I’m 43 Years Old and I Still Suffer from “Father Issues”

“She has daddy issues” is how we tend to describe women who are either sexually loose or emotionally dysfunctional when it comes to intimacy and relationships. My issues are not of that sort. However, I’ve never married, so maybe there is a bit of dysfunction there. We’ll get back to that, but that’s not really the point of this piece.

According to a 2010 study, 72 percent of African-American children were born to unwed mothers. Now that’s not to say that 72 percent of these children do not have active and supportive fathers in their lives, but unfortunately, I suspect a good number of these unwed women do not have the full support of their children’s fathers – financial or otherwise. And believe it or not, it’s that “otherwise” that is most important.

While I now know my mother had certain financial struggles in raising me, I didn’t as a child. As far as I knew we were well off. My needs – and many of my material wants – were taken care of. I thought all of my emotional needs were taken care of as well. My attitude was my father wasn’t there and I didn’t need him. Looking back, that attitude was only a defense mechanism that allowed me to cope with the existence of being a fatherless child.

I’m not the typical fatherless child, though I don’t know what is a typical fatherless child. I bare the name of my father and I’ve learned to embrace my Jr. as a source of pride and motivation. Though I never asked my mom why she named me after my father, knowing my mother, it was her way of saying to him “you will not deny this child in any way.”

My existence as a fatherless child was also atypical in that I grew up very close to my father’s family. My paternal grandmother adored me. My father’s sister in many ways stepped in as a second mother and her husband served as more of a father to me than as an uncle. Yet, with all that support, none of them could be