As I write this, it’s a few days before Father’s Day. For the past couple of years, this is the only time that I think about you. I’m not sure what happened, what’s allowed me to be at peace with the idea that I never knew you, and have no opportunity of ever knowing you. I wish that you were alive for me to tell you all the things I’ll get to in this letter. But for what it is worth, I think that I’ve finally, really and truly forgiven you.
I won’t lie; I miss you. Well, since we only met seven or eight times, I miss the fantasies of you I used to create. You were a career Air Force officer, so I used to make up all kinds of missions for you. When asked, I’d say you were over in some devastated pocket of global real estate, fighting bad guys. I mean, why else wouldn’t you be around? I’m smart, funny… I am a good son.
Once the fantasies stopped, the pain and the hurt crept in.
Hell, it didn’t just creep in, it moved in—it took up residence in my heart. During certain moments it was nearly impossible to breathe because of the amount of hatred I felt for you. There were times I scared myself because of the sheer awfulness of the things I wished upon you. I felt so cheated. You weren’t around physically and Mom was ill equipped to be a parent; not to mention that every dude she dated knocked us around.
I didn’t really begin to date until college, because I was afraid I’d become one of the monsters Mom decided to invite into our home. Whether it was Brooklyn or Minneapolis, she seemed to have a nose for hooking up with pugilist man-children.
And I blamed you for this.
If you were there, she would have felt worthy of being loved, and we both would have been safe. I write these things not to pile on you, but to get them out and keep them out. I no longer want to hold onto my negative feelings and memories of you. I’ve come to understand that my holding onto all these adverse emotions has severely limited my ability to parent like I want. That is changing.
Oh, yeah. I’m a dad. I’m writing this on her last day of kindergarten. Your granddaughter is absolutely amazing. She has our ridiculously long eyelashes, and the space between her eyes crinkles when she’s angry or annoyed—just like ours. She is smart, athletic, and one of the most compassionate people I know. She sees and wants only what’s good in the world. She gets that from her mother, as I have inherited (according to your eldest brother) your disposition to always expect bad times. But I’m slowly growing out of that worldview and into one where I feel it’s my duty to make the world a better place, for her. This is the stance my wife and I take.
I’ve been married longer than all of you and mom’s marriages combined. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s always been worth it. Between my wife and daughter, I have become such a better man. This may sound really bumper sticker, but love heals. I wish I could ask you what turned you away from us. I really want to know how deep was your wound that you would reject the love of your family.
As I said, I’ve been blessed to meet members of your side of the family. I met all your brothers and sisters. A few weren’t interested in my being a part of your family, but some of us are making strides in developing relationships. I’ve been where you were born, saw where you used to play, and even saw your name carved into a tree. Our writing looks very similar. And I heard the stories. It’s amazing how much we’re alike.
We may not have known each other, but your influence on me is undeniable. So, on (near) this Father’s Day, I want to let you know that I’ve forgiven you. This is one of the hardest—and best—things I have ever done for myself.
I cannot move into a positive future with my family if I’m constantly anchored to my destructive feelings towards my not having a father in my life.
Happy Father’s Day. This will be the last time we will talk.
Shawn Demetrius Arturo Alvarez Taylor
Shawn Taylor is the author of Big Black Penis: Misadventures in Race and Masculinity, and People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. He lives in the San Francisco Bay area with his wife and daughter, and can be found sporadically on Twitter @reallovepunk.