” It’s bittersweet, this love I have for you. It mixes with the pain and creates beautiful art.
So many times I wish I could have saved you. “
I write to you as a grown woman with the broken heart of a little girl. If you were alive to see me now I believe you’d be proud of the woman I’ve become. Did you know that all I ever wanted was for you to be proud of me? To approve of my choices? To accept and nurture me for who I was at the core?
Daddy in my reflection time now I realize that I was your sidekick. Remember our walks? Our really long, intriguing talks about life? I miss them so much. You carried on with me in conversation as if I was an adult. No wonder I’m such a deep, inquisitive thinker. You were my first teacher, and then you were gone. You left me when I felt I needed you the most – and this left me angry, bitter and particularly resentful and defensive towards men.
Ours was a complicated love. It’s as if you gave me everything, yet nothing at all. You made sure I learned how to cultivate and use my gifts. I can still remember the day you told me I could read minds. And then we had to practice it for hours! You said I was a witch and that you were a warlock. You explained things like Mental Telepathy and ESP. Boy was that scary! I was only eight years old…and I had no intention of being a creepy old witch. But as I’ve come along this journey I’ve come to understand what you meant that day. And I didn’t realize there was such a thing as a “good witch.
Somehow you saw my spiritual gifts and knew there would be a bigger purpose for my life. You told me about the vibes I would read with my hands. You saw me as a healer. You intuited my potential and profound insight when I was just a baby. How did you know? How did you see me? How come nobody else did?
By the time I was eleven, I felt out of place. No one else in our family understood me. I was always teased and made fun of for being different, yet you embraced it and made me own it. Nobody would ever prepare me for the world the way you did. Remember you taught me how to drive the burnt orange Cadillac you said was mine? I was thrilled that by the age of twelve I had my own car!! My friends never believed me.
This was also the time I discovered poetry. I remember the tears when I read you my first poem and instead of complimenting me you criticized my writing. That stung, and it has taken me years to recover. If my Daddy didn’t think I was a good writer, then I just wasn’t. I know now that you were just trying to make me better, but you forgot to allow me to just be me.
Daddy, didn’t you know that Fathers have the ability to silence or amplify their daughter’s voice?
You had a tough love way of nurturing my gifts. Even as I write this, my eyes well up with tears because I can still feel the hurt and fear of your disapproval rumble in my belly. You always knew how sensitive I was, and how much your harsh words made me feel bad. But you still said hurtful things. Calling me neckbone. Telling me to close my mouth before a fly gets in it. Telling me I had no rhythm. And when I sang, you made me practice over and over and over again until I hated the song and hated you for trying to force me to be pitch perfect when I just wanted to go play. You used to say that you would never lay a finger on me because you could “whoop me with your mouth.” And you did.
Daddy, times have changed since the 80s. There is a word to describe the things you said: Verbal abuse. And the scars from verbal abuse don’t disappear over time with cocoa butter. I hated every minute of your lectures when I felt you weren’t happy with me. My heart had a hard time processing your anger and bitterness. Daddy, why were you so mad all the time? I always wondered what I was doing wrong. Did you know I only wanted to make you happy? I felt this was my primary role as your daughter, especially when you and Mommy seemed to come apart at the seams.
It was difficult for me to see my hero fall. You started drinking, and everything changed. You hit Mommy. You yelled at us. You beat the boys. Mommy called the police a lot. And I didn’t know what to do. All the good memories threatened to fade away. I felt myself disappear inside myself. I refused to let myself forget the things I loved most about you.
I can still feel the excitement and anticipation from when I used to wait in the window every day at 5 o’clock to see you come walking up the street to our building. I was always thrilled to see my Daddy! I couldn’t wait to sit in your lap, get a bouncy ride and listen to your stories at the Furniture store. Remember that time you took me to work with you? Seeing you make furniture was such a joy for me. You were a true artist and craftsman. Whether you were playing your guitar, writing and singing new songs, rehearsing ‘The Blackman Ensemble’ to exhaustion, cooking up a fabulous meal of Creole/Cajun cuisine, telling me stories, making Mama those leather chairs for our dining room, and even making me new outfits for my Barbie dolls… everything you did was with a spirit of excellence.
Much of who I am as an artist, creator and warrior woman is because of you. Because of you, I am very much at home with a microphone in one hand – and a pen or paintbrush in the other. Because of you, I listen to hear what people are saying even when they aren’t talking. I am strong, independent and ridiculously determined. Because you insisted I read the dictionary and let me play your extensive album collection, I have an insatiable hunger for stimulating conversation and an eclectic taste in music. Seems I come alive when I hear live jazz bands, folk rock, country, gospel, r & b and of course soul. As much as I hated when you made us perform in front of house guests, I find myself quite comfortable singing, speaking or reading my poetry in front of huge crowds of people. Wow, Daddy. You really did something good.
The day you died I was sitting in the salon getting my hair done for my high school graduation photos. I had just visited you in the hospital the day before, and I remember stroking your curly hair which had turned completely white and feeling so guilty for not having spoken to you in five years. I fell asleep at the salon and had this dream that I was falling off the edge of a cliff. I jolted up only to receive a call from my mother telling me to come home as soon as I was done. I learned later that you died in the exact moment that I was dreaming.
It’s bittersweet, this love I have for you. It mixes with the pain and creates beautiful art. So many times I wish I could have saved you. I wish you could see your beautiful grandchildren. I wish you could read the many poems I’ve written, or hear me tell stories about us. I still celebrate your birthday in my own quiet way. I miss you so much and wish you’d have quit drinking long enough to see the sunshine after the storm. But you know what Dad? I can finally fully and wholeheartedly forgive you now. Because I know that wounded people inflict wounds on the ones they love most– even when they don’t mean to. I also know that you gave me everything you had in you to give.
And it was enough.