.
That dream was assassinated the moment you were conceived. A causality of single black mother/absent black father life in the inner city.
According to his 2008 speech on absent black fathers, I think Barack Obama would agree that dad and I are a causality of black life. The following quote is about the only thing Obama has ever said that I do agree with:
“We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception…Too many fathers are M.I.A, too many fathers are AWOL, missing from too many lives and too many homes…They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.”
Young Afrocity never had to hear the ominous words
“Wait until father gets home.”
There was no father. No huge size 12 workman’s boots sitting at the front door, drying from the rain along with baby’s boots and mother’s. Never once did I have a masculine shoulder to rest on when I fell asleep at church. I learned over the years that a man’s absence would dominate the pattern of my life. It was not a long hiatus because he had a fight with mom. He was gone and I lived life without him along with the rest of his children but we were living the life of the Great Society- the welfare society.
And perhaps more pathetically, I tried to distract from the void by creating a special grief club with my dad’s other crazy quilted offspring.
My younger half-sister was welcomed into my home, along with her three year son fathered by a married man. In an entirely selfish on my part move, I believed I could rehabilitate her into a college graduate. I was raised by mother to think that education and nit pregnancy was a way out. My half-sister learned none of these lessons from our father. Apparently neither did my older half-sister who has six children and currently lives on welfare.
You may recall a past post about the latter sister. She had/has ovarian cancer and relies on Government health insurance. The same insurance that allowed her to have 10 years worth of abnormal pap smear results and did nothing. The same government health insurance that offered her virtually zero options for her cancer besides a hysterectomy. In an attempt to be a good sister, or at the very least, a good half sister, I enlisted the help of my own gynecologist. “Please help my sister,” I said. “She has ovarian cancer and public assistance insurance and awful doctors. No one is giving her a straight story or treating her like a an equal.”
Did I mention that both sisters- I mean half-sisters -dumped me?
The younger one, just stopped calling me out of the blue. There I was with a box full of toys and kid books I had bought for her son to come play with when they visited. She was supposed to let me help her with her applications for college…then poof. She was gone. My messages went unanswered. What did I do? Was it the guacamole dip I made when we were watching movies one night and talking about dating bad men??? I can make it more spicy next time. I promise. Please call back.
The older, I am more forgiving of.
She was battling cancer. While we had spoken over the phone several times and I shared my gynecologist number with her, I had never actually met this woman in the flesh. Sure there were specific things I knew about her from our father’s amazingly insightful commentary.
“She (my sister) is ghetto. She wears this big blond weave that is fried, dyed, and slicked to the side,” explained our father. “She is street wise- not like you Afrocity…She acts very black, has a gold tooth…”
Okay, I thought, so we won’t go shopping together or share beauty tips but I can at least meet my father’s other daughter.
I asked her over for dinner. She said she could only eat bland foods like boiled potatoes because of the chemo.
More than happy to accommodate her dietary restrictions, I offered to make her a nice meal of Sheppard’s pie. What’s more bland and filling than Irish food? We agreed on a dinner date . Shopping for ground lamb and Yukon Gold potatoes made me dwell on the oddity of the situation. I have never even cooked a meal for my mother’s son- my half brother. I have known him all of my life. Now here I am looking at low sodium lamb broth for some woman I have never met that shares my paternal DNA.
This recipe of instant sisterhood requires parsley, sage rosemary and time….
What would we talk about?
“Hi, so nice to finally meet you…I understand that our dad cheated on your mother with my mother and that is how we are so close in age… Can I get you a glass of water? I have tap or Pellegrino..Cancer popsicles? Rice cakes?”
Half sister to sister, we would tell fatherless ghost stories, share pictures of our mother’s boyfriends- our “uncles”, and look at our brown faces to see if there is any resemblance.
And therein lied the problem of such a meeting of the fatherless minds. The recognition that no amount of tea and half sister sympathy would ever change our narrative. Three half sisters don’t make a whole father.
She never came for dinner.
I never called her to see why she never called me.
She did call several months later. I never returned the calls.
Why? Because ultimately, it does not matter. DNA is so random when you grow up black and fatherless. Strands of nothing but sexual encounters with the same breeder. What is the use of acting as if we are characters in some sort of urban Negro rendition of Homer’s Iliad?
It will never be easy or even possible to capture what is lost when the family erodes.
No old sounds of familiarity “Daddy will get you when he gets home!!!”
Only new sounds like the ding of an Iphone when a text message arrives:
DAD: Are you here?
AFROCITY: Yes. I am on my bike. I will meet you at the finish line.”
And suddenly there I was at the race, waiting for father to come home.
An old warrior in the war on absentee dads, putting down my heavy pounds of bitterness and protective weapons to
be present at the finish line in order to begin something we never started right in the first place.
Autographed Letter Signed,