Dad's Only a Man
When my dad put a knife to a young guys throat and dared him to ever bring harm to his son again, I thought my dad was some type of superhero. I know it may sound bad to some people, and as an adult I think about how irrational my father was back then, but as a small child he was like my Superman, Batman, and He-Man all wrapped up in one. Then I got older and realized that my father wasn’t a super hero, and I resented him for that.
Growing up with a man like my father, it was hard not to idolize him when it seemed that the whole world did. When he walked into my school, all the kids screamed his name like he was a rock star. The teachers, not so discreetly, were constantly questioning me about my father. Even now, guys from back home will send me a message just to say 'your father is the man I always wanted to be'. You see, growing up in a place where grandmothers took the place of mothers strung out on crack, and fathers' obligation to their children existed only as long as the relationship with the mothers lasted, my father was a gem. Due to my mother's death, he was a single man raising three daughters and one son on his own. And based on outward appearances, he was doing a damn good job. But from the time I was about twelve years old until I was thirty, I spoke only of him with contempt.
I resented him for allowing his womanizing to get in the way of my need for a mother figure. This attribute halted the relationship between the woman I thought would be my stepmother and him from resulting in marriage. They were together for more than ten years, but whenever things were going well and marriage seemed promising he would mess things up. This frustrated me because I really liked her. Actually, there were other women I would have been just as satisfied to have as a stepmother. I just wanted some woman to come into our home and give it the balance and guidance that I felt he couldn't offer. But it was clear that my vote, our vote, didn't count.
Also I was resentful that my dad turned a blind eye when his girls started dating. Even as a budding teenager I knew I was witnessing a real man when my father told a guy I was dating, who was obviously a bad boy, to get off his front porch and not to come back. And I equally knew that I was watching a broken man when a few months later that same young man was back again without a word from my father. My pride in him was shattered. It was at that moment I lost all respect. You see, right now that same young man is in prison, where he has spent the bulk of his juvenile and adult life. My father was right, but too afraid to stand up for fear of upsetting his little girl. Sure I was a determined teenager, but I needed him to be a relentless father. I wanted him to make that young man be too afraid to come back again no matter what I said. I wanted my father to put that same knife to his throat, but he never did. Instead, he gave up on me, didn't protect me and thus didn't love me.
Living with these feelings hurt my personal growth for years. I wrote my dad letters several times to tell him how I was hurting, but he never responded. My resentment, anger, hate grew. Ultimately, I realized that I may never get that acknowledgement, apology, or display of emotion I was seeking. Once I accepted that, I was able to look at him through much different lenses. Instead of dissecting the man he was not, I examined the man he is. I realized how he taught me through his actions the importance of helping others. I realized how he taught me through his actions the value of working hard. I realized how he taught me through his actions that in order to get respect you have to give respect. So when I think of my father now, I think of him bearing his soul on the kitchen floor as he cleared his nostrils of the black soot he ingested working in a steel plant and with tears in his eyes and his chest swelling with love reminding us, "We all we got!" When I think of my father now I am proud to be his daughter, proud to stand next to him, and glad that I realized what I have before he was gone.
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