lj-music: Battlestar Galactica 0301, “Occupation”
The thing about keeping journals is that –if you’re like me — you are faced with situations and you delve back into your memories. It’s a chance to peep into your past and swirl around in your memories and see how much you’ve changed. Also, how much you’re still the same.
A couple of weeks ago, maybe three, Mama K called me to tell my father was going down. I spoke to my youngest brother and he said my father had had a stroke. His speech was mostly gone, he was having trouble walking.
On Wednesday night, my oldest girlfriend called me to tell me that my father had died. I called my older brother, he said he had no idea what these people were talking about. He went and found my father in whatever little hole he was in, and my father was alive. Apparently, only just barely.
I got another call yesterday morning, and my father is in fact in the hospital. He’s on drips. He is calling for me.
I am not going.
Why am I not going?
I remember I wrote this article about my father when I was about 21 or 22. Printed it in the newspaper that was my employer at the time. I spoke both frankly and very personally about how I felt at the time.
DATE: Mon 12-Jun-1995
Better that he stayed away
By N#8217DELAMIKO LORD
MY father is a stranger to me. Oh, I know who he is, where he lives and the outline of his character. But I don#8217t truly know who he is.
I was four years old when my parents separated and I remember my father as being the centre of my world. He was the parent who seemingly spoiled me, my mother was the disciplinarian.
When they separated, my world fell apart. My mother, my brother and I left Trinidad in 1978. I was not to return for the next 12 years.
My mother did not explain clearly many things: Why we had to leave, why I couldn#8217t see my father anymore, why I had to leave all my friends. I did not understand. She was probably trying to protect me from the truth of what had happened, but at four, I couldn#8217t understand.
During the first few years after we left, I saw my father a few times, but after the last visit in 1982, I didn#8217t see him until I was 16. I remember my excitement.
I was finally going to see my father. The man I had been dreaming of for so long. A hero, my dad. When I saw him, I could hardly believe it. He was small and thin. At 51, he looked like 71. He looked sick. It just couldn#8216t really be him! My mind rebelled.
The visit was odd. I was glad to finally know him, but I couldn#8217t reconcile who he was with whom I remembered and whom I had hoped for.
When he came to see us in 1982, he was charming. He took us to the circus and bought us anything we wanted. He spent time with us, played with us. I thought he would be the same.
But the truth is, I spent very little time with him and when I did, I had to contend with his old-fashioned sexism and the occasional rearing up of his acute alcoholism.
I spent my childhood romanticising my father. Whenever my mother and I fought, I would dream of him coming for me and #8220rescuing me from the tyranny of my mother, and the horror of my life#8221.
He was this perfect person, he could do no wrong. I suppose I refused to notice that he hardly wrote, and that he forgot many birthdays, Christmases and momentous occasions.
It was so hard for me. I missed him or rather the idea of him so much. Not having my father around, left a gaping hole in my life.
My mother struggled to make up for it, but she didn#8217t know how to explain that it was a better decision that she made, to leave him, for the alternative would have been far more disastrous.
At that age, understanding what domestic violence and my father#8217s alcoholism had done to my mother, was not something I could do. I ended up blaming her for so much.
I was sure she was the reason why I never saw my father. I was sure she had done something to drive him away, and that she was keeping us apart.
There was nothing that she could have done that would have made a difference. She took the blame for my father. Mom never deserved that, but I was a child.
My father is a brilliant man. He can grasp philosophical concepts with the best of the world#8217s thinkers. He is a poet, a writer, a musician, an artist, and a waste.
It breaks my heart to see him, because everytime, I see him, I think what he could have been, if he had been given a fair chance.
But the world is linear, and my father is a non-linear person, (from him I inherited my non-linear personality, and my ears), so he has remained on the periphery of who he really is.
I have not been able to forgive him for missing my life, for wasting #160his genius. I haven#8217t forgiven him for not being my father, when I really needed him. But then I am not different from the millions of children now, and those who have gone before, who have remained angry with men, fathers, who abandoned them in their moment of need.
The few times I tried to speak to him about how I felt, he gave me an excuse. He stayed away because it would have hurt me more to have him around. Maybe he was right, but it didn#8217t soothe the pain.
We children of divorce share a common bond, this anger. For many of us, this is what motivates and fuels our ambitions. For me, I haven#8217t been able to let go of my fury, because it feels as though I would be letting my father off the hook.
