As Father’s Day approaches many of us are thinking about how our fathers have impacted our lives, whether they were present or not. My father had an extremely limited presence in my life. I knew who he was, but knew virtually nothing about him.
My father died when I was in middle school and it was a very disorienting experience. How do you mourn someone you don’t even know? In retrospect I think I not only mourned his death, but also the end of the possibility of getting to know him. In the few times we talked he never expressed a desire to spend any real time together. He was an entertainer who traveled a lot, and had his seemingly glitzy life. Also…he was an a**hole. He was self-centered and frankly, immature. Real talk. But I wasn’t one of those kids who had an absentee father and longed for his presence.
The few times he came around I was very much like, “…and you are?”
I remember a time when my father was in town and I spent a little time with him. I couldn’t have been older than five. He tried disciplining me about something, and I practically laughed in this man’s face. Even at that age, I knew he hadn’t earned the right to tell me anything. (He was an a**hole and I was a feisty lil’ bish…) I don’t remember many visits after that. Then he was gone, forever… But I had a father figure before him who I’ll never forget, my Uncle Charlie.
My Uncle Charlie was so dope. He was a God-fearing, hardworking, church going man who worked at Kroger. He was the kindest man I’ve ever known. I knew unequivocally that he, and his wife, my aunt Mary, loved me with all their heart. When I found out he passed away I went into maybe the deepest depression of my life. I couldn’t leave the house for about 2 weeks. Though I miss him and my aunt terribly, their love stays with me, and reminds me of how I deserve to feel. I think both experiences with my father and father figure taught me how I want to feel and conversely, how I want to make others feel…valued. So though memories of my father aren’t what I’d like them to be, I can choose to focus on all that I became because of and despite his absence.
On Father’s Day some of us may be remembering the father who was there for us, the father who couldn’t manage the responsibility, and the father figures who gave us what we needed in that moment. And may we recognize how each experience, even if disappointing or hurtful, has the ability to create or help reinforce a sense of self, emotional fortitude and personal integrity. So whether Father’s Day is a joy or a burden, we can choose its meaning and define our experience with fatherhood on our own terms.