Thursday, June 15, 2006

What can I say about my father?

Since I plan to answer the question honestly the commentary you are about to read maybe disappointing, disturbing, and/or not uplifting. Now, if you want the truth and a dirty version of the reality of Father’s Day for millions of black men in America stay with me for about five minutes. I assure you by the end of the five minutes you will be pleased and thankful I shared my story with you. It is a story of “beating the odds”.

On July 3, 1989 a woman looked at me as I bagged her groceries at the local supermarket. Actually, she was staring. I became uncomfortable after about 30 long seconds, so I asked “How are you today?” She replied with, “I am fine. Are you JB’s son?” I said (with excitement and pride), “Yes, I am.” She preceded to pick-up her groceries and walked away. Then she did a 180, and yelled to me with disdain. “I hope you don’t be nothing like your daddy!”

I was 19 years old. I was working on my birthday. I was trying to earn enough money to purchase my college books. I was trying to do the right thing. I was trying to do what my mother told me to do (“work to get what you want”). However, at the very moment this women finished her sentence with “daddy” I was devastated.

No one reading this can probably understand the sting of that statement because you don’t know my father unless you have heard of him by way of gossip. Those of you from Thomasville, North Carolina know of him, but you don’t really know him. You have heard the stories of how mean he was and how most people in the Ville were terrified when and if he got angry, but you don’t really know him. Despite what has been said about him he can be a kind man.

He is the man that I have “run away” from for years. I ran from looking like him. I ran from being like him. Ultimately, I tried everything in my power to shake his genes. Over time I discovered that running away from this man meant I was running away from myself. I had to admit to myself and others that I am just like my daddy. The resemblance is amazing and my behavior at times was unique only to JB Taylor. However, one thing sets us apart. One thing: I am a devoted father.

On this Father’s Day and for the past six 3rd Sunday’s of June I have been Judah Mordecai’s father. I have been like Johnny Johnson, Alexander Watson, Charles Brown, and numerous other black men who have remained faithful to fatherhood, but on June 18, 2006 it will be a little different for me. I have finally summoned enough courage to say to the world, “I am who I am because of what that woman said to me back in 1989.” As I fought to be someone different, I, in turn became a man who wanted to prove to that lady I am the essence of my father, but I am what he was not: A father.

On Father’s Day continue to love, cherish, and respect the black father. More than likely, he is being a father without any fatherly guidance on what is necessary to be a great dad. Help his children answer the question: What can I say about my father? differently.

Written by Brian E. Payne. Inspired by the vow I made over ten years ago in a High Point University dormitory room. I would like to ask every man reading this piece who has children or plans to have children to repeat the vow with me. The vow: I will be a father to my children no matter what the circumstances are. Not having a father is not an excuse to be absentee.

7 comments:

FamnBlan said...

Judah will really appreciate this when he reads it and is older!! Great piece!!

Muata said...

Reader response and Muata's "counterpoint".

Well on the day you were given an opinion of your father, you were at that very moment doing something your father probably did not, "doing what your mother said" and working to be everything you knew your father was not. On the other hand times were different and I did not know the bad or mean side of your father's reputation. Not making an excuse for your dad, but many homes didn't have structure. Maybe he simply just did not know how to be a father.

-ES

My father had every opportunity to seek guidance. He just did not do what was necessary to fulfill his role as a father. He "jumped ship". He ran away from responsibility. He had excuse after excuse, and other people made excuses for him. I refuse to give him an out. Thanks to that lady I am not him when it comes to fatherhood.

Do I hate him? No. I am disappointed in him. The disappointment is deep rooted.

-Muata

Muata said...

Reader responses:

This one is for O’ Magazine and Essence. SEND IT!!! You may also be able to help those who have this same story, but with the mother being the one who abandoned the child. It is lots of pain either way.

-JA

The testimony you sent me was very moving. With Father's Day around the corner I am always overcome with sadness over my dad and my brother who passed. My brother is unable to be a dad to his son anymore. But with the time that was given to him he did a wonderful job.

-CR

Very POWERFUL and revealing. I think it takes a great deal of courage to open yourself up like that. The honesty is what is really beautiful. Thanks for sharing and giving a piece of yourself. It is absolutely beautiful to read this.

-DC

Muata said...

Reader responses:

Nice commentary. I wish my child’s father could read this.
-Anonymous

This is alright with me...bought tears to my EYES...
-AB

Far too often our lives are motivated by failure rather than inspired by success. Thanks for the story; it gave me some insight to my own issues with my father.
-Anonymous

Great write up. Almost made me cry.....
-KG

I was touched by your testimony.
-AG

Amen.

