I’ve Spoken to My Father One Time
It’s 3:48am and I’ve been awake for well over an hour. I’m in a hotel that’s outside of my budget, on the dime of my current employer and, as plush as the pillows are, I can’t seem to sleep. I’ve been here for four days now… at a faith-based conference. There was a man who spoke yesterday, and ever since he gave his sermonette, my father has been on my mind.
His name is Stephen. Having the name of a martyr is difficult. Having a biblical name even more so.
Responsibilities come with the assignment of such things. Obligations and expectations — mostly intangible — take hold. My father wouldn’t be stoned to death like the biblical Stephen, but he would be held responsible for his personal failings.
He’s slated for release from prison in 2025. He should be about 61 years old if/when he leaves.
Stephen has made it his life’s work to live according to his own inclinations. He has done what he felt was necessary for himself at every fork he’s encountered; one thing I could never fault him for is his dedication to his self-interest.
I don’t know him well enough to tell you his darkest secret or his proudest moment, but I know him well enough to claim that I get my drive to be authentic from him.
In my 26 years of living we’ve spoken — once.
Our conversation lasted 2 hours, 5 minutes and 15 seconds. To date, it’s the most frightening experience I’ve had. When you agree to speak to the person who was most candid about rejecting your existence, the anxiety that comes with it is the stuff no one could possibly make up.
We spoke as if we’d met daily for coffee at our favorite spot between my classes, like we were all-knowing of one another. In a way, I think we knew much more about each other than either of us cared to admit — as forthcoming as we both are. We hid from resemblances and danced around the subtleties I’d obviously inherited from him.
Who knew 23 chromosomes could carry so much weight.
The debate we had concerning love’s existence, the establishment of respect and what it truly means to be a father stole away most of our time. We didn’t learn about each other. We discussed, pondered instances and the lack thereof, silently wished some things were different — and in my case — hoped some things remained the same. We finished each other’s sentences and spoke in tandem. I realized in that moment, while driving home, that we were more alike than different.
He believed that he couldn’t lose and that I would always win.
When he finally hung up on me, justifying it with the notion that there was no getting through to me, I nearly crashed my car. I cried as if he died and in a way, he did, again. This time though, the ghost of the man who helped make me carried a voice that sounded just like mine. A tenor tone that resonated, inflections and variations that haunt me at the wee hours of mornings.
He taught me that loving from a distance is sometimes the very thing a person needs to flourish. That one’s presence isn’t always for the best. That as long as you live in love and light — hate has no place in you. He taught me that the one thing we want the most, may be what we’re best without. That the role of a parent isn’t always filled by a biological contributor — and that’s alright. He taught me that manhood isn’t necessarily mimicking everything daddy did, stepping in his footprints and singing to the tune of his song.
I learned that day, at 19 years old, that I could still BE.
That I wasn’t incomplete. That I was born whole and with every bit of purpose intended for me to have. Although the lesson doesn’t negate my identity issues or my struggles with falling and having to pick myself up and the depressed moments in between — it does equip me to deal. It confirms that despite my beginning, I dictate my conclusion. It assures me that I am okay and that the difficult things, at times, are the most necessary.
Stephen, Sr. gave me exactly what I needed.
He gave me confirmation that he’s missing out and is alright with it. That apologies are often empty. That altering one’s actions matter infinitely more and that as similar as we may be — we will never be the same.
My fate never rested on my father’s tongue or in his hands and I am thankful.
I am thankful.