You know, when I think about my childhood, I’d say it was pretty normal. The sad thing about that statement is… being traumatize felt normal because it was more acceptable to my environment. The harsh reality of trauma being a stigma in black and brown communities is disastrous to our success in life. But, I’d never hesitate for minute to doubt my abilities to make my normal whatever I say it is to be. I’m choosing to heal and grow.

It had been weeks since the incident and I still haven’t heard from my Father. I don’t know if I were more angry at him for leaving me or for hiding himself from me. How could I not have seen this coming? I felt betrayed. Although, the pain from my Father struck hard initially, it was the change in my relationship with my Mom that made me jump overboard. Having always been exhilarated in her eyes, I didn’t know what to see if she weren’t looking at me. I only knew how to play the role of Princess; being Denise would require I love myself in my own eyes. I could tell a difference in my Mom. Her step had a pep and she looked better than ever. As I struggled to handle all of what happened, I saw her moving along without me. At this point, it was assumed my Father wasn’t coming back. The Coach’s presence started to become normal at the house and we all fell in line with the change. I struggled with the absence of my Father and trying to figure out what to do with myself. I became extremely detached from everything and it became difficult for me to make friends. Which was so out of character for me, I was extremely sociable. I started to self mutilate and find unwarranted things that were wrong with my body. I was a hot ass mess. I found most of my comfort in writing in my journals and listening to Gospel music.

One night, my Brother’s and I were home alone playing the game in my room, when we heard someone knocking at the door. The knock caught us off guard because we normally didn’t get many visitors. My oldest Brother went to answer the door and it was our Father. We were so happy to see him as he was to see us. I’d never forget the box of Popeyes chicken he brought over to share. He looked fragile. I didn’t pay much attention to this then but he was obviously high. It was his jaw that gave it away. It was something I’d seen before but never tied it to the use of drugs. His jaw would move as if it were broken and he was trying to put it back in place. It’s crazy… the things we choose to block out. Within minutes we were back to our normal routine. We went upstairs and started playing Street Fighter. That was our shit and having my Father home made things feel normal. We were happy. It was as if he’d never stolen Christmas and lived a sober life, until we heard the garage door open.

I remember my Brother’s and I being a little nervous, knowing our Mom was home and more than likely her new friend was in tow. We were all still trying to figure out how to digest what all happened during Christmas and it appeared as though my Mom had moved on from it without a care in the world. Since our relationship was beginning to take a toll, I was more than happy to break the news to my Mom and her friend that “Daddy was home”. I ran downstairs and entered into the garage. Before my Mom and this N*GGA could get out the car, I shouted, “Mom, Dad is here!” I would never forget the look on her face. It was a look of disgust and disappointment. One of those, NOT THIS N*GGA type of looks, similar to the one I presented her with. She strategized quickly and they gathered his things from the car. He left out the garage door and Mom and I came in the house. As we walked through the kitchen, she turned to face me and said, “Don’t you tell your Dad he was here”. That was the first time she had asked me to lie for her. Come to think of it she really wasn’t asking.

As I followed my Mom up the stairs, I mocked her in silence. Her behavior perturbed me. The audacity I felt was real. I’d never disrespected my Mom and the circumstances were becoming my sense of entitlement. When we finally reached the top of the stairs, she stood in the doorway of my room, gave a cold stare and walked away. My Father hesitantly got up and followed her to what used to be their room. I tried to follow quickly behind to join in on the conversation and was revoked entry at the door. I wanted them to fix this. I wanted my Mom to help him. I wanted our family to stay together and go back to normal. The anguish at the pit of my stomach was telling me what I had already known to be true. My Mom’s heart had been shattered and someone was already in place picking up the pieces. I sat next to the door and waited. The words that drifted from the closed door had defined an entirely different tale than the fairy one I’d thought to have had. My Mom spoke with pain and force. She was done. She was tired. My Father, who has never been a man of many words, outside the stories he tells, begged and pleaded for a chance to make things right. But, it was too late. Once the door opened up, I stood to watch my Father leave our home for the very last time.

It was something about watching my Father walk away with so much pity that it captured my innocence. If my Mom didn’t want to save him, I would. I became determined to take on the responsibility of fixing my Father. He needed me and I couldn’t turn my back on him. I followed my Father downstairs alongside my Brother’s. We all began to say our goodbyes and when it was time for me to embrace my Father, he looked me in my eyes and said, ” I’m going away to get help”. Little did he know, I held myself to that promise more than I did him. My Father ended up staying in rehab a little over three months. I wrote to him everyday and would visit every chance I could get. It was almost as if his recovery became my own. The change in our home created a perturbance in me and in return I started to carry the burden of picking up the shattered pieces left over by my Father. It was my job to help him stay focused and make it through the program. I became obsessive. So much so, that it would eventually begin to define my existence. I felt important again… I felt needed again… I felt loved again… that was until my Father got out of rehab and he too had replaced me with another person to provide him comfort. By now, abandonment, resentment and the feelings of not being good enough all resided deep within me. I had become one with each of them and it is there where I would begin to find my own comfort; starting with my choices in men and my distrust for women in authority…

10 Comments on “Jesus Loves Me Part 1: Dad”

  1. I don’t know if I already said this, but I also think you’d like a book I edited called, Daddy: Reflections of Father-Daughter Relationships. You can find it here: kegarland.com

  2. Denise I’m so, proud of the woman you’ve become. I remember a lot because me and, your mom was tight. But I did not realize you were going through this….baby girl keep doing your thing. You are strong and phenomenal ❤️🙏🏾.

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