Growing up, my biological father wasn’t as prevalent in my life as he should’ve been. We didn’t spend time together on Father’s Day, instead he got an art and crafts card and a phone call. He never came to my school to talk big to the kids picking on me, instead my mom was there to tell me to “give them big headed kids the middle finger”. He was never around to embarrass me by threatening any boy I had a crush on. Our relationship was nothing like what my friend’s had with their fathers and it certainly wasn’t like something out of “Full House”.
He lived in Ohio while I was growing up in Detroit. We didn’t talk much expect for when I would come down to visit family members who happened to live in his area. To be completely honest with you, I don’t remember much about my father other than the smell of his cologne and his height. He towered over me and whenever I was with him, he was my protector. But at this point in my life, I could probably walk right past him and not even know it.
I haven’t spoken to him since Sept 11th, 2001. My mother and I were living in NY. As soon as he caught wind of what happened in the city, he called everybody and my Grandma to find out if I was okay. It had been a while since I had talked to him, but just knowing I was thought of made me feel special. When he finally got a hold of me on the phone, he filled my head with empty promises of future visits and spending my summer with him.
As a kid, you don’t know any better. When the man who taught you the significance of a pinky promise says something, you believe that shit. You don’t realize that this promise, just like the other ones, is empty. You believe anything he tells you because well, why would he lie?
See, one of the things I actually remember about seeing my father is that we always had fun. ALWAYS. Whenever I would see him, he’d take me to Chuck E. Cheese, movies, Toys R Us and topped it off with a Happy Meal from Mc Donald’s to compensate for all the time he’d missed. (Remember when things were that simple?) I can remember sitting in his car at the end of our dates wondering when I was going to see him again. Wondering when we were going to have fun again. See, when you live in a household full of teachers, the lessons don’t end when you get home. So I was always eager to have a little fun.
I can remember when the visits started getting replaced with numerous presents on holidays. Barbies, beanie babies and anything I saw in the Toys R Us catalog, I got. After a while, the presents just didn’t cut it anymore. I wanted to see him, be around him, and have fun. I missed him. Soon the presents were replaced with phone calls filled with apologizes and “I’m going to see you soon, I promise”. December came and he missed Christmas. Two months later, my birthday came around and he missed that too. Eventually, he just started to miss everything.
As I got older and more aware of what I was missing out on with him, I remember asking my mom to help me reach out to him. The number she had for him was then disconnected so we hopped on Google. We searched his name in the Ohio area, some numbers came up but none of them connected me with him. That day, I left it alone and never brought him up again.
When I look back on my relationships (of any kind), I can’t help but think of how my father’s absence has influenced most of them.
The first guy I dated reminded me of him. He was tall, over protective, and a ball player at the most popular high school in the city. He didn’t fit the description of the type of guy I wanted (in my head) but what attracted me to him was his cologne. He smelled like just like the last memory I had of my father.
He’d fill my head with promises of all the things he was going to buy me when he made it to the NBA. He said was going to fill my closet with all the Baby Phat and jewelry box with all doorknockers I ever wanted and I believed every last word. I believed him not just because I was young and dumb, but because I needed everything he said to be true. My friends would tell me I needed to keep him around, even when he hit me in front of the entire projects. I convinced myself that I could make it work even when I found out about the mother of his newborn baby. See he made promises, I just knew was going to keep because he was different. He was everything my father wasn’t because he was actually around. Me and this “man of his word” lasted a whopping two weeks.
Sometimes, I think the absence of my father haunts me. I don’t trust people and I don’t make promises I know I can’t keep. In fact any promise I make, I take very seriously. But when I’m “in like/lust/love”, all of that goes out of the window. I do whatever I can to keep my “him of the moment” around because I know what it’s like being without. I remember what it’s like when those calls stop coming in and the promises seem more and more like fairy tales. I hate that feeling.
Now while I’ve always had strong male influences in my life (especially my stepfather), sometimes I can’t help but wonder what he’s doing. I wonder if he has more kids; maybe another wide eyed and sassy brown girl, who he’s doing right by. I wonder if he’s rich with a big house in Ohio or out the street. I wonder if he knows how old I am or that I finally graduated from college. Or that sometimes, I wonder what I did to make him stop calling. I wonder if he knows I still miss him.