It took me a while to come to the conclusion too, it’s probably something that’s easily overlooked if its ever really been adressed within your own family paradigm (SAT words mf, that I actually learned from a video game). It’s something that occurs a LOT more than we as a people ever really admit to. The whole ”yo daddy ain’t shit” colloquialism. More of us than not are all too familiar with it. Typically, the experiences we’ve had with our father (if any), actually fell right in line with that outlook. He didn’t come around, and if he did he didn’t stay long. - That was my experience with my dad and I never understood it or even questioned it until I became one.
So before I get too deep into this, I want to challenge you to look at this completely objectively, maybe go and ask your family members some hard questions. Your own upbringing or maybe one you were close enough to watch unfold may hold some new perspectives if you’re truly open to seeing them. In short, get out your feelings ahead of time. Fair? Also, nowhere in this will I say either of my parents, or yours, were right or wrong. They just navigated it with the tools that they had at the time. Generationally speaking, they were largely unaware of the things we have at our disposal now like generalized anxiety, virtue signaling, and whatever new term is used to describe or bring awareness to patterns that affect the modern human.
Throughout ALL of my life, from my mom’s skewed perspective, my daddy wasn’t shit. “He sit over there and smoke that dope and watch westerns and don’t do shit for ya’ll.” I heard it enough growing up that I really didn’t know anything else about my dad other than that’s my dad, he lives here, and works there. Never really took the time to get to know him. Where did I have any real opportunity to? When he would come around, he wouldn’t stay long or we‘d just kinda be background noise to the antics that would take place at his shop. Especially on Friday nights when somebody showed up with a bottle of seagram’s gin and a can of bluebird orange juice. I never once in all of my 34 years of living, can recall a single conversation about my Dad that came from her that was actually good. Even at the funeral. Heavy as that may be, I don‘t fault her for it, because in all of her 60 however many (forgive me) years of living, she’s just now coming to terms with the hurt she endured while with him. So she responded and reacted all those years out of pain, and upon his transition, sorrow.
As much as I don’t care for Luther Vandross music, I gotta thank him for the song “Dance With My Father Again”. That song was the catalyst to me developing the relationship with my Father outside of what my mom made him out to be. I kinda realized that it made no sense that he lived 5 mins away, and worked 10 mins away and I have no idea who this man was really. Like yea he’s my dad and what not but just WHO is this man, why is he the way he is, what he like to snack on, what makes him happy? That’s what I sought out to learn, by way of “ay can you teach me how to fix my car”. The ultimate Trojan Horse so to speak. He would have to go to his shop and it’s not like he could run from me there because he had to work. He knows my car would need to be fixed and he didn’t like fixing the family cars because it usually meant it was FREE.99. So I started showing up, getting in his way, hanging around, being out of his way, but most of all...observing this man that my mom vilified all this years. I can tell you one thing, that was one charming sumbitch XD. Like if you ever see me moving and grooving and wonder where it comes from, it’s spitting image of him. I studied that man, and I think in turn he studied me, well I know he did.
The odd thing was, I was awkward as fuck as a kid, especially socially. So thinking that I would be the one to come to the shop and actually work didn’t seem like the ideal thing. It was actually my brother who worked at the shop first. So somewhere along the lines, he stopped going and I started, and kept going. Kept getting better at it, kept learning, kept getting to know my dad and more of my family, and kept getting to see just what type of man my dad was through the eyes of the community that all came to visit at the shop. I started to see over time, a lot of people just came by for the sense of belonging. Frequently enough, some didn’t even come to get work done, just came to sit on the couch and talk premium shit. I learned a ton of things from all those older men and women that would come and share their stories on how they lived their life and especially what NOT to do in life. I’ll always maintain that spending so much time at the shop was a life changing decision that set me on the course to being the man that I am today. I would be nowhere close to who I am today without it. -Moving right along
So I learn to work on cars, and then I kinda become a self taught paint and body technician and that becomes my thing. Blah, blah blah, I decided to go to school for it and not just locally, but halfway across the country. Something i’ll never forget is when the recruiter for UTI came to the house and the whole family was there sitting in on the conversation. It was a beautiful scene UP UNTIL he got to the money, he said how much it was and my dad smooth got tf up and walked out. I was like ......
