I’m hurt. I think I’ve always been.
It first hit me when I was singing on the choir. The Children of Hope were a main attraction every Sunday. We stood in our robes, the pride of our parents’ eyes. One Sunday another child asked me, “Where’s your Dad?” I knew he wasn’t there but never thought about why.
I first spoke to my father on the phone at the age of five. I remember the conversation was brief; he told me not to take orders from any woman. Years later, I learned that our conversation was followed by my grandmother telling him about himself, “Yuh wutless!” she cried. I hope it’s not hereditary.
Every birthday, in spite of my mother’s best, oscillated between bubbling sadness and a fight against solemnity. Happiness was slippery. Accomplishments were punctuated by the absence.
Middle school taught me the importance of appearances. I learned to say my parents were separated even though they never married. I fashioned my father as a farmer, man of the people, whose agrarian will and political mind would usher in a new era in the postcolonial world.
In eighth grade he sent me fifty dollars a few times. Each time I felt rich and allowed myself to have pride. We would speak on the phone frequently, conversations ending abruptly when the credit ran out. I finally met him in person that summer, spending the whole day together, laughing with both parents, feeling complete.
I would not see him again until the summer I turned sixteen. I met so many people, good friends of his, who were surprised he had a son. I left Jamaica and was sure that this was going to be our new normal. Phone calls were frequent but still ended abruptly. He visited the next summer when I graduated high school. I realized the depth of my grandmother’s love when she behaved herself and sat next to him at my graduation dinner.
College would be another silent period in our relationship. He was always on my mind. Every accomplishment, any moment of success, filled with the reminder that he was not there.
I would not see him until I got married and I have not seen him since. Life moments have brought us together. We had a good run of phone calls after I nearly died. He called a couple times after my son was born. I had a lot of hope that my own fatherhood would make us closer, give us something else to talk about. Admittedly, becoming a father has made me angry. A younger me made excuses for him but now his negligence is unbelievable. I look at my son and think, “How could anyone not do this?” How could anyone feel the weight of responsibility and not press in? The thoughts spill my rage.
I don’t like to think about this often, much less talk about it. I worry that no matter how right I am, my silence is unforgiving. So I pray. “Lord, I’m hurting. I think I’ve always been.”