Thursday, August 31, 2006

happy birthday daddy.

i remember when i first met you.

i was six and you were the nice guy visiting the folk next door. i had gone over to visit because they were so nice to me and i had a crush on your friend derrick. so what if he was twenty years older than me? he was tall and red-boned just like i liked them back then (so far as a six year old can develop a 'type') and he always smelled good.

so on this day i was next door mooning over derrick when you walked down their stairs. i took one look at you and dismissed you immediately. you were too short and had hair growing out of your face. i thought you looked like a miniature big foot. YUCK.

then you started speaking and i thought to myself "he sounds just like a teacher." basically, you were a miniature big foot with an excellent vocabulary. DOUBLE YUCK.

and then it was later in the day and my brother and i were playing outside. i remember you stepped out and watched us and then you came over and started playing with us. i remember you tossing the football to both me and little bro and i thought to myself "we have a new playmate and this one's GROWN UP!"

i remember being so eager to introduce the nice man who played football with me and little bro to my mommy. i told her about you about an hour later.

"mommy!" i exclaimed, "there's nice man is staying next door with the jacksons!"

she looked at me with that weary "what is my child talking about now" look on her face. she knew then that look never swayed me to shut up.

"mommy!" i exclaimed again, this time tugging at her skirt so i had her undivided attention, "he played football with me and swady!"

and with that statement she looked down at me intensely.

"who is this man? what'd i tell you about talking to strangers?"

"he's derrick's friend!" i exclaimed yet again (come on, you know damn near everything a six-year-old says is done with an inordinant amount of excitement)

"and what did i tell you about calling grown ups by their first name?" she said as she lifted a brow and waited for me to answer. i quickly glanced down at my feet, the suffucing shame making me shuffle them with instant agitation.

"i mean mr. jackson," i mumbled sorrowfully. then i looked up at her with my 'you know i'm too cute for you to be mad at for long' look. she smirked at me with that 'you know i'm too old to fall for that look' look. mom and i would go on to do battle against each other using our eyes for YEARS as you well know, but i digress.

anyway, aswad brought you over to meet mom that same day. were there sparks between you and mom? did i just ask a question with an obvious answer? DUH. but i had no idea. i mean, i was only six. i was just glad i found someone who didn't mind tossing a football with a girl so it was all good as far as i was concerned.

that is, until you actually started DATING my mom. then i was ready for you to bounce. i remember you coming over at nights when you thought me and swady were asleep. one of those nights i tip-toed to the stairs, sat down, and watched you two making out on the couch downstairs. now THAT really pissed me off. first off, what were you doing kissing my MOMMY? secondly, WHAT WERE YOU DOING KISSING MY MOMMY?


and that's when i realized you were the enemy. i jumped into battle mode.

it was a number of months into the relationship by then and it was obvious you two were getting serious. part of me was happy because i still missed my daddy terribly and you were the closest thing to a daddy i had in my life at that time. the other part of me hated you because i thought you were gonna replace my daddy and no one could replace him.

when you married my mom, i was determined to hate you. remember all those times when i made your life hell? i still remember that night i cussed you out at age thirteen. it was something to the effect of "get the fuck out of my face! you'll NEVER be my dad!"

could you really be mad? nah, cuz you were the one who taught me how to cuss with the best of them. i knew i hurt you back then but i didn't care. i WANTED you to hurt. i wanted you to know that every time you tried to assert yourself as my father, you were competing with a ghost, a ghost whom you could never replace. i knew you were frustrated by my behavior but i refused to let up, despite the fact that you were always protective of me and loved me as your own child. i kept that up right until my 14th year.

it was summer and i was preparing for my annual trip to new york. you walked into my bedroom with a brown paper bag in your hand.

