There's nothing worse than meeting your father for the first time and having something in common with him. This sounds bass ackwards I know. Most people would relish the idea of relating. I did not. Most people would wonder does he have my eyes, or my smile? I did not. Most people would want to know if you shared the same temperament or calmness? I did not.
My thoughts were with his wife-- a beautiful woman who I'm sure was chosen and groomed to be the jill to his jack. My thoughts were with her. Both raised so deep in the pews and under altered crosses there had to be a conversation about me. Or perhaps when he left for school with her not far away there had to be one or two late night talks.
There was none. I saw it in her eyes the moment I slid in the backseat of his late model Volvo. I saw it across the dinner table as he discussed the hows and whys of why we were just meeting for the first time. I saw it each time he lied to my face.
I began to reconsider that whole moment. I thought back as I sat on my bedroom floor, my mom entering handing me a newspaper. "That's your grandmother and that's your aunt," she said so nonchalantly that I searched for a half dozen minutes for faces recognizable to me. My aunt's not here. My grandmother's not here. I don't know who these women are. And why do they have the same name? Who does that?
Then it stung. Oh that aunt! That grandmother!
They ran an advice column in a local newspaper offering a mother & daughter perspective on life, love, and spirituality. How lovely. But I didn't need advice. I needed recognition. So I did what I always do. I wrote.
"Dear Same Name & Same Name
This isn't a question for your column. I just think you should know who I am..."
I expected no reply. I expected that the person who intakes the mail would think I was crazy and the letter would be discarded. I half expected that someone would call my home and threaten some kind of legal action if I contacted anyone from this highly respected family again.
None of that happened. A few weeks later a woman called. She was polite, her voice was sweet, and she said, "Well hello Dai. I'm your grandmother." Tears wet the phone. Not because she called but because she acknowledged me. "Sorry it took so long for me to get back to you. I was in Aruba and your letter was left for me in my downtown office." All I heard was Aruba and downtown office-- the telltale that there's more than one. She said she talked to my father who she referred to by his nickname and he would call me soon. She also told me I was a rumor once and as she ended the call she said something I'll never forget. "I love you."
And that's when I got pissed. What people never seem to understand is this. When a parent disappears or refuses to acknowledge a child you not only remove them from your life but you prevent them from knowing their whole family. I missed out on a whole family. I missed out on an aunt, and cousins, a grandfather and this wonderful woman who took me in with no DNA test. I missed out on a woman who looked my mother in the eyes and said, "Y'all could have took us for everything we have."
But we didn't and there I sat at 15 years old across from this man who like me refused to wear socks in November and who pointed it out as if that made us family. I sat across from this man who minored in journalism, had a love of words, and had already published three books. I saw my eyes and my skin and I had enough.
I wanted to go home to my real dad. The one who taught me songs and fed me sardines with mustard and crackers. The one who had been teaching me to drive since I was 5 in our big blue van. I wanted to get home quickly so he knew that nothing had changed, that he was my dad and I was his daughter, and this guy and his bare ankles and books needed more than those similarities to connect us.
However, I had a few questions. "So you're a preacher?" He replied yes and invited me to his home and church down south. "Well how does that work?" He looked puzzled so I explained further. "How do you preach the word and worship in front of your congregation when I'm just meeting you for the first time today?" He paused then fed me more lies about how he thought my mother had an abortion. I wanted to remind him of the time he called when I was 7 or 8 or the t-shirt I had from his alma mater but his wife's world was crushed enough for one day. First Lady grew up with this man, loved this man, bore this man two children who she knew as his only.
There's nothing worse than meeting your father for the first time and having things in common with him unless it's that neither one you wants anything to do with each other.
We spoke sporadically over the years until we stopped. The last time I saw him was in early 2004 in a mall. I was buying sexy things to wear for a weekend getaway with my soon to be hubby and he was buying a birthday gift for Rev. Al Sharpton.
My grandmother passed two years later. I found out in the hospital after Dood was born. No one called to tell me she was sick or had passed. I learned about the arrangements on the evening news.