I’m going to live with my dad!
I’m mortified knowing how many times I yelled that as a child. Each time my mother would calmly say “ok” and help me pack a bag. We’d, my bag and I, sit by the door and wait for the man I’ve never known, to never come. I’d eventually succumb to sleep and my mother would put me to bed.
I don’t know when my mother and father split, but I do know I was 13 the last time I mentioned his name. I was saying something admirable about him when my mother’s sister had enough and told me how awful he was to my mother. He was abusive, really abusive. I never dreamt about him or what he and his other family were doing again. I never wondered why he didn’t come for me again. I never breathed his name again.
The summer before I went away to college, my mom thought it was important that I had a chance to make my own decisions about who my father was, so she handed me the phone and said, “it’s for you.”
“Heyyyyy, it’s me, dad!”
This phone call began a series of visits in which I met my father, as well his second and third families. I met 4 of his 9 children, of which I am the oldest, and two of their mothers. We saw each other on holidays and school breaks. It was a short-lived moment because I was learning things about my father that I will never unlearn. I was also learning that I am my father’s daughter.
The years passed and I forgave my father, made peace with his absence, and came to my own conclusions about who he is. I acknowledged that all my brothers and sisters are also my father’s children, and because he made love and trust hard and family complex, I accepted that we may never truly know each other.
I saw my father for the first time, in 15 years, at my brother’s funeral. My Rosie came. She hugged him and gave her condolences for his loss. I said, “hi” and refused to participate in any other exchange with him. As I sat there crying for my brother, my mother said, “you know Kenya, that is his son up there…” to which I blurted out, through choked tears,
“I am his daughter!”
Dear Tyler Trenez Patterson,
I want you to know that I am your daughter. I want you to know that am a product of you. I want you to know that I am my father’s daughter.
Because of you, I have never loved a bad man. I know what bad feels like. I am immediately able to recognize bad and distance myself from it without thinking twice. Once, a man scared me and I walked away and never looked back. Thank you.
Because of you, I only have the very best people around me. Despite my heart seeming cold, being slow to love others, hard to let others love me, and reluctant to let people in or fully trust, anyone, there is a group of people that have knocked down all the walls I built. I love and I am loved, in abundance and by people who will always be there. Thank you.
Because of you, I know that family is most important. You made “family” complex and heavy for me. The word itself establishes no form of respect, relationship, or love to me. Those things are earned in my world. Therefore, I put in the work to have meaningful relationships because I know they are what matters in the end. Thank you.
Because of you, there are other humans out there that I am predisposed to love. We share the same smile and the same hurt; and I could see them in a crowd, having never known their name, and know they are a part of me. Thank you
I want you to know that while there are times I am angry, I don’t hate you. I want you to know that not knowing me, is truly your loss. I turned out fucking amazing! I want you to know that I forgive you, and not because I am your daughter, but because I am my mother’s daughter.