“My dad paid off your bill at Dr. Murray’s,” my sister texted me a few weeks ago, referring to a past-due bill I had at the dentist. I had forgotten that I hadn’t made a payment in a few months. I was a little surprised, being that the relationship that I had with my sister’s father diminished when he got married almost a decade ago, but when I called to thank him for the act of kindness, he told me not to think too much of it–he even gave me a short speech about how we all have bills and it’s nothing to be ashamed about. When I hung up the phone, I thought about the role he had played in my life when I was younger and how it felt nice to receive fatherly advice. My thoughts briefly shifted to my own father, but I chose not to allow myself to go down that road.
I haven’t seen my father since my maternal grandmother’s funeral in 2010 and I haven’t spoken to him since last June. Our ridiculous and grueling conversation ended with him telling me, “I don’t care if I ever see your face again.” He was upset that I had spent time with his twin brother, my uncle–he was clearly jealous, but if he wasn’t such a lackluster father, he wouldn’t have had any reason to be. Over the years and on multiple occasions, I have felt like I had forgiven my father for all that he has done and didn’t do, but it has never softened the blow of knowing that my father knows nothing about me. And at 29, I have accepted the fact that he probably never will and we will most likely never have a relationship. What does make me feel better is knowing that I had an awesome village to help me through my childhood and I still have an awesome village of folks who pour love into my life as I navigate this often difficult thing called adulthood.
It was my maternal grandmother that picked me up from school, made me dinner while my mother was still at work and made sure I had catfish nuggets on “Fish Fridays” because I didn’t care for the whole pieces.
It was my paternal grandmother who made me the most beautiful lace dresses I’d ever seen to wear on Easter Sunday and who gave me fresh green tomatoes from her garden to take home and fry.
It was my best friend’s mother who hosted my “Rights of Passage” ceremony when I turned 16.
It was my sister’s father, who sent me to Florida for a summer journalism camp when I was in the eleventh grade and who took it upon himself to take me on a mini college tour to see Cornell University and Ithaca College during one of the most brutal winters ever.
It was my father’s sisters who sent me several dozen roses when they learned that I was a rape survivor.
It was never my dad, and it never will be.
I have a friend of the family and my aunt to thank for letting me use their addresses so that I could obtain a better middle school and high school education than what Detroit Public Schools had to offer. I’ll never forget my uncle always including me when he made plans to take his children to the movies or for a joy ride in a new car. If it wasn’t for the pastors of my church, I would have endured a stay at a mental institution after attempting to commit suicide. And I can’t even express how instrumental my father’s twin brother has been in my life.
Everything I have, everything I am is because of the people that sustained me in the absence of the man who helped to make me.
I have come to understand recently the true value of perspective. It does me no justice to continue to focus on not having a relationship with my father when I have so many other loving and healthy relationships. In choosing to recognize those who have extended their love, I’m celebrating the significance and rich culture of “the village” in the Black community and what my village has done for me.
Glennisha Morgan is a Detroit-bred multimedia journalist, writer, photographer and filmmaker. She writes about intersectionality, hip-hop and the women in it, pop culture, queer issues, race, feminism and her truth. Follow her on Twitter @GlennishaMorgan or at www.GlennishaMorgan.com.