As my wedding approaches I think about all the traditional portions of a wedding: being walked down the aisle and the father-daughter dance that will not take place.
Maybe I should start from the beginning. I am the youngest of my father’s three children, by three different women. However, I am my mother’s only child. My father passed away a few months shy of me turning 11 years old. I always think of the line from Tupacs song “Dear Mama” in which he says, “No love from my daddy cause the coward wasn’t there. He passed away and I didn’t cry cuz my anger wouldn’t let me feel for a stranger. They say I’m wrong and I’m heartless, but all along I was looking for a father he was gone”.
I remember the day so vividly. My mom came into my room and told me that she got a call from a family friend, who was told that my father passed away. My mom asked if I needed anything and I told her that I wanted to be by myself. I turned my radio on and Maria Carey’s “Hero” was playing. Hearing that song triggers emotions and memories from that day and I still can’t listen to the entire song.
For years I was angry with my father because I could not understand why he was never around or didn’t come around, but now he had a reason. He was dead.
I used to cry thinking about my wedding day and what I was going to miss out on. The prayers of my mother worked because unlike many young girls that sought out a father or father figures in negative ways (drinking, overly sexualized, and being mistreated in relationships) I channeled my focus on not being a product of my environment. I was raised by a single mother and surrounded by all strong, black, single mother’s who said they didn’t need a man and were the mother and father to their children. Even though my grandfather was around it was very clear that my grandmother was in charge.
My mother was in a relationship with a Man that loved me as if I was his own, but he could never fill the void I had for my father. I remember returning home from a summer vacation and he was gone. No explanation, no goodbye, just gone. This hurt me deeply. I began to distort that he left because of me. Oh, did I forget to mention that a few months before my father passed away, my favorite uncle died, then my father passed, my mother’s boyfriend left, and then my paternal grandfather passed away. This all happened before my 11th birthday.
I think at this point I developed the idea that all men leave or if they do come around they don’t stay for very long. I developed trust issues, especially with men. We started to attend church that same year as well and it seemed to be beneficial to closing that void. It was the following year that I met my two best friends (sisters) who both had fathers in their lives. It was an odd, yet eye opening experience for me to see a father and daughter relationship in action. Once their fathers learned of my father’s death they graciously accepted me as their own. It took me several years before I could actually call them dad because I never had to use the word before and honestly it felt weird to say.
My growing relationships with my new fathers pushed me into no longer wanting to be angry with my biological father. At the age of 25 years old I began to ask questions about my father from various family members. It was this information that slowly closed the void of not having him around. I became more empathetic as I learned more about his childhood, lack of relationship with his biological father, and volatile relationship with his stepfather. Did my father love his children? Yes! Do I think he wanted the best for his children? Yes! However, how was he supposed to be a father figure when he was given very little guidance from the beginning?
With this knowledge I begin to mourn my father for the first time in 25 years. He was a person and even though we didn’t have a relationship, I miss him.
Now back to my upcoming wedding. My brother in-law has accepted the role of walking me down the aisle. I have decided to attach my father’s picture to my bouquet so that he will be a part of the occasion and my mother and I will have a mother-daughter dance.
Fathers or father figures play a very large role in a young girl/woman’s life. They show you how to be respected, loved, treated, and most importantly they are a big part of your self-esteem. My father figures have helped me to see this and I am forever grateful for their willingness to practically raise a child that was not theirs. It was because of my relationship with them that I was able to trust and find my future husband. I look forward to giving my future children something I never had as a small child, A Father.