It seems life and his own lack of faith in himself have done that for him. Let him exist without feeling regret for the mistakes he has made.
Intellectually, I know that my anger hurts me, not him. He has no concept of the magnitude of his mistakes, but I don#8217t know how to exorcise it. How do I let go? What happens if I do?
I cannot conceive of a relationship beyond what we have now, and that seems the saddest part. In my heart, I still harbour the dream that he will suddenly realise what he has done and become the father I have always wanted.
However, though pessimism is not a personality trait of mine, I know he#8217ll never be that, and I suppose I can#8217t forgive him for that either.
(Please forgive the gross punctuation abuse and style errors in this piece. Twelve years of distance, and you really do cringe when you look at what you committed to print.)
After that piece was published, my father for the first and only time in my life, walked past me in the road without speaking to me. He was furious that I had written what I had written, and published it in the newspaper.
When I left Trinidad a year later, we had hardly seen each other since, and I went to tell him I was leaving. He was not there, so I didn’t see him until a couple of years later when I went down to Trinidad to help my best friend bury her mother. He gave me a massive pictorial book on Africa that is one of the most beautiful books I have ever seen far less owned.
After that visit, things changed between us. He began to apologise to me for his abandonment, his failures as a father. His excuses remained mostly the same, but he talked to me a lot about his life, things that happened to him. Our relationship matured, or maybe it was just me. You get to a point where any relationship with you parents you have, is what it is and you accept it for that. So I accepted that he was never going to be my ‘parent’. I accepted his deeply ingrained and rutted flaws. I loved him, but decided not to tolerate too much of his bullshit.
I still went to great expense and difficulty to fly down to Trinidad to see my father last November. I went because he asked for me then, and I took Dayo to see him. I went to see my aunt, Sasun who pretty much raised my father. I spent time with him. I took photos with my brothers, nephew, son and father. Yet he was very flippant about his funeral and his requests. He was still walking around, although I could see he was greatly weakened.
For the first time in his life, he gave me money. Not a lot of money mind you, but money that helped me while I was in Trinidad and with which I bought a beautiful silver braclet to wear on my right hand to accompany the beautiful sliver ring he put on my finger almost three years ago and commanded me not to remove until a man put his own ring there. I wish it to be an heirloom. To pass on to my own children.
The trip was both good and sad. When I left my father turned his back and walked away after leaving me at the ticket counter with my popo in his carrier. He never looked back. I knew it was the last time I was going to see him. His back to me and walking away. It has ever been his way.
So now when he is calling for me. I’m afraid I cannot go. He always said he had a hard time saying goodbye to me as a little girl, and now I have already said my goodbyes, and need not do it twice. I do not want to see him, sick, old, frail in his bed, a product of the morass with which he has swallowed down and allowed to suck him down into itself.
Still, he is a stranger to me. He’s my father, and I love him, yet his true chracter is something he spared me most of his life and I am glad for it. What little I know of him, there are two personalities. The man who gave so much for his country, his community and his race and the man who was a commited failure in almost all his personal relationships.
What my grief will be like after he actually passes, is hard to say. I am mourning a man who impacted my life tremendously, and who I love and idolise, but also a man who is a stranger. He is someone I hardly know. Someone who has been peripheral in my life for so long, that I cannot say I am going to miss him in my life. He was barely in it.
He only wants me to come to Trinidad so I can give him some kind of absolution, and I cannot provide it because I realise it’s not mine to give. He has to make his own peace with his choices and his own peace with God.
In truth, I know my father died many, many years ago. I’ve been mourning the death of my child’s view of him for many years already. I’ve known for a year and a half he was going to die for sure of something. He’s been trying to kill himself without a bullet, rope or convenient tall construction for a long time too. It was his choice to begin to die a long time ago.
The body on drips in the hospital, cancer eating away at him, stroke afflicted etc., is merely the shell he occupied and which his tenacious spirit will not release yet. My father is already gone, long gone; I have let go in my heart and I am at peace with that.
I will honour him as an ancestor, and pray for his upliftment and enlightenment and that the severe emotional pain he lived with and inflicted all his life is now at it’s end. I will be glad when he is at rest and at peace and no longer suffering–and Mami ain’t talking about cancer or stroke.