My father died in February. Around the 22nd or so. I purposely misplaced the obituary and forgot the date. It was the year 2008 or 2009. It was such a blur but I know I was living in Atlanta at the time.
He was my biggest fan but I didn’t know. He was consistent with inconsistency. Or maybe it’s “we” were consistent with inconsistency. But usually the child is allowed to blame the parent so I said “he”. We weren’t consistent like the hurricanes that you expect every year. We were more like tornadoes in the south. It can happen but it would be a surprise. Except we never made the news. Not together at least. So that was the weather of our relationship.
I called in December, around the holidays cause that’s what you’re supposed to do. His girlfriend answered and told me he was dying. They had given him a few months to live. He told me he was dying a few years before that, so I kind of didn’t believe her. I can’t remember where he was or why she answered the phone. But then he picked up and said, “hello”.
I asked him if he was dying and he answered by saying I needed to come see him. And so I did. He was staying in the hospital until they got “everything stable”. Even when my Uncle broke down crying and told me, “He’s not going to make it, the doctor’s can’t do anything else,” I didn’t believe it. I thought I’d be slick by making plans for the summer and getting my father to commit. But when I told him I needed to get some of his barbecue and would come back for Memorial Day weekend, he just looked at me. He had the gift of gab so to get a silent stare spoke volumes. I was frightened. When I returned to the hospital the next day, I had my pen and notepad ready to ask questions and take notes.
He told me I needed to do research to get our family land back in Oklahoma. He also told me he remembered his grandfather looking of mixed nationality. He shared more but I can’t seem to remember these days. But I did write it down. I don’t even remember what journal the information is in but I know it’s in the garage in a taped box with a few of his things. The memories of February.
Undoubtedly, I have his cheekbones. I have his hustle and drive. I have his wit and love of laughter. And I have his loyalty. Even the loyalty of being inconsistent to others but consistent with what I believe in. And with all of that, we loved one another.
So, you can’t tell me about loving an absent man. The possibility of it. There is nothing you can teach me. There are no tools to fix a heartbreak a young girl endures when she doesn’t have the language to know that’s what it is. A disappointment that is shadowed by the morals of respecting your parents. There are no statistics to try and prove it’s effect on young girls who become women. It’s real. I know. Like faith. You just do, or at least that is how I learned. Not raised. Not taught. But through stories, images, examples and from my father.