My folks split when I was about three and I don’t have too many memories of him. We moved from Michigan to Florida shortly after that, so I didn’t even have the luxury of weekend visits or anything. Unfortunately, my father refused to travel down to FL because he insisted he would be tarred and feathered or hung for marrying a white woman. This made my life a little sad.
When I was eleven I was angry and told my mother I wanted to go live with my dad–hey I was a kid–I figured it would have to be a better life. So my mom took me to Michigan to meet my father. Okay, not the dream reunion I had envisioned. He was more nervous than I and the entire visit was very uncomfortable. We did come to an understanding. He didn’t want me to live with him, but we could talk on the phone every once in a while.
Being the clever kid that I am, I started calling him collect every month. At first he would refuse the charges, but eventually he began accepting them and we settled into a monthly routine. Eventually, I started just calling on my own dime.
Over the years I began sending him pictures and report cards, and those special little things you always hope your parents will be proud of. We developed a very good long distance relationship and as I grew older, he made a point of telling me during each call that he loved me and that he was proud of me. My dad was not a favorite among the other members of my family (my mom’s side) and I never knew his side of the family. But over the years, he came to be a tremendously important person in my life. Our phone calls even increased to sometimes twice a month and we both looked forward to them.
Now, I envied all my friends who had both a mom and dad, but many of them were not close to their dads. I have to say that despite the distance and circumstance, we did grow very close. For years I feared that when he passed I would have regrets for not being there, or not knowing him better, or being a better daughter, but when the time finally came I didn’t have the regrets.
I remember my last call with him. We talked for a little while. I told him about my current drama, he reminded me not to marry a white man, and when we ended the phone call he reminded me how truly proud of me he was and that I had turned into a fine young woman. He said he loved me and and always had, and I told him I loved him too.
A week later, I got the call. I was devastated. I would never truly know my father, I would never feel his influence in my life. But I realize now that I did know him. Probably as well as anyone and that even with simple phone calls he had influenced my life because I worked twice as hard to make sure he was proud of me because I couldn’t be there for him.
My last words with my father were of love and I could not ask for anything more. I know that I’m truly blessed, even if we could not be together. I am who I am because my father played a tremendous role in my life, even from far away. For this I thank God every day.
I love you, Daddy. Always.