9.28.2005

dancing with my father....

For a long time, I didn't know who my father was. In fact, until I was about seven years old, it didn't even occur to me that I might have one.

I was not a child who questioned where I came from. It probably had something to do with the fact that my teenage mother left me in the care of HER mother when I was a year old and left town to go into the army.

I just accepted the fact that I didn't have parents.

So there I was with a grandmother who raised me as if we were still living through the Great Depression, a mother who was just a shadowy figure on a couple of pictures and an occasional voice on the phone and a father - a HIM - who never even crossed my mind.

But, when I was seven, I got very sick and almost died. I was hospitalized and the Red Cross (as is routine in cases where emergencies involve military personnel) summoned my mother to my bedside. And this woman, who I did not know came to be with me. She, in turn, called HIM who came to the hospital to see my mother.
(Please notice that I didn't say to see me.)

Until HIM arrived, it was the first time that I could remember being in my mother's presence alone and the first time in all my seven years that I had even considered that I had a 'Daddy', just like everybody else.

All that I can remember from his time in my hospital room is the sound of the gum he kept popping and the sound of my mother's laughter as she flirted with HIM. I honestly cannot remember a single thing either of them said to me the entire time.

Fortunately, for me, I didn't die and after a considerable hospital stay, my condition improved enough for me to be sent home where I fully recovered.

It would be ten years before I saw HIM again. At his grandmother's funeral at the house for the repast. I'd had virtually no contact with HIM's family during the first 17 years of my life with the exception of my Aunt Margie (although I sometimes wonder if the only reason I saw Miss Margie - as I called her - regularly was that she sold life insurance to my grandmother so she had to come to the house on a monthly basis to 'collect the premium'). As a result, I was in an unfamiliar house surrounded by an entire clan of people who I knew nothing about. I was introduced to aunt after aunt after uncle after cousin after cousin after cousin.

"Yeah, this Junior's daughter."

"No, unt-un, Naw, Sherry ain't her momma. Dianne. You know, Lillie Blue's daughter."

Can you imagine what an experience that was for an ackward, too-tall, gangly and painfully shy teenager that was?


I still shudder.

I can remember HIM trying to keep me away from his wife because when he heard that someone was there looking for HIM, he thought that I was this woman who'd he'd had some dealings with in the past and wanted to avoid a confrontation.

Once HIM finally realized that it was his daughter and not someone trying to get with HIM, we had a very brief conversation. I can remember his vague promise to keep in touch with me and to help me out when I went to college that fall.

The full story of what happened during my ONE semester and a half spent at FAMU is a whole nother Oprah, but i'll just say that there were many unkept promises of financial aid and an offer to buy a car for me that was sadly nothing more than an offer. Still hurts to think about that. And in Forrest Gump fashion, "That's all I'm gone say about that."

After I dropped out of college and went on to stumble through what I was calling "My Life" at the time, another eight years would pass before I would pick up my phone one day to a voice saying, "Hey, baby, this is Daddy."
My response,
"I'm sorry, but I think you may have a wrong number."

"This is Cat, ain't it?"

"Um.....yes...it is. Who is this?"

"This ya' daddy. I talked to ya' momma, Dianne, yesterday and got ya' number cause I'm gone be up in *Atlanna* tomorrow at ya' Aunt Theresa's house and I'm gone have two of ya' sista's with me and I want ya to come over."

Me, thinking,
"I've got two sisters? Really? I've got an aunt that lives in Atlanta? Really?"

"Well, you ain't said nothing. Can ya' come by?"

"Well, yessir. I guess I can."

What I learned from that encounter:
When my mother was pregnant, my mother's mother apparently told HIM that I was not his, that my mother was actually pregnant by someone else.

What I came away with:
An apology for HIM's immaturity during the earlier years of my life. An expression of regret for not being there for me when I was growing up. And an offered olive branch to establish a relationship.

The Past Eight Years:
HIM has come through for me from time to time. HIM gave me the money to buy a refrigerator when I closed on my house. HIM's given me money to catch up on bills at different times. And HIM has given me miscellaneous amounts of money for no real reason at times in between.

I have come to know the three brothers and three sisters that HIM has by four other women. All interesting people and mostly good people with good hearts who are producing members of society. Sometimes, I have to hold down the jealousy that I feel as I have learned how involved HIM was in their lives and how HIM supported them while they were in college.

I have attended a couple of 'family reunions' which I ended up being very uncomfortable at because I feel like an outsider among a group of people who share family history and physical similarities. (Of course, I don't think i look like any of them.)


"Yeah, this Junior's daughter."

"No, unt-un, Naw, Sherry ain't her momma. Dianne. You know, Lillie Blue's daughter."


HIM was my 'date' for my ten year class reunion dinner.

A couple of years ago, I went with HIM, his wife and two of my sisters on a family trip to my brother's house in Chicago at Thanksgiving. It is cold as as all get out in Chicago in November. My father's wife is an interesting person. My baby sister was an aggravating spoiled brat and my brother's fiance can't cook.

Even after the last eight years of attempting to know HIM better, I still do not really KNOW this man who calls himself 'Daddy'. Besides, most of the time, I do not feel like HIM REALLY believes that I am his daughter.

I can count the number of supposedly REAL conversations that we have had on my hands. Those conversations were stilted and did not flow freely.

We have nothing in common. From time to time, HIM will attempt to offer me fatherly advice and put his foot down in a fatherly fashion. Unfortunately, it doesn't come off verywell. I am a grown woman. You really can't tell me what to do. Where were you 20 years ago?

There have still been broken promises.

"Baby, I know you've been trying to start that business. Daddy wants to give you some money to help you out. Tell ya' what, put me together a proposal on what it is you want to do and what you're going to do with money. And I'm gone help you. Cause I believe that none of my children should have to work for The Man if they don't want to."

"Baby, Daddy is gone pay yo' truck off. There are just somethings that I don't want you to have to deal with and I think it will be easier for you to manage your bills if you don't have that to worry about. Besides, I spent about $30,000 last year getting your brother out of trouble. So, I want to do something for you too."

Well, I never got the money for my business and I'm still struggling to make a car payment every month and my wonderful brother was apparently just sentenced to three years in prison on a drug charge, so that HIM's $30,000 was just money down the damned drain.

Most of the time, HIM doesn't bother to return my phone calls.

And yes, that may have something to do with the fact that I only call HIM when I'm asking for money, but really, do I care if he doesn't like it?

When it comes to dancing with HIM, I choose the tune that is playing.

I am the choreographer.

I am the one that does the leading AND the following.

Because when it comes to dancing with HIM,

I am on the dance floor alone.

3 comments:

Icey said...

Very touching story.

Even though he was sporadic in my life at best, I have not spoken to my sperm donor since I was about 15. During our last phone conversation he stated that he did not think that I was his though if I looked any more like him I would be his twin. His family has always been wonderful to me. I remember them coming to my granny's house to bring Christmas and Bday gifts to me every year I lived in MS.

Him saying that hurt me to the core and I decided at that moment "Fuck him. I don't need him"! And if I must toot my own horn *toot toot* I have done wonderfully without him. Needless to say (but I'm gonna say it anyway!), if he died today, it would not mean a single thing. When the babe asks me who is my daddy I tell her I don't have one. Righ tnow that answer suffices.

At least you have some semblance of a relationship with yours. Good Luck

Midlife Crisis said...

Wow. Powerful.
I am no stranger to the phenomenon--trust me. Not all of us come here with a legacy, if you know what I mean.

Serenity23 said...

Touching story. I have noticed that you have a lot of poetic stuff on here. Um, can I get a poem out you? Just kidding.