I always try to be honest in all of my writing. Even when it hurts. That’s rule number one. This is one of those times that hurts. I’m going to attempt to put some levity in it though…if for no other reason than to help me through it. Forgive me…sometimes I’m a softy.
I’m a direct product of not having a father.
Well, I HAD one, as I suppose we all do, but mine never really did anything WITH me so I DEFINITELY never called him “Daddy”. Heck, for that matter, for most of my life, I didn’t think he even LIKED me that much. ( I actually forgave him for everything when he was on his deathbed….but I’ll share that with you some other time.)
I was forced to remember my relationship (or lack thereof) with my father a few weeks ago. I was talking to a friend , and somehow we got on the subject of fathers. I decided to share with him an experience that I had in high school, and now, I guess, I ‘m about to share it with you now….(Ain’t it funny how God has a way of urging us to talk when we don’t even want to sometimes?) Anyway, the conversation began to flow, and the memories began to flood back, and my mind settled on a particularly painful instance that still haunts me, even as a grown man.
Since I said that I’m going to need some levity in this and since I’m a bit of a t.v. junkie, let’s look at it like we would a t.v. show . That said, this is the part in the show where the screen gets all blurry and there’s that flashback music…..
(doodlle looodle looo……..doodle loodle looo…….doodle loodle loo)
The scene opens in 1986, and I was in the 10th grade. It’s somewhere in November, because I remember we were in the last class of the day; waiting to be released for Thanksgiving break. I seem to remember the room being mostly full; with a few empty desks around. There was a student sitting right behind me. I remember his name, but I’m not going to share it out of fairness to him. (HOPEFULLY, his 16/17 year old self was a lot meaner and DUMBER than his 41/42 year old self. I can’t validate that, though. I didn’t keep up with him so it’s questionable.)
He leaned up to me and said, “MR. __________ said that he ain’t your daddy.”
Aaaaannnnddddd FREEZE scene!
This is the part where you hear, Morgan Freeman, the narrator say: “Now here’s a bit of “bring you up to speed info.” Early in my life, I would always make excuses for the guy that I got my boyish good looks from. I would always say that my father was too busy to come to watch me play in a youth rec league basketball game, or that he was doing so much important stuff that he just didn’t have time to do things with/for me. I also lied and said that I was ok with it, that I understood it. I kind of almost made him like some kind of low level superhero whose only powers were to stay incredibly busy. I’m not sure if I did this to save face with the other kids that would inevitably ask about him or if I did it to kind of ease the pain of him not being around. As a grown man, I’m still not sure.
During my teenage years, the stories about how busy he was stopped being told. I just didn’t really make a habit of going around telling people who my father was. I grew to think that that it just wasn’t any of their business. That said, when the occasional conversation came up in which I DID talk about him, it would usually be about how much I hated him, his family and everything that he cared about. However, for some reason, let’s call it stupidity, I had decided to let this kid know who my father was. And with that bit of information in hand, let’s call it spitefulness, he had decided to verify it with him.”
I didn’t know how to react. I was stunned. So I did what any teenager would’ve done in reaction to that statement.
I spun around in my seat slowly; deliberately. (Imagine the theme music to a Clint Eastwood western playing softly in the background….( WAAA oo Waaaah oo waaaaaaaahhhh…WONKWONKWONK … Ok, that was the best I could do.) I looked him dead in the face…locking my eyes intently on his. My plan was simple. I would rain down upon him a withering, verbal barrage of hate, and malice so strong, so blistering that it would wipe that smirk off his face. Boy oh boy did I have some venomous words for THAT cat! So with the toughest edged voice my 130 pound frame could muster, I said ” ……………………whuh?” (Hey…I liked his westerns, but I was no Clint Eastwood. What’d you expect?!?!)
He repeated, “Mr.______________ said that he ain’t your daddy. I went by his place and asked him.”
I hit him with the only “bomb” that I had left. “Maaaan…….Whatever….”, and turned back around in my seat.
