My father died ten years ago today. There are questions that I wanted to ask him that I never got the chance to ask. Questions that every kid who’s ditched by a parent wants to ask. Questions that sour my mouth with regret and confusion and full of stubborn desperation…
Why did you leave? Why did you break my mother’s heart? Did you ever think about me? Do you remember my birthday? Do you know my middle name? Did you ever miss me? How can you miss someone who you never wanted to know?
Why didn’t you want me? What did I do wrong?
I know the answers to some of these…like I did nothing wrong, except be born at an inconvenient time, in an impossible place, in clichéd circumstances.
He’s dead so I can’t hate him, can’t stay angry, can’t rail and rage against the outrage of his absence. He’s dead so can I still blame him? He’s dead and his name was never connected to mine. Dead and he’s never coming back and never answering for what he should have never done in the first place.
His funeral was packed and overflowing with people who had nothing but praise for him. What a great worker, what a great brother, what a great father…what a great family man. So many came up to me to put arms around me and express condolences for my loss. Can you lose who you never had?
I remember feeling like the tiniest, oldest child standing on a rock way out in the middle of a raging ocean, battered by waves and salt and so small in comparison to the wind, but standing still.
As I head into a strange city, anticipating a night at an open mic, a week of connecting with people I haven’t seen in a while, people I’ve only met once, people I’ve never met, I am meditating on why it’s so hard for me to connect with people.
I am hard inside…flame trapped inside a spine made of ice. Sometimes, laughter makes the ice crack. Sometimes, the tears melt tunnels through the frozen layers and I crawl a little towards the light. Sometimes, another body making me explode in pleasure is the only thing that staves off frostbite.
Mostly, though, I am cold. I have walked away from so many people, situations, relationships, things. I can leave behind much easier than I can hold on.
I can describe myself in negative adjectives all day and lament the lack of understanding from my fellow human beings. I can say that I’m a bitch, an asshole, a jerk and downright cruel when I want to be.
Perhaps, it’s the unfairness of it. Perhaps it’s the years that I spent wondering where my father was, wondering what his face looked like, wondering why he never wanted to know me, wondering if it was convenient to just forget that I was ever born and focus on his new family.
I spent years confused and tearing up at every movie with a father/daughter scene. I spent years not asking my mother about what must have hurt her terribly, not willing to drag her back into what seemed too painful to even broach.
I spent years feeling loathsome and damned, coming to the faulty conclusion that if my father never wanted me, no one else would or could.
When I was 21, I hired a private detective and I found him. Living in Pennsylvania, cozy with the family he deemed more worthy than my mother and I. I called him. Left a message. He called me back. We chatted, all long lost reunited talk show.
He and his family drove to visit me at my mother’s house that Thanksgiving. I threw a party and invited all my friends. I performed poems and sang songs, excited to show off for a father I had only dreamed of…later, I would find out that I terrified him.
My uncle told me that my father was scared of how powerful I seemed, without benefit of being raised by both parents. How did I do that?
I am scary. I’ve been told that most of my adult life. Intimidating is another way that I am often described. What I don’t understand is how a Black woman who grew up with no father, broke, fat, queer and usually struggling with some sort of chronic physical pain can scare anyone. I belong to a group of women who are statistically the least powerful group in this country. I could run down the stats, but I’m tired of that.
What I don’t understand is how a man who created nuclear stability in a way that I will never be able to fathom could be scared of someone who has had to face more fear than he even had the capacity to comprehend.
What could be scarier than not really knowing where you come from?
Ten year anniversary of his death and I am staring fear in the face, daring my shallow pockets and shaky dreams to destroy me rather than cower and succumb to entropy.
This day, ten years after my father’s heart exploded, I am ripping my own out of my chest and lining my feet with it.
Yes. I will continue to terrify the whole world with my ugly, unwanted truth in my quest to forget the questions I never asked and not ever need the answers.
Really, there’s only one question left:
Hey Daddy, how you like me now?