And naturally my mom was like “look at ya daddy, see I told you he wasn’t shit.” I mean pounced at the opportunity to point that one out right? He gave me an explanation for it but I honestly can’t remember what it was, i just know it made sense at the time. What I do know is that even though he walked out on that conversation, he basically built me a 98’ trailblazer with a new engine and transmission to make sure that I would get to Texas safely. So its one of those things that yeaaaa him walking out stung a little bit, but I still had to give him his opportunity to shine, and he did.
Fast forward, (don’t worry because all the life I skipped over ya‘ll will eventually get at some point just keep tuning in), and I’m becoming a father myself. That’s when our conversations got a lot heavier. The last heavy conversation I had with my dad, he told me he had no peace. No peace at home, no peace at work, just none. I didn’t understand at the time but it was a cry for help, he had given up. Shortly thereafter, my dad succumbed to a stroke. He fought it for a while and the doctors did all they could but he couldn’t overcome the amount of damage done in the short time he was down. During his transition out, my first son was coming in. At the time I needed him the most I was losing him, because who in the fuck else is going to teach me how to be a Dad? Specifically I remember going to get a cup of ice while in the hospital with Michelle and coming back to see her on the phone with the NICU nurse saying you can take your son home and my mom simultaneously on the phone with the hospital in Augusta saying that its time to make a decision and allow my dad to pass on. Divine timing right?
All that being said, I’ve learned in all of that time spent learning and communicating with myth dad, that it wasn’t always him. Out of pure respect, he never hid anything from me in terms of what he and my mom went through. He took ownership for everything that he took her through and accepted that it was him that ruined things between the two of them, and if he could make it right somehow, he would. He spoke from a healed place, although he wished he could change things, he was ok with where they were. My mom wasn’t. It was always “his” fault, she never did any wrong. There wasn’t much accountability on her part in terms of how she may have contributed to the demise of it as well, or how she could have kept him from being the parent he wanted to be. It wasn’t until I became a dad that I saw how fickle that space can be in terms of coparenting.
Firstly, the mothers of my children are absolutely amazing, they both contribute to me being an amazing father in the most beautiful ways. I couldn‘t possibly be the dad I am without them first making the sacrifice to become the mothers that they are for me. Honestly though...sometimes....I be like GYADDAMN let me be a dad. Sometimes the “in betweens“ of what did or didn’t work in terms of a relationship gets in the way of what does work in terms of coparenting. The amount of times I’ve had to just walk away, pull off, hang up, or just completely shut up just to keep the peace long enough so that my kids wouldn’t know what was going on is surprising sometimes. In those moments though, I understood how my dad felt completely. On one hand you‘re at a point where you want to give your kids the world and really show up for them, but on the other.....you’re met with this behemoth of resentment that you have to encounter every single time you have to see them. That’s some heavy shit that never gets talked about. Yes the man may have fucked up the relationship, but what does that have to do with the relationship he has with the kids? Nathaniel. Let that man be the father to them kids that he wants to be regardless of what has happened between you two. Same can go for women also. Let that woman be the mother that she’s designed to be. I’ve had to get out of my own way in that space as well. Yea she might’ve pissed me off BUT she’s still an amazing mother, so I let her be.
Ultimately I guess what I’m saying is, although the narrative was sold to me that my dad was this person that was less than at times, once I put on his shoes...things changed. I’m not saying I agree, but I understand. A lot of people applaud me for being a phenomenal dad out loud and in full color for everyone to see, but it’s definitely not always easy. There’s a lot that goes unseen, because somewhere in my mind I understand that the love I have and show openly for my kids is a choice. No matter who, no matter what, no matter why - i’m showing up for them, and that is the difference in between the upbringing I experienced and the upbringing my boys will have. The active choice to be their Father, regardless of circumstance.