Aaaaannnnddddd FREEZE scene!
Morgan Freeman: Despite my best efforts, the tears started to well up. They weren’t the lil, barely visible, slowly dribble down your cheek tears either. These were the full on, heavy ones that you can feel coming and that start to burn when they start to peek over the edge of your bottom eyelid; searching for the most embarrassing path down the cheek.
They found their way out. I was no Spartan, by any stretch of the imagination.
By then, other people in the class were looking. I don’t think that any of them really heard anything. They could just feel that something was going on. I put my head down on my desk. I vaguely remember the bell ringing and everybody leaving but me. I remember waiting until the noise in the hallways outside was almost nonexistent before I even bothered to lift my head off the desk. I missed my bus home that day. I think I did it on purpose.
I didn’t know it at the time, and didn’t really sit down and determine it until recently but this instance helped to shape a basic philosophy of life for me. It led me to determine that ultimately, when we are faced with bad experiences, we have two ways that we can react. We can choose to either allow them to make us a victim, forever hiding from the inevitable difficulties that are sure to accompany continued breathing, or we can choose to allow it to drive us to better ourselves.
For me, this was my decision to one day become the world’s best Daddy. In the days that followed that incident, I decided that I would never let my kids (whenever I had them) know the sting of not having a Daddy. I decided that no matter what, that my focus would be on making sure that they knew that they had a very special place in my heart and that they would always be part the small center of my universe. I also decided at that point to try to be a “Daddy figure” to as many kids as needed me to be. It’s been a wonderful ride and I’ll be the first to admit that I wouldn’t be the man that I am if I wasn’t blessed with the opportunity to raise my two beautiful daughters.
So, finally, I just want to say to all of the men that may be reading this (yeah….BOTH of you…LOL ) what you do now can and will affect your daughters for years to come. Make sure that your effect is a s a good one.
Below, I have attached the covenant that I wrote for my daughters when I first adopted them. Give it a once over. If you like it, print it off, sign it and put it in your wallet. I wrote it for MY daughters, but you can edit as needed. For ME, the covenant was always a good reminder of why I was in their lives in the first place. I would pull it out and read it in situations like when Tee would ask me to take them to fly their kites and I INSTANTLY translated it to “Daddy, will you run 15 GAZILLION yards, around and around and around…pulling this thing behind you so we can enjoy seeing it in the air for five minutes Then will you do the same thing for my sister as I crash mine to the ground?” Or when Kee would ask me to try to teach her to ride her bike and I translated that to, ” Daddy, run behind me until your lungs are about to BUST, then let go. I’ll continue on for a few yards , then I’ll crash into EVERY other kid on a bike in the ENTIRE neighborhood with as much speed as my lil legs can muster. Then I’ll let YOU go into their house to apologize to their parents.” I needed all the motivation I could get.
A Daddy’s Covenant to His Daughter
1) I will strive to be the example of a good man, husband, and father for my daughter; realizing that I am the measurement by which she will use to judge her adult relationships.
2) In all conversation, in all actions, in all exchanges, I will focus on showing my daughter her true value as a strong princess.
3) I will always take care to remember that my daughter has limitless potential.
4) I will work to recognize and live up to my role in her life as a father.
5) I will work towards developing a strong sense of self worth within my daughter.
6) I will endeavor to make my time, her time, giving her the attention that she needs and deserves.
7) I promise not to make my desire to provide for my family financially more important than providing for it spiritually.
8) I will empower my daughter to have her own mind, and the temperance to wield it wisely.
9) I will teach my daughter that she is above stereotypes and, as such, is impossible to box in, and is beyond labels.
10) I will teach my daughter that she is too valuable to settle for less than the best.
11) I promise that my daughter will, without doubt, KNOW her place in my heart.
12) I will teach my daughter that the only reason she has to hold her head down is when it’s bowed in prayer…never in shame, never in self doubt.
My Personal Pledge to You, My Daughter
Signature___________________________________ Date_______________ Time_______________