In our communities, there are plenty of parenting issues prevalent but none moreso than the absence or lack of fatherly relationships with their children. As we have posted stories before on one instance of the lasting affects of absentee fathers in the lives of young black males, here is another view from one of my good friends about his experiences in dealing with his father in an open letter to him.
I struggled writing this. I didn’t know how I wanted to approach it. Then I realized that this is bigger than I am. Our trials and tribulations are meant to help others. Someone is struggling in their relationship with their dad. None of us are alone in this world and none of our stories are anything new under the sun. So I’m writing this letter…
I remember very little of my childhood. Our relationship wasn’t always the best. You weren’t always around and I never really understood it. I looked just like you though, acted like you too. So much that your friends gave me your nickname…Lil Deac.
I remember one day, sitting on Mema’s bed and crying, wondering why my dad didn’t have a strong relationship with me. I never told anyone though, I kept my feelings bottled up inside.
I remember when you got me a keyboard for Christmas. I was the happiest kid on the planet. No, it wasn’t because I wanted to be a musician, but because my dad got it for me. It was my way of connecting to and with you.
Never got to kick it with you though. Don’t remember you teaching me how to dribble a basketball, or ride a bike, or how to talk to girls…you know, things a son looks for in his dad. Remember days when you’d tell me you were coming to get me, and you never came. Didn’t understand it, but I managed.
I played hoops, just like you did. I don’t recall ever seeing you in the stands though. You never once told me, “Son if you hold your follow through, you’ll make more of your shots.” Or, “Look son, these are pics of me when I played ball.” But life went on.
I got married, had kids of my own…but I never had any negative feelings towards you. I wasn’t like some of my other friends growing up who hated their dads. I just always hoped one day, you would be in my life more.
Luckily, for you and I, I married a great woman. She told me that I needed to let you know how I felt. She pushed me to do it actually. Remember that call? I know I do. I told you how you and I never had a strong relationship, but now that I had a child (my only one at the time), I wanted you…me…us to make more of an effort to be involved with each other more. I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. You told me why things were the way they were growing up and that you always wanted to be around more.
I can honestly say, things got better. We talked more. You made more of an effort, even when I didn’t. I remember the day we went to play ball together in MD. One of the best days of my life. It meant the world to me, and you didn’t even know it. Life was good. I had an emerging relationship with my pops. Then you told me you were diagnosed with ALS…
Man, you weren’t even 50 yet. Couldn’t be true could it? ALS doesn’t happen to many black people does it? I didn’t know how to process that, man. For all the progress we’ve made in our relationship, now this?
I’ve learned to never question why things happen, but to search for God in the midst of them. So that’s what I did. Your disease has not only brought you and I closer, but it has gotten me closer to God as well. I’m a better man now. I’m a better dad now. I’m a better person now. I just hate that it took your disease for that to happen.
I know one day you will be called home, we all will. But before you are, I just wanted to thank you. You didn’t make all the right choices, none of us do. But you are my dad. You are my hero. You are who I wanted to be like. You were my first role model. You are one of the most mentally strong people I know. All the conversations about life we’ve had recently, all the laughs we’ve shared…I appreciate them all. I love you, and I’m happy that God chose YOU to be my Dad.