Father’s Day reminds me of how much I so appreciated those children who adored their biological fathers. It also makes me happy that I have fathered four sons, all of whom make me proud. I won’t say that I’m a Cosby dad, but I am proud of how my sons have turned out. I know my biological father was proud of me too. Unfortunately the feeling wasn’t mutual.
My biological father did leave me a legacy. As an almost lifelong tenant of California correctional institutions, my father put a fear in me that only a child of an incarcerated parent can understand fully. As I said in my book The BIG Black Lie, I have always felt that I was meant to be in prison, though I certainly exhibited no actions to warrant such thoughts.
The sad part is that many black men are in the same predicament as I. There is an ominous feeling that surrounds us that we can’t explain. Like we are waiting to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And in the black community, black men are perpetuating this feeling in their abandoned children.
I watched Maury recently—yes, my secret shame—and Maury had as one of his guests a young black man who was accused of having fathered five children by five different women. He denied them all.
As it turned out, four of them were his. He was jubilant, actually cocky that he indeed was not five for five—the one that got away. When asked how many children he may have fathered, he commented, “Word on the street is there are fourteen of ‘em.” ‘Em = his biological children.
The one mother who had wrongfully accused this “man” cried with joy that he was not her child’s father. Who knows if she knows who the child’s real father is, or if her child will ever know.
What I know is a child who doesn’t grow up with his biological father feels the loss. You don’t even know what the loss is, but there is a palpable loss. Not being able to define it just makes it that much more difficult to understand and ultimately hard to deal with.
I caught a break. My grandparents stepped in and raised me, so my grandfather became my father. My grandfather was a wonderful man, though by the time he parented me and my brother he was in his early ‘60s. My grandfather did the best he could, and I treasure my relationship with him. But he didn’t raise me, like I raise my sons.
That is because there is no way to replace your biological father. Kids are wired to their biological parents, much the way a penguin can find his parent in a sea of other penguins. Children learn about themselves through their parents. Some, like me learn that you are not necessarily all about your DNA. You can change who you are. But that doesn’t make it easier, particularly when your parent is such a terrible person, as my father was.
Thankfully my mother more than made up for him, though I ultimately lost her when I was five. Everybody I met who knew my mother said that she was a spectacular person, and wondered how she was ever snookered by my father. He was a smooth criminal, that’s for sure.
The people who know me and my mother say that I take after her, that I am in many ways like her. I smile, when I hear that. But I know that I am in many ways like my father. The thought of this scared me for quite some time. I came to terms with that fear, figuring there was some good about my father.
He was smart and charismatic, certainly two traits that describe me. I try to use my powers for good, except when tormenting the occasional liberal.
It’s sad that since having kids I have approached Father’s Day with mixed emotions. Obviously I am ecstatic that my sons do special things for me on my special day. However I am reminded of all that I missed with my biological father, and the longing for him to have been a good dad.
My biological father is dead now, as are all the men who raised me. Nevertheless, I continue to see “father figures” in people that I meet, and in small ways I replace what I think that I missed, though I don’t full know what it is that I miss. I hate that too many black kids go through what I am going through, the constant yearning. In the black community, it’s getting worse, not better.
For me this Father’s Day, I will join my adult-adopted father Rick, and we are headed to a Cardinal’s game. I will think of my grandfather who raised me, my step-father Tommie who was always there for me, and my great-grandfather who with few words managed to mold me into the man that I am. It will be a good Father’s Day.
But another year will pass, where I will wonder what could have been, had my father been a real father. Happy Father’s Day to the fathers who are there for their children.
That’s my rant!
© 2011 Kevin Jackson – The Black Sphere, LLC – All Rights Reserved