My brother and I had an interesting talk today about our father and how different we are from each other. The legacy that we are manifesting for ourselves is wrought with proving the system wrong when it says children who come from dysfunctional households can't succeed. We're overacheivers, high performing and extremely driven personalities. Surprisingly enough, we didn't grow close until my birthday on March 15, 2007, the day our father died of a drug overdose. We met for the first time over the phone; he gave me a call that evening to share the horrible news.
I cope with my depression around this time by sending supportive texts to friends that have children, and I reach out to male mentors. The other side of this is feeling like I missed out on having a dad. I blamed myself for a long time, thinking that my circumstances as a young, black girl in Detroit dealt me a bad hand. I went to a private school where most of the students had two parents at every PTA meeting. My grandmother played the role of mother and father, which is indeed a blessing. But seeing articles about "How to cook for dads" can be a tad harrowing when you feel down about how you grew up.
If I could physically see and hear my father today I would let him know that I loved him. Regardless of his shortcomings, I know that we would be rather impressed by how far I've come. I'd show him around my neighborhood, ask him if he'd want to go to the jazz shed (jam session), convince him to get up on stage and play trumpet and shape Father's Day into something that I could feel positive about. I used to daydream about making cards for him, letting him know that I loved him. With addiction as a barrier, most of the items were forgotten and misplaced. After a while my grandmother thought it was best for me to stop trying, not because she was mad at him, but she was tired of seeing tears streaming down my face so much.
I know this entire post seems sad but there are some positive points to share if you've dealt with drug addiction in such a personal way. Father's Day becomes a time to connect with other people that have dealt with this type of scenario. I usually hold brunches and dinners with friends. We gather to talk about how much we miss our dads and play board games. It's great to feel supported during times like that especially when the experience feels isolating for the majority of your life. I encourage others to do the same because we have a special bond that isn't always best. Having support is key and without that you'll spend the weekend stewing in anger or trying to hide from the world. I'd much rather have 15 friends in a restaurant laughing than spending it alone crying all day.
Hopefully this common yet rarely discussed circumstance will help someone think about coming out of their shell and trying a better way to connect to others if you've lived the life I just described. Through sharing my story over the past three years I have made countless connections with people who struggle with "what could've been" when it comes to their family. Growing up in a dysfunctional family and surviving it is a victory in itself. Gaining an understanding that growing up with an addict doesn't have to rule your life is a major accomplishment. Using Father's Day as a way to bring people together to work through a harsh circumstance has become a solution to feeling empty and indifferent. I might have "missed out" but I'm finding my way to bring others through a tough time.
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