"you can never be too careful," you'd said as you handed the bag to me, "i'd rather you be protected if something happens."

i opened the bag and gasped. there were condoms in the damn bag. i remember giving you the 'are you serious?' look and i swear i saw it in your eyes.

it was the 'i love you little girl' look. for some reason on that day at that moment, i realized you really loved me. i saw how far you were willing to go to protect me. you didn't like the idea of me being sexually active (and in fact i wasn't) and i KNOW you weren't comfortable with discussing anything sexual with me, but in that one act i saw how courageous you were. you were willing to put aside your discomfort so i would be empowered by knowledge, so that i would be empowered to take care of myself.

on that day in my mind and heart, you became my dad.

i remember my first day at college.

it was after you and mom had left and i was putting my clothes away. my glance fell on a little brown paper bag stuffed in the upper corner of the suitcase beneath some of my t-shirts. i knew immediately what was in the bag. i laughed and shook my head as i opened the bag and peered inside.


and this time you had like fifteen of them stuffed in the bag. come on dad, did you really think i was gonna get THAT buck? i was still a VIRGIN. :)

so i gave some of the condoms to my roommate who definitely was NOT a virgin. the rest i would stick onto the announcement pad outside of my door (and no, i didn't consider the fact that by using wall tacks i was in fact puncturing the damn condoms. i was slow back then and besides, the girls used the condoms anyway!! looking back i have to wonder how many children were produced as a result of my tactical error, but again i digress...)

remember when you came to see me and found out everyone called me the 'girl dealing in prophylactics'? i think maybe you were just a little proud of me. it was because of you i was courageous enough to go to the clinic and get condoms for everybody. thanks for that dad.

i remember when i was sexually assaulted that first time and i called mom and told her. it was like 11 p.m. and i was crying and it was just an awful night. that is, until you showed up at like 1 a.m. with mr. thompson in tow, ready to throw down and kick that guy's ass. you busted up in my dorm room like you were ready to bust a cap in someone's ass. it was a sight to behold. you with your 5'6 frame stalking the room like you were 7 feet tall, mr. thompson trying to calm you down as you tried to calm me down. i felt so much better with you there dad.

after that, you always drove me back to school no matter what. remember that time when i got back to my room only to discover someone had peed on my bed? the look on your face was priceless as you questioned my roommate about it. i'm sure she was scared shitless. by the time she confessed it was one of her friends who'd done it, i thought you were gonna kill her for sure. you were cool though. when you made her switch out the mattresses so that i had her mattress and she had my urine soaked one, i almost burst into tears right there. you had my back yet again, dad.

you've never been the most affectionate person in the world but i KNOW you look forward to my hugs and kisses when i see you. i see that twinkle in your eye, that 'give me a hug girl' look on your face even though you try to get stoic, like you ain't into that kind of thing. you ain't fooling me, dad. i know it was you who left money in my suitcase for me to find like it was some lost money i suddenly 'found'. dude, how could i find $100 dollars in my suitcase when i didn't have a penny in my checking account to begin with? you thought you were being slick, didn't you?

or maybe you weren't trying to be slick. i mean don't just up and appear out the blue like that. i might be a little ditzy at times but even i know i can't lose money i'd never had.

either way, you have always been there for me dad. ALWAYS. not once in my life when i have needed you have you failed me. EVER.

you were the one i called when i was arrested in cordele (long story for another day).
you were the one who introduced me to sports.
you were the one who empowered me to protect myself sexually.
you were the one who taught me how to check and change my oil and oil filter and tires and battery.
you were the one who taught me how to play tennis.
you were the one who taught me to be leery of guys and their intentions.
you were the one who taught me to protect myself from guys with bad intentions.
you were the one who encouraged me to participate in sports, never once saying i couldn't do something because i was a girl.
you ARE the one who exudes strength and love, two things i'm always in need of from you and you always give them to me, no questions asked.

i have always been a star in your eyes, dad. you have loved me better than many men love their biological children.

you took on the task of raising two kids who weren't yours at an age when most men are looking to start families, not insert themselves into ready-made ones. you hung in there through all the times i cussed you out and rebelled against you. you believe in me when i don't believe in myself, always supporting me in my endeavors, always reminding me i'm gifted and can be whatever i want to be in life.

i say happy birthday because this is a day that should be celebrated. the day you were born is the day the world was gifted with a kind, generous, loving, strong, magnificent black man. the day you entered my life is the day my world was gifted with a guiding light, an empowering and enriching and uplifting spirit. you changed it forever.

happy birthday to you, daddy.

know i am thinking of you with that "there is no way you could know just how much i love you but i'll show you in every way possible" look on my face.