A favorite saying of my father’s. This too shall pass.
It used to make me crazy. I felt dismissed and not heard. This too shall pass. Are you kidding me?! That’s it?! That’s all I get?! It usually ended with the result my father really wanted which was me walking away, leaving him alone.
Now, I am writing about my father because of the conversation I had with Denzel Washington last Saturday night. You know, I simply cannot hide the fact that this is going on anymore. This talking and seeing celebrities. It’s…I mean, how many years can I pretend when I truthfully know? I do not believe it should be hidden either. I believe it has been a great disservice to pretend.
I told him I did not want to write the bad stuff about my father. It was not quite words I heard in response. It was however, the response that started me thinking differently.
I didn’t want to write the bad stuff about my father because he is still alive. The truth is I was hoping to use it for something else in my writing. Something not autobiographical. However, the conversation took place, so I have chosen to write. I cannot quite explain that either.
I have always been the peace-keeper between my mother and my father. That has been my role in my family. Between my mother and my father.
From a very early age I have been aware of the great violence in my father. I believe before I was ever told the stories from my mother and my brother. My father used to be – a violent man.
On the night of the wedding between my mother and father, my father took my mother by the hair and dragged her down the hallway. When I was told this story, I could believe it because I could see it. I don’t recall the exact age I was told this story. I was probably double digits young.
My father used to hit my brother. He used to hit my brother on the ear.
When I was born my father stopped. My father has never hit me. My father stopped hurting my mother and brother too after I was born.
I have this picture of my father holding my baby brother on his shoulder, lifting my baby brother’s arms up in the air. I have this picture out to look at because I do not know this man. This father that adoringly, happily looks at my brother when he was a baby.
Peacekeeper is not an easy job. It has been a burden I have been unable to vocalize and share throughout my life.
My father and mother did not share the same bedroom since I was eleven years old.
I used to sleep in my parent’s bed. Can you imagine a child being able to have knowledge without having knowledge? Knowing there was a problem.
One night my father picked me up put of the bed, I was kicking and screaming, and crying as he put me in my room. I did not go back again.
The next day, my mother moved out of their bedroom making another room in the house, hers alone.
My parents should have been divorced. There marriage was never reconciled. There marriage bed was never reconciled. It was my mother’s wish to divorce.
I don’t know how many churches my mother went to looking for advice, council, and help. She was so angry and hurt as every time she was turned away. Told to go back to her husband. Told he could get everything. Told horror upon horror story about trying to divorce yet keep the children. Understand divorce in the eighties was a different time.
My mother raised us.
My father was never around. My father worked the overnight shift most of my life which he enjoyed, so he could be excused from family time, functions, and conversations.
The few occasions he did show up usually after me begging and begging for him to go, he was never present. I constantly had to pull him. To make conversation. To be around.
This picture I have of my family – all four of us – at HCC, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, I begged and persuaded for days if not weeks for my father to attend.
There comes a point in your life when you’ve had enough.
By the time I was in my mid-thirties this relationship with my father was wearing thin with me. Do I constantly have to beg my father for attention? For conversation? To be a part of our family?
Each of my parents would have been in a better place, would have re-married, and have had love if they had been allowed to divorce.
I think my father resisted because he didn’t want to give my mother something she wanted. Because he had spent too many years pretending he was married when he was really a room-mate, and nothing more.
The stress of my father, dealing with my father brought the health problems that eventually killed my mother.
I truthfully believe since my mother could not get away from my father, or divorce him, she waited for the strokes to kill her. It is a burden I have kept to myself. My mother. My father.
I do not believe my story is so unique. I believe it is not a popular story. It does not make for a good sound bite, so it is often not reported on.
How many marriages are still true after the ceremony?
What my father failed within his own family, he has helped with others.
My father is a teacher. My mother was a teacher. My brother is a teacher. Wow, everyone is a teacher in my family, but me.
My whole life I have never known anything but a house full of people. All nationalities, cultures, colors, shapes. As long as you were a good person they were at our house.
When we lived in Oregon, my mother used to work with refugees helping them get established once in the states, helping them with services and so on. A sad fact about that job was how disheartened my mother became having to take away the delusion that every American did not live like the actors on Dynasty.
My father when in Oregon used to work for the county maintaining main-frame computers. I have no idea what he used to do other than receive a pay check.
When we moved to Florida, he started working teaching ESOL, and GED classes.
You know, I believe my father would have been happier his whole life if he could have stayed in the country of his birth, South Africa.
There is a story of my father escaping his homework by climbing out the window to go play soccer. Probably, he didn’t really have to study. I wondered if the school-work was too easy for him.
He left South Africa when he was sixteen to go to school in Chicago. Going to UCLA earning a master’s in history and getting a letter in cricket.
Whatever the reason his parents sent him from South Africa, for not every child was sent abroad most of his brother’s and sister stayed in South Africa, if it was for education, to separate him from someone, or something else. What I see in my father, what I know of South Africans is I do not believe it is possible to truly separate the people from the land. It is unique. It is unique to that place. The land, the people are each a part of one another.
I almost hate to say black and white. For it is not the same thing there.
I grew up listening to Miriam Makeba albums.
It is hard to describe. I am not sure I do a good job at painting the mind picture for you to see.
I have been forced to see and react differently. To turn away from, to choose to not step on the stop sign that has been black outlined. When the truth is I would never before paid attention to it. For it simply does not live in my heart. This choosing between black and white, or something else. It will never.
That being said, I have a right to choose who shares my bed.
My father works at a half-way house for men – usually drug charges – who have not yet received their GED. The first time I went with him, I dropped him off for some reason. To see the way the men, look at him and treat him – like he was a god. Carrying his supplies, asking him questions, doing for him without even asking. It was astonishing.
He has helped many men achieve something beyond their conviction.
How interesting can this be to read?
Who actually reads anything I write?
Anymore, I do not know the truth about me.
There is too much pretend.
No wonder I want it all to end.
Too much of my life already has been pretend.
Which is one thing I hoped would change when I moved here instead of the exact same thing and neighborhood I left.