Saturday, July 7, 2012

My Relationship With My Father

The thought occurred to me recently that my low opinion of black men might be due in large part to the contempt I hold for my own father.  

The relationship I have with my father is complicated. I get along with my father far better than I do my mother. Our relationship is healthier than the relationship I have with my mother. Physically I am the female version of my father. The only difference is he's a dark-skinned black man while I'm a light-skinned black woman. 

My father has been in my life from day one. He provided for me when he was able (and to this day I have no idea where he got the money). He worries about me when I'm ill. He helped put me through college. He has always been there for all the significant events in my life (graduation, first time riding my bike without training wheels, kindergarten etc). If I ever needed something my father always made an effort to get it for me. When I took an interest in playing piano and then saxophone my father bought me one of each. In general I think my father has made a decent effort to be a good daddy.

Still there is one thing about my father that I hate so much that it overshadows most of the good things he's brought to my life...

I resent my father because he is a stupid man...literally. 

My father is street smart and he has plenty of common sense. However, he lacks book sense and a proper moral compass. He is probably what a lot of young black men in this country will be in 30 plus years when they reach his age. When he was younger he was them (albeit a 1970s version).

After years of denial I can honestly admit that to myself. 

My father doesn't know how to write a check or how to balance a checkbook. While he can read and write, he doesn't do either very well (believe it or not my father actually taught me how to read). Growing up I never saw my father strive to achieve anything. He never had any goals to be anything. He didn't have a career. He worked a series of dead end jobs before becoming a truck driver and eventually he fucked that up too. He never truly wanted to work and he was content to let my mother be the bread winner of the family. I don't know where my father got money because the man I saw growing up was nothing short of a lazy uneducated moocher. 

My mother once told me it took my father 20 years to get his G.E.D. I know he quit school early and joined the army. He was a failure in the army too. After he served his time he moved back to Georgia and into my grandmother's house. He would later blame the army for making him abusive towards my older brother (bullshit if I've ever heard it). My father was living with my grandmother when he met and impregnated my teenage mother. 

The most noble thing I ever heard from my father came when he told me that he only married my mother because he didn't want another man over his kids. Physically he wanted to be there for me and my little brother. Financially he made a decent effort...though again he hated to work. Emotionally my father left much to be desired.

The only time I ever saw my father show an interest in doing anything with his life is when some stupid get rich quick scheme came across the television. For years he spent thousands of dollars on crap he ordered off television with the intent of becoming an overnight millionaire. As a resentful teenager I watched him spend five thousand dollars on vending machines that are ILLEGAL in the state of Georgia (they are considered gambling in Georgia). This pissed me off so much that I boldly called my father a complete failure to his face. 

My father was very hurt by my words. I think he might have cried about it. Though I felt guilty about saying it, I meant what I said. My father embarrassed me because he never lived up to my expectations. He embarrassed me because he never lived up to my expectations of what a man is supposed to be.

Growing up I watched him beat the hell out of my older brother, mistreat me at times and baby my younger brother. I watched him cheat on my mother with several women. I watched him selfishly spend money on cars, clothes and general bullshit when that money could have been used for something better. When my mother left him she took everything in the house because she paid for it all.

I grew to resent him for his short-comings as a man, and secretly I couldn't help but feel cheated in some way. I felt equally as cheated with my mother, but my grandmother was there to soften the blow. With my father there wasn't another black man to step in and compensate. I never knew either of my grandfathers. My father was the only black man in my life of any significance who could have shown me a positive black man and he failed.

My Epic Novel

Tonight I spent two hours talking to one of my mentors (a writer and playwright herself) about Keepers Of The Race (still a working titled), the novel I personally believe is going to be my great epic. It is going to be my Roots, my Gone With The's going to be the novel that puts me on the map!

This novel is so deep and so profound that my mentor, who has been in the business for years, found herself struck by its depth (and probably surprised at it's length...the first chapter is 80 pages single spaced). She was just as excited as I was about it. She and I went back and forth about the story and all the social dynamics in the story. This story has everything. It has sexism, racism, colorism, and classism. It is controversial. It is thought-provoking. It is going to piss some people off and create dialogue...not only in the black community but in America period.

I'm so excited. I'm so thrilled because I feel like I've finally found my voice. After years of struggling, literally crying tears of pain because at one point I lost all hope for a career as a writer, I have finally found my way. I'm so happy right now.

***This novel is part of the reason I had to take a step back from Cherry Hills. I am not capable of focusing on more than one project at a time. But Cherry Hills is coming along nicely.
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