Father's Day means a lot to me. It speaks volumes to a romantic idea I played with as a young girl where my dad, flaws and all, finally steps up to the plate and emotionally resides in the same ilk as Bill Cosby, Carl Winslow, or Uncle Phil. Wishing and hoping came to an end on my birthday in March 2007 when I received a call from my brother, who told me that our father had died from a drug overdose.
This was just hours after the somewhat-reliable birthday call from him saying, "Happy birthday, baby. I'm proud of you. I love you." I didn't know that would be the last time I heard his voice. Aside from the main issue of being addicted to crack cocaine since serving in Vietnam and potentially fathering other children that I've never met outside of my brother, memories of my father are joyous yet conflicted. His trait of being clutch when it counted but flaky because of his addiction is something I've come to understand better, and become more sympathetic to since getting diagnosed with an autoimmune illness a few years ago, which has affected my life in unexpected ways. However, I choose to work on me. My dad wasn't born with the instinct of self-care.
Paternal family members never seem to know how to treat my brother and me given that we are one-night stand offshoots of the family tree. Most men would have typically run off when the pregnancy train rolled in, but my dad stuck around. I like to believe that he valued the idea of what it meant, or could mean, to be a father. Having someone who looks like you out in the world just being while you sit back with a smile on your face is pretty damn awesome. It's one of the reasons why I can't wait to be a mother.
My father whistled during a standing ovation from my high school theater performances, or when he went ape-shit at our Black Celeb commencement when I graduated from the University of Michigan.
He taught me how to sing and improvise on jazz tunes, schooled me on the greatness that is Isaac Hayes, gave me quizzes after every Detroit Auto Show trip to see if I retained information on each car we sat in, and brought me around my cousins and grandparents as his golden child. In his eyes, I was a little genius. He gave himself credit for all my smarts and countless 4.0 achievements. I’m going to be apostolic about this and say, “God gets the glory” on this fact. My dad claimed numerous positive traits in our relationship throughout the years, but I think this was just his way of boosting his self-esteem. His worth came from my achievements. Guess it’s better than nothing.
Yet for every clutch occurrence there were moments when I would cry after he ended up back in jail, when he showed up high, late, or not at all for daddy/daughter dates, and was unable to let me live with him the countless times I begged due to the verbal and physical abuse in my household as a teen. He was your typical narcissistic June Gemini. He presented himself as flawless, but he had an addiction that he ultimately wanted to maintain more than his family and himself.
I shy away from feeling angry whenever the subject of addiction comes up because I have seen the duality of its effects on the human spirit. I know that my dad wanted to be better. He held down a plant job for a major automotive company and faithfully took his mom and dad to church everyday Sunday up until he died. He was deemed the family favorite at times because he was there for my grandmother. He would have been a better son, a trustworthy brother, and a real father if he weren’t held prisoner to needles from crack houses on the eastside of Detroit.
Regardless of this, due to my COGIC, Roman Catholic, Hoodoo religious upbringing, I forgave every slip up and went to that “ideal” place. "Woulda-Coulda" was my mantra when it came to dad. “God won't give up on you yet” was my nightly prayer. “He wants to be better but the crack got him,” was included in the excuses that my grandmother gave whenever I cried on the front porch because he stood me up again.
I forgave my father years before he died. My brother had a hard time with it, but as we stood over his lifeless body in a family room at the funeral home, we both knew that he tried. He really did. He would have been a great father if he hadn’t been addicted to drugs.
It's better to live knowing that "ideals" are tangible for all, I guess. Yet and still, my biological father was the best he could be. I know he loved us. I am his baby and I will always love him. Happy Father's Day, Daddy.