My Father's Keeper

By: Symone McCollum; Fire Stream (Personal Essay) 

I used to imagine what the perfect father would be like. I used to imagine that he would take me to school and pick me up. I used to imagine that he would be more than a best friend, but my only friend. I used to imagine this big husky guy that protected me from trouble and people who wanted to hurt me. I used to imagine that he’d love me until he grew old. I used to imagine him taking me to the park and pushing me on the swings or chasing me in a game of tag. For some reason when I would imagine these things, I never imagined my father fitting any aspect of this “perfect father.”

During my childhood, my father taught me typical things you learn how to do when you’re a child. He taught me how to ride a bike, how to cook, how to run the fastest, and how to use the video player. He was the strongest man I knew, but when my mother wasn’t around he would sit me down and give me four pigtails before school. He was heavy handed so it hurt when he did it, but every time he heard he squeal he would stop and apologize. To me, he was my superhero with a soft spot for his daughter. No bad guy could get to me as long as my father was there. He was my superhero best friend, and I was his sidekick.

Now, I notice that I might have been mistaken about my thoughts on my father. He was the perfect father before, but what’s the “perfect father” title worth when he was only that figure for only one portion of my life? It saddens me that he couldn’t be the man I expected him to be. It’s almost like the man I knew when I was younger was only a figure of my imagination. He would only appear when I wanted him to. Now, he only appears in my memories when I reflect on what I think built me into the person I am today.

As I grew up, I became content with the fact that my father would in my life at one point in time, disappear for a few months, come back and expect things to be normal. For a while, I would allow him to keep coming and going. My mother would try to warn me to not be hurt when he broke his promises of staying or taking me places, but instead of believing her, I would blame her for his absence. I would do this because my dad was my favorite parent because I had the most fun when I was with him. When I was with my mom it was strict and I couldn’t have as much fun as I could’ve with my father. When my mom would try to talk bad about him, I would defend him to the death because I wanted to hold on to the idea that he was the perfect father. Now that I look back, I wish I would’ve listened to my mother sooner. I wish I would’ve listened with open ears instead of closed and payed attention to the person who never left my side. She was my real superhero.

When I reached about age 12, I found out that my father was cheating on my mother. At this point in time, I saw my mom as the perfect parent because I realized that my father wasn’t there for me. When I found out, I told my mother because it was something she definitely needed to know. She then told him, which led into a physical altercation between him and I. I never felt to weak in my life. That, by far, was the most belittling moment in my life. What happened in that altercation is something I will never be able to fully forgive my father for, but I try to forget about it. When he left the house after the altercation, my mom and I packed a couple days worth of clothes and drove as fast as we could to her best friend's house so we could be safe for the night. I remember having to get ready for school the next morning at her house and pretending like none of that happened. I’m pretty sure that all of my classmates never thought that my life had any flaws. I portrayed myself as the happiest person who always kept a smile on her face and a loud laugh throughout the hallways.

At age 13, I found out that my father had a daughter by the woman he was cheating on my mother with. I found out by going to his mom’s house for my little cousin’s birthday party and seeing the lady with a baby in her arms with my father standing right next to them. He called me over and said “Symone, meet your sister Lyriq.” I was in shock. I felt 100 different emotions flowing through me at the speed of light. First, I was happy. I always wanted a baby sister or brother, but I never imagined that they would come into the world that way. I was angry because my father left my mother and I to go create another family with someone else. I was sad because I now had to share my dad with another human being for once and would have another human being called my dad their dad. I was annoyed because my father’s side of the family knew and didn’t tell me. When I met Lyriq, she was one years old. That meant that everyone knew for a year and didn’t mention not a word to me. What made it even worse was that the lady told me that she was pregnant with another child. I couldn’t even swallow the news about the first child, but a second? Unbelievable! But even still, there was nothing I could do to change how my life looked after that point.

As I started spending time with my little brother and sister, my relationship with my dad was almost nonexistent. He wasn’t paying attention to me anymore. He also would neglect seeing and spending time with me in order to stay home and take care of them. I was older, so I understood but I always questioned it. He could’ve tried to spend more time with me, but he didn’t. Even though I knew he wasn’t a good parent, I would always defend him against my mom when she started talking bad about him to me again. She would only do this when I would get disappointed in him not keeping his promises. Her favorite line was “Symone, you already know how he is. I don’t know what you expect from him at this point.” And she was very right. I couldn’t expect anything from him because he was never going to fall through… not even for his old sidekick.

He, though absent, contributed a lot to my spirituality. I am a lot stronger now because of his mistakes. I can endure almost any mental and emotional pain because I know that no one could ever hurt me as much as my own dad did and would continue to do. He failed to be the dad I needed him to be, but I kept pushing him to try. I didn’t cut off ties with him because he was my dad and I thought that the more I pushed him to be there for me, he would. I would act out in elementry school to get his attention, but that would only catch his attention for a few moments and then he would be gone again. What I want is to just have a good relationship with my brother and sister but unfortunately that involves having a good relationship with him too. I would want to tell my dad his faults so he can try to be a better parent, but that would be a waste of my time because nothing would change.

I’m not sure if I can still make change in our relationship because the problems are still occurring. I have not talked to my father since christmas of 2013 and it is now March of 2014. I don’t know any good fathers that could go months without talking to their child. Maybe I never saw a stable relationship between a father and daughter, but I know fatherhood was something my father would never understand and be able to carry out. The only thing I can do now is do everything in my power to make sure that my child never has a father like mine. I pray that I never fall in love with a man like my father because no child should ever have to know what it feels like to have a deadbeat father. I have no intentions on speaking to my father about his issues because talking to him is like talking to a child. All he’ll do is find a way to blame it on me and make himself feel good. I know this because he does the same thing with my mother when she tries to create a change in our relationship. He is who he is and I can either accept it or let him be. I’m tired of accepting his ideas of fatherhood because when he’s around I feel sad rather than protected and loved. I have always had something preventing me from shaking my issues from my father and I think I finally found out what it is...true bliss without him.

Comments (4)

Hezekiah White (Student 2015)
Hezekiah White

I commend you for writing this. I knew it must have taken a lot out of you. It exposed a side you I never seen. It is great that you wrote this. Thank you for sharing.

Klarissa Hudson (Student 2015)
Klarissa Hudson

Symone I really love you right now. You are a very well spoken young woman and an inspiration to girls who don't have caring fathers. I love your essay and I'll probably give you a hug later. <3