Monday, November 2, 2009

A LETTER FOR MY FATHER: A Daughter Reaches Out to the Dad Who Never Was


Dear Daddy,

Mama told me your were dead.

Except that was way before you actually died.

But when I started acting up around age 16 or so—you know, the age when girls start “feeling their oats,” as Mama used to say—you suddenly came alive again, and next thing I knew, I was talking to you on the phone and not much later, I was on a plane to see you. I’m not mad at Mama any more for doing that. Mamas have all kinds of reasons for lying about the men in their lives. I don’t know, maybe she did it to protect me. I mean you walked out on her. Maybe she felt you would do the same to me. (At least that’s her side.) But I’m old enough to know there are two sides to every story. And then there’s the truth. Too often, people lie—first to themselves and then to their children and then to everybody else. I just know that I would never do that.

Anyway, I wasn’t sure what to expect the first time I met you. No one gave me the blueprint. Mama didn’t know what to do with me. I think I was messing up her relationship with her men. Don’t get me wrong: Mama didn’t have a lot of men. But I had a problem with the ones that she did have. So there I was at your doorstep. Unsure. Frightened. Awkward. I could tell that you felt the same way too.

You seemed confused—unsure whether to treat me like a little child or a young adult. You let me do what I wanted, even smoke. At 16, I thought that was so cool. I don’t think that’s so cool any more. I guess that was your way of making up for being absent my whole life. We both tried hard to forge a relationship out of nothing. No history. Only DNA. It was tough.

I went back home not sure if I was all the better after making your acquaintance. But I was glad to at least be able to say I “know” my daddy. We wrote, talked some more. But it was difficult. I tried. We would skip a couple years and then connect again and then skip a couple. This was not the way I thought it was supposed to be. But it was the way that it was. The tears are pouring down my face as I write, daddy. I guess I watched too much TV. I expected more.

And so I tried harder. Called more often. Made promises to visit soon. Then you went and got cancer on me. The kind that left a hole and a different voice in your throat—a stranger’s voice talking to me. I was so mad at you—couldn’t understand why you had to go and do that.

I think you knew that you would eventually die. Soon. At least that is how you acted. You acted like you didn’t care anymore. Like you didn’t care about me. That’s how I felt. We grew apart instead of closer together. I thought death or the threat of death was supposed to bring people closer. I was wrong about that, too.
But there was something I wanted to tell you while you were here with us, Daddy, and it is this: Every girl needs her daddy. By her side. I know things were difficult between you and mama. But so what? You should have made it work. You should have been there for me. You should have been at my first recital, at my graduations, at my suspensions, and at the birth of my daughter. That’s what little girls want—to look up and see her daddy smiling. We don’t ask for much. You should have tried harder.

Maybe if you were around, I wouldn’t have been molested. Maybe I wouldn’t have stayed out late at night and partied a little too much. Maybe if you were here I would have made better decisions about relationships. Maybe if you were here, I would have been a straight-A student instead of holding a B average, because I would have wanted to make you proud. Maybe if you were here, you would have sat your grandbaby on your lap and schooled her about life’s lessons.

Your grandbaby and I still made it, Daddy. You’d be proud. Your daughter kept her legs closed and only opened them up when love was present. That love gave birth to your first grandbaby, Kenya Jordana James. I went on to graduate college, got a big job in the music industry and then left to be a mother and entrepreneur. I know you’re smiling right now. I know you would love that part,‘cause you always went against the grain. Hell, now that I think about it, that’s where I got it from.

I understand, now, that that life sometimes takes us on twists and turns that we didn’t plan for—that time flies and there are things that we’ve all wanted to do that never got done. I’m not mad anymore.

I am still here.

And I’m working on making myself better. Still working on releasing the thoughts that could cripple me, kill me or even give me cancer. Still here making a better place for your granddaughter, whose father was killed when she was 3 years old. Know that while Kenya no longer has her biological father physically with her, she has been fathered by many who have given her what you were not able to give me. I made sure of that.

As for me daddy, I have decided that I’m not gonna give myself cancer or let these damn fibroids get the best of me. And I’m gonna let go of the pain and the past. The bitterness, too. And I’m gonna let you run free in the ancestral world so that you can be a daddy to me again.

As my angel.


Your daughter, Karen

About our MyBrownBaby contributor:
Karen Marie Mason, a mom of one, manages recording artists, hosts a radio show, promotes shows, is active in her community, and is finishing up her first book about motherhood. You can find her at HONOR MUSIC GROUP.

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  1. Daddys are so important...I wish more little girls and boys had their whole family in their daily lives. Sure would make tough days a whole lot easier.

    Beautiful letter...

  2. Very moving letter, Karen! You and Kenya represent the truly "Amazing" factor for two separate generations of women. Clearly, you made sure Kenya had everything she needed in terms of nurturing her yin and yang, b/c she is nothing shy of incredible, much like her Mama!

  3. I was adopted and never knew my dad (just what I heard about him from my grandma in Brasil) and havent meet him yet. Its still something that I would like to do but I dont know if I will ever be able to

    If you would like come check out my blog and enter my current giveaway at
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  4. This is a beautiful letter. It reminds me of how fortunate I was to have a close relationship with my father growing up even though he and my mom divorced when I was 5. That relationship has really shaped who I am today, and even when I don't get along with the women in my family, daddy is always there. It reminds me how fortunate my daughter is to have my husband here to watch her grow up and love on her daily.

    Your sincerity really moved me today. You and your daughter sound like incredible women!


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