The death of my Grandmother recently brought me back to Kansas City and served as a mini-reunion of sorts for my dad’s side of the family. I say “mini-reunion” because really, I’m the only one that isn’t seen often. Through all this I noticed not only that, of course, life has gone on while I’ve been MIA and people have grown up, but also there’s a certain theme that permeates this side of my family–fatherly absence. I have three brothers, two older and one younger, and for all the time my father insists that he loves us, he hasn’t been there in abundance for any of us. And for the most part I’ve gotten over it, forgiven him. I mean really, what good does it do to stay mad? Anyways, I realized while I was back that though he was mostly absent in my life and that of my brothers that he still commands an almost mystic respect from us.
For most things my Dad is late. And while he wasn’t “late” by definition to his mother’s viewing, he was later than everyone else. As I sat with my youngest brother, I marveled at how excited I was to see this man who I insisted most of the time I didn’t really like that much. In he walked, at which point my brother and I both rose to greet him. It was then that I realized that really, we didn’t rise for a greeting, we rose for his evaluation. There we stood, like military cadets while he told us how nice we looked, how good it was to see us, how handsome his boys are. He introduced us around…
“This is Tookum, my youngest boy, Daddy’s baby.”
My brother pretends not to like this shit but I see him smile.
Then, “This is Jason, he’s got a college degree, lives in California. He’s a professional fighter, he’s got a baby on the way.”
I pretend not to like this shit either, but I can’t help but smile. It feels good to hear your Dad brag about you. So while I was soaking this all in and feeling good about the relationship my dad and I share, I suddenly remembered all the times he said he would pick me up and didn’t. Or the letters he wrote that said we would spend more time together. I remembered my baseball games where everybody else’s Dad was there but mine wasn’t, all the times I insisted to my Mom that this time was different, that he might be there. I remembered all these things and suddenly I was no longer content, I was angry. Where was this fatherly action when I really needed it, when I was growing up? And while it feels good to hear him rant and rave now, it’s bittersweet, as it also reminds me of times when he was painfully absent.
So, back to my story. I’m standing in the pews with my little brother being evaluated and marveled at by our father and I made a decision. I’ve already fathered Jaelyn Leslie. She’s due in May and I couldn’t be more excited. Not only do I get a turn to brag about someone, but I get to go right everywhere my Dad went wrong. I get to be not only the father, but a Dad and I get to stop the cycle of absent fathers that has plagued my family. So to my Dad, I say thanks. I’m no longer angry at you, I thank you for making the mistakes so that I don’t have to.