My father has always been around, but his presence wasn't always significant. He existed off in the northern periphery of my life, and when my older sisters and I would have to travel up from the South to visit him, we were drenched by the end, like flowers that take in too much water in one sitting. Our visits with him were full of energy, but long and draining. He seemed to try to pour a lifetime into a visit, sharing with us the revelations he experienced, the emotions he felt, lessons he learned, people he met, the things he wrote, paintings he made, and the faith he was growing into. Though I don't remember feeling unloved, many times, I left feeling overwhelmed and confused.
I was on my way to the first grade when my mother moved my sisters and I down South and I didn't question his absence. In-between our visits, I had little-to-no communication with him and as I grew up, I barely noticed how heavy the weight of his absence was—until I could no longer bear to carry it.
As a restless teen, I kept my mind busy with school, music, dance and writing during the day. But at night, there were not enough distractions to keep me from dreaming of the things I didn't have: Chris Brown’s phone number (pre-scandal), millions of dollars, a car (or license for that matter), Mariah Carey’s voice, and most of all, a relationship with my father.
“I remember/When you used to take/Me on a bike ride, everyday/On the bayou/And I remember/When you could do no wrong/You’d come home/Late from work/And I’d jump in your arms when/I saw you/I was so happy to see”
I couldn't relate to the lyrics, but I played Beyoncé's song, "Daddy," anyway, on repeat for hours on end. Laying in bed, I belted out, "There is no one/ else like my daddy," in admiration, jealousy, and longing. it became my therapy.
But it would be another ten years before I really began to heal. Looking back, I began to fill in some of the missing pieces in my life with a new consciousness that can only come from growing up. The first thing I realized was the depth of the struggles that my mother had gone through by herself; the second was the struggles my father had that kept him away from us.
In a random conversation, someone let it slip that my “father is in rehab, again.” Again? I was stunned. When was the first time? Was this the second? The third? I thought. Though the answers were disturbing and stirred up a new hatred and fury in me, at the same time, I felt relief. The thing that I hated had a name and for once, it wasn't my father's. It was addiction.
Understanding his battle didn’t make his absence any easier, but it humanized his existence in my life. Sometimes, it’s not about the healing of a wound, but the birthing of new beginnings, new truths, new skin. Following his dedication to sobriety, which seemingly sprouted in my late teens, we were able to reach new plateaus in our relationship on two accounts: his courage, maturity, and humility to own his mistakes, and my willingness to listen, reconcile, and accept him for the new being he was blossoming into.
Today, he is the manifestation of the man in Beyonce’s song, the one “that could never be replaced”; though, for many different reasons. Realizing that the acceptance of my father’s faults is not a dismissal of them—or a disloyalty to my mother—I was able to step into my womanhood with clarity of my past, knowing that everyone and everything is ever-changing. People have the human right to evolve. My father is not the same and thankfully, neither am I.
“I’m really enjoying the person you’re becoming,” my father beamed at me, recently. So am I.