Yes, I borrowed the title from Obama’s book, Dreams for My Father. No, this blog post will not be as brilliantly written as his book. In fact, my blog post will most likely be full of grammatical errors and may insult small nations. I hope not, but I can’t predict what’s going to come flying out of my fingers at 9:12 AM.
The title, Dreams for my Father, is not me being hyperbolic. I do have dreams for my father. The way we relate, the way we interact, the relationship we could have.
However, something happened yesterday that left me numb and sad, determined and resigned. If you read through my previous posts, you’ll find a post called The Stranger and the Friend. This was the last time I had spoken with my father. Go ahead and read the post…I’ll wait.
(time goes by, so slowly…tick, tock, tick, tock)
You’re back? Oh, good. So, that post happened, and since then, let’s just say that things haven’t been super hunky dory between me and the man who inseminated my mother. How so? We haven’t said anything. He continually “lost” my number. But all of it — ALL of it — came to a head as recently as Sunday through Yesterday (Yesterday is not a real day of the week, but in this example, it is Thursday).
His mother had passed away two months ago. I, being the compassionate person I am, reached out and organized flowers to be sent from myself, my brother and my sister. We couldn’t be there in person — and frankly, didn’t feel it was right. We didn’t have a relationship with this woman, save for a few awkward hugs across 39 years. I can count on one hand the number of times we had seen each other. I didn’t dislike the woman — I just didn’t know her.
Nevertheless, it was my grandmother, and my father’s mother. Not wanting to seem insensitive, we sent a beautiful bouquet of flowers and card expressing our condolences. My father and I texted over the course of the week before and after the service. I wanted to make sure they got there, and that he received them. He did, he said thank you, and asked if I would like a memory card from the service. I said yes, please.
This past Sunday, I was catching up on some correspondence, and reaching out to people I love, which I do every Sunday. I send a little text that lets them know I’m thinking of them, asking how they are, scheduling time to talk during the week. It’s something I’m doing to be more engaged with people around me. I sent him a very innocent little text, something that read, “Hey. How are you doing?”
Three days later…(read that in your best SpongeBob SquarePants voiceover voice), I got a text back that said, “Who is this?”
Who is this?
Um…I was stunned. I was floored, I was flabbergasted, gobsmacked. Whatever you want to call it. I mean, I had the chat conversation from the previous two months where we had discussed his mother’s passing. I didn’t know how to respond.
Why was this so important? I’m named after this man. I’m his first child. I didn’t know how to respond. I had spent 39 years trying to be a good son, reaching out, wanting that relationship, and then to be caught by this information was truly surprising.
If I were to take an honest and hard look at the past relationship with my father, I really shouldn’t be surprised. Hurt, yes, but surprised, no. I can give multiple examples of how myself, my brother, my sister were afterthoughts. One that comes to mind immediately was in 2006. I was on the road, and happened to be playing in his home state of Michigan. I had called three weeks earlier to ask if I could have Thanksgiving with them, as we would be there at that time. He said, yes, he would love to have me.
I was excited. This was the first time I would have spent a major holiday with that side of the family. We made arrangements, and agreed I would reach out once I got into Michigan to finalize everything.
I can remember that week like it was yesterday. I had called, emailed, called, and called again. But nothing. Not.a.single.response. My father decided he didn’t want to follow through with Thanksgiving with his son. His first born son. I sat at a restaurant and had Thanksgiving dinner alone, as everyone had already left for the week. I was devastated. Thirty years old, and devastated on a day reserved for giving thanks.
Then, of course, you know about the incident three years ago. And now this.
These are just a few of the examples that come readily to mind of disappointment after disappointment.
I wasn’t sure what to do, and so finally, I responded back stating that I was looking for my father, is this not him? No response until…
three days later…
He wrote back and said yes, who is this. I have yet to respond.
I know what I want to say. And the only things I want to say are angry and emotional. And now I share my first draft of what I want to write to him:
This is your first born son. I am hurt that after 39 years, I am not in your phone, but I suppose after 39 years I am not surprised. I have wrestled over what I have done or may have done to anger or upset you, to cause you to be so emotionally distant. After a lot of consideration, I realize that it’s not what I have done, but what you haven’t done. Thirty-nine years I have spent investing in something that was not even in the back of your mind never mind the forefront. Your continued non-action has showed me that the only thing I share with you is our first name. Because I would never and have never treated my own son this way. Your life in Michigan seems to be pretty complete without me complicating it. I wish you only the best and I won’t contact you again.
Am I hurt? Absolutely. Do I wish he would grow a pair and be a man? Yes. Tell me you hate me. Tell me that I’m not what you wanted. That I was a mistake. Anything except for apathy.
My father is a coward. Any strength I have learned in this world comes from my mother. My mother, who left this coward of a man with three children, after being subjected to the abuse by his hands, and his constant belittlement. My mother who raised four incredibly independent children, all with quick and sharp minds, able to see through people’s bullshit. Sometimes we get blinded, though — some of that bullshit gets on the window of the car we’re driving through life — but we’re able to wipe it away and see with more clarity.
I write this because I am still angry. And who knows, maybe I will send this message to him. I can’t say that it would make any difference if I did. Would he even care? Who knows.
All I know is that these actions reaffirmed the choice I have made for myself: next week, I go and change my last name to my stepfather’s last name. It’s the name I know. It’s the name I was raised with. It’s now time to make it official.
To my stepfather, my dad — I say I love you. Thank you for having the courage to raise me as your son when I was not of your blood.
To my father, a man with whom I have nothing in common — all I can do is wish you well.
Oh, and go to hell, you selfish piece of shit.
In 36 years, I have learned the following:
- it’s okay to be wrong
- it’s okay to hurt. We learn our biggest lessons from those moments, and it proves our character how we can move forward.
- I am not a doormat. I will give to you, but don’t take advantage of me.
- I can be funny, silly, shy, serious, talented, all at the drop of a hat. And use these skills every single day, with everyone that I meet.
- It’s okay to be in touch with your emotions, and cry at commercials.
- There is nothing wrong with paying someone a random compliment. It may take them a minute to recognize you want nothing from them, but it goes a lot farther than keeping it to yourself.
- Life is short. Don’t waste the opportunity to tell people how much you love them.
- People constantly surprise you.
- There is a lot to be learned from those who are younger than you. They look to you for guidance, but sometimes, a small word or action from them is a lesson unto itself.
- Just because my father and I are different doesn’t mean we are bad people. Simply different.
- Love is never forever, but that doesn’t mean you should stop.
- Saying goodbye to people, closing chapters in your life can be a good thing. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt, but as I stated above…some of the biggest lessons come from such experiences.
- I’m a good person.
- I’m a happy person.
- I’m grateful to be included in the stories of those around me, and blessed that they are part of mine.
Here’s to another amazing 36 years.