Like most African American children, I was born out of wedlock. Like too many African American children I was raised without my father’s daily presence. However, I never knew I grew up actually not even knowing who my father was. See, I have a Dad, and I have a father.
Growing up, I had mixed emotions about my Dad. My Dad and my mom broke up when I was about six. They were married and for whatever reason, they divorced. I have very foggy memories when it comes to them even being together; living together. My Dad was in and out of jail. I remember going to visit him, and my mom would say, “he’s in school”. To me, it was similar to school. Everyone had on a uniform, he used to send us drawings and at the time we could see him and hug him. So for all intents and purposes, it was school to my young mind. Even though my mom eventually moved on and I had a male presence in the house for the better part of my early years, no one could replace the need I had for my Dad. His laugh, his sense of humor, the way he wore his fitted hats, I adored my Dad.
There was no one else I wanted at my football games, no one I wanted to impress more than and no one I’d rather spend the weekend with than my Dad. However, a lot of times he wasn’t there. A lot of times, my brother and I were left waiting on the door step for my Dad to come get us. A lot of times, I was left staring in the bleachers looking for a man that wasn’t there. It hurt. Resentment grew in me and by the time I was in my late teens, hate and anger developed for a man that didn’t seem to care. I would ask myself, “why doesn’t he love me?”, “why won’t he answer my call?”, “why isn’t he there when I need him?”. I even went to my mom and asked her a few times, “Is he really my father?”. I remember, I believe I was about 17 and I grew so tired of feeling hurt that when I saw him – I don’t remember why – I threw up my hands to fight him; he laughed at me. However, shortly after, we became close. We were hanging out a few times a week. I would drive my car after school to go see him. He would kick game to me, helped trick out my 91′ Maxima and we would just be together. I had my Dad in my life for what felt like the first time. He was there. It felt so good. But in an instant, it was all over. He was arrested and sent off to jail, again.
Fast forward to about 8 years later. I don’t know why exactly, but for about the previous 4 years up to that point, my Dad and I were not on good terms. I’m in my mid 20’s and we seemed to have a real beef. Again, I barely had him in my life. However, this time I cared for a different reason – my lady is pregnant with my son, his first grandson. I don’t care if he’s in my life, but I want my son to have a grandfather. I never did.
Around late November of 2012, I get an Instagram comment from a guy claiming that I look like “Dad”. The “Dad” he was referring to was his father, and he was insisting I was his brother. Impossible. I know my “Dad”, he’s tripping, I thought -until he sent me a picture of “our” father. I started shaking with nervousness. Could he be telling the truth? After 25 years, a lot of them spent resenting my Dad for not being there, was I directing my frustration at the wrong man? I forwarded the picture to my mother.
“He’s your biological father”
Here I am. About to become a father for the first time and I’m just finding out that my Dad isn’t my father. This man’s -whose last name and first name I bare – blood isn’t the same that runs through my veins. I suddenly in an instant, reflected on all the hate and disregard I had for my Dad and realized that he loved me more than I could ever imagine.
He took on the responsibility of helping to raise me knowing I wasn’t of his bloodline. He gave me his name, knowing I didn’t come from his loins. He grabbed hold of a baby boy who was abandoned by his father. As I got older, I understood his lifestyle and what he was about, so I came to understand why he couldn’t be around but he tried to still financially provide for a boy that wasn’t his making. Suddenly, I loved my Dad more than ever.
Today, I still have yet to meet my father. He’s been in jail for 16 years ( I don’t judge him or my Dad. We are from where we are from and do what we have to do in order to get by.). He’ll be released in a few months and i’ll accept him into my life. I’ll thank him for my smile, my height and my balding. I’ll ask him why he never claimed me and i’ll introduce him to his biological grandson. However, no one will ever replace my Dad.