-JM

Muata said...

The Response that MOVED me:

I'm glad you shared this touching story for several reasons. First, it's good to see a brother at a point where he can take a distinct moment in his life and determine how that moment could impact him. I applaud you for taking those negative feelings you felt at that moment regarding your father and transforming them years later into a positive, steadfast relationship with your son. You've stopped the cycle, which is not an easy task.

Secondly, it got me to thinking about my relationship with my father and the effect it has had on my choices with the men in my life. I've made ill choices with respect to the men I've chosen to father my chidren, have intimate relationships and even platonic friendships. Thinking back I remember my father being a very charismatic man. He wasn't the most honest, he always knew how to circumvent the system, it was nothing to him to cheat or lie or treat women badly as long as he got what he wanted. I admired my father for all the wrong reasons; he always had a flashy car, a huge gangster’s roll of money and a different beautiful woman in tow. I loved being around him although I only saw him sporadically. And when he wasn’t around I yearned him.

In retrospect, I understand now that I have surrounded myself with men just like my daddy. Honest, hardworking, what the underworld would call "square" men bored me. So I only dealt with the men full of excitement or what the normal world would call "drama." Those that couldn't keep a job, those with little or no integrity, those that only saw me for what they could get out of me at that time. And, because these men had of course more than one woman, I had to work extra hard to keep their attention.

So again, I thank you for writing and sharing this piece because it has allowed me to face some truths about myself and my daddy that I had tried desperately to sweep under the rug. Realization isn't so bad once you put it into perspective. The one thing that I continue to learn is that parents impact their children--even when you don't realize it; their little eyes are watching and waiting to imitate you.

-Anonymous Woman

Muata said...

Anonymous Woman-

I am so thankful. I am only doing what I believe is directed by God. It is like I am an empty shell that God continues to fill with writing material. It is amazing this is happening at this point in my life. I know this is all directed by God. I am just what he needs on earth in flesh form. He is the generator of my thoughts, He directs what letter keys to hit on the key board, He is my editor, and He has been my publisher. I am just along for the ride.

I am so touched the commentary has touched you and others.

Whenever, I have no other words to say I always say: God is Good! I am hoping you complete the saying. If you don't know it: God is good. All the time.

-Muata

FREEDOM said...

My father is a loving and caring MAN. However, I was deprived of his affections during my childhood, adolescence years, and young adult years. Our estrange relationship developed from his want of my mother and her denial of him. It also occurred from her putting him on child support even though he was trying to provide for his children. Ladies, if you have a father providing for their child, please do not put him in the system, as black people lets keep the “white man” out of our business. Many fathers want to do the right thing by their children, but allow the “baby mama drama” to hinder them from doing the right thing sometimes. Especially, when the FATHER is doing his best, by any means necessary.

I felt my father had “jumped ship” on me also. Every time my brother and I would ask my grandma if she knew where he was she would reply, “We haven’t heard from him.” Being young I did not understand all the drama my dad had to go through to see me. However, that is no excuse, but I can sympathize with him now.

Please ladies, do not deprive your children of seeing their fathers. Please do not allow your child to miss out on having the discipline and love of a FATHER in their lives. A man really makes a difference in a child’s life. Do not get me wrong, my hat goes off to all the single mothers that are doing what it takes to provide for their families, but if you are handling your business by yourself from the result of denying the father of your child to be a FATHER to their children; I REPEAT do not hurt your child in this way. Remember, that is not only your baby, the man played a part in the creation of that child also, that is his baby too.

Last year my FATHER and I really reunited and connected in a way that has changed my life. I did not realize how much he loved me. As a woman it is vital to have a positive MAN in your life showing you have a REAL MAN is suppose to treat you. My father has started showing me how a real MAN should treat me. He showed me true love, the kind of love that is unconditional, telling me that am beautiful because I am made in God’s image. He is polite, thoughtful, courteous, and he is really concerned about my well being. He has told me that if a man disrespects me; I do not have to tolerate that abuse. A little girl needs to hear these things from her father so that she will not fall for every Tom, Dick, and Harpo. Sometimes I wonder how different my life would have been if my father was in my life as a child.

On the other hand, I do realize my Heavenly Father has always been there for me. But, having my dad in my life is great now. When I look at him I see all the love he has for me. He is still the protective father that does not want me to leave home, not because he does not think I can handle myself, but because he wants me to stay around my family. I do not hold a grudge against him anymore. I thank GOD he is in my life now, showing and telling me how a real man needs to love and treat me. He has shown me unconditional love as an earthly FATHER.