The day my father died was the day something in me changed. I have yet to figure out if it was for the better or the worse. I am, however, glad that before he passed away I made peace with who he was as a man and my father. He may not have been the best but he was there at times when I really did need him. I accepted that maybe he just did not know how to be a father or maybe there were skeletons in his life that he was dealing with beyond my understanding. Whatever it was, I had decided that I would no longer allow extreme anger and resentment towards him to consume me. Instead I would reach out to him more, call and express concern about his health issues.
My father’s death came as a complete shock one summer day in Chicago. I got news from a few old high school friends on Facebook that one of our classmates suddenly passed away. It hit me so hard for a number of reasons. She was only 24 years old, she had a two year old son, and she passed away in her sleep. Being the same age as her was a little too close to home and it scared the life out of me. The day of my old classmate’s funeral, my best friend Toya and I ran into some of our other classmates. One of them happened to be my prom date. Toya and I went back to her apartment and changed clothes and they soon followed with chicken and steak tacos that I didn’t mind cooking. In the midst of me showing off my culinary skills in Toya’s kitchen, I received a phone call from my aunt (my father’s sister), that I needed to come to the hospital because something happened to my father and “they were trying to get him back”. It was too much for me to comprehend. I was visibly upset with all of these thoughts and questions going through my mind, trying to pack my bags, and find my keys along with the address to the hospital that he was located at. My prom date grabbed my hand and told me to wait; at that point we all held hands and prayed. I rushed out, hit the expressway and prayed “Please let my Daddy be alright” over and over again. Once at the hospital, I parked and ran towards the entrance where I saw my uncle walking out. He came towards me with a look of sympathy and reached out to me for a hug. He said “did your aunt call you?” I said “yeah, she said they were working on him and trying to get him back” with hope in my voice. He looked at me and said “They weren’t able to get him back”. I could’ve collapsed right there at the entrance of the hospital but I had to see him. It couldn’t be real.
To be more precise and explain more in depth what actually changed in me when my father died I need to re-word that whole phrase. When my father died, a lot of things in me died. There were countless hopes, dreams, imaginations, future talks, bonds and that relationship I ALWAYS wanted to have with him. GONE. As I reflect on this, I do wonder if I cried as much for him as I did myself. I don’t mean to sound selfish but my father was not the best father. He tried and we did have some special moments but he simply was not there for me the way a father should be there for his little girl. I spent a lot of my pre-teen, teen and early adulthood resenting him for not being there and not understanding the reasons why? I had so much anger bottled up inside of me. I will probably never know why he was in and out of my life but one thing I can say is he did care and I know he loved me.
My mom has stated that he came around when I was a smaller child but I remember seeing him when I was seven years old. At that age I’m not sure I really thought about a father. I lived in a three-story apartment building on the west side of Chicago, owned by my grandparents who replaced the void of having an absentee father, temporarily. It was a fall day and I was on the third floor of my grandparents’ apartment, probably watching Kenan and Kel or whatever was playing on Nickelodeon that day, when the doorbell rang. I ran to the front porch and peered over the balcony. I peered down at this bald, light-skinned man for a few seconds before asking “Who is it?” He looked up and replied “It’s me, your father”. Words cannot explain the happiness I felt hearing that. I remember racing down all those stairs with one sock on and swinging the door open. We talked briefly but that was the beginning of the relationship that would soon follow into my adulthood. Our relationship took so many twists, turns and gaps in between, filled with empty broken promises. At about the age of 11 or 12, my father revealed to me that I had two brothers and two sisters. Me being the little private investigator that I was, I asked for names and birthdays and hoped to one day meet them and have a relationship. That was slow in coming because as I would later find out, they shared the same bond that I shared with our father.
When I walked into that dimly lit hospital room, that seven-year old Jennifer leapt out of my body and sprawled her upper body on top him while he lay on his death bed. She was still wide-eyed with hope, anxiousness and most of all disbelief. She touched his face over and over again. She peered into his steel gray eyes that were still slightly open, talked to him and prayed for his soul. She finally had a moment to examine every feature of his face. She noticed that he had the same two small moles on the bridge of his nose as did she. It’s unfortunate that she got that moment of closeness as he lay there, nothing more than a shell and a symbol of what could’ve been and in her mind what should’ve been.
For my sanity and my own personal growth and healing, I have to be ok with the way this chapter in my book played out. The beautiful thing that did come out of the unfortunate and untimely loss of my father is that I have formed a closer relationship with three of my siblings since then. However, we haven’t been able to locate our brother Brandon. Therefore, I feel that I cannot completely close this chapter. So until then, I’ll enjoy my family, siblings, friends, and anyone else who sets foot in my life to teach me lessons that will further my knowledge and strengthen my heart along the way. The one lesson I have learned, in my 26 years on this earth, is that you can wish and hope and dream for something to go your way but life will teach you that this is not a fairy tale and the most important thing is how you interpret what you may deem to be a tragedy and come out of it. There is always a possibility that there will be a light or maybe even a rainbow at the end of that dark tunnel and sometimes how we decide to make it through that tunnel plays a big role in the outcome. We can either choose to sigh, cry, and sob or we can smile, lift our heads high and push through with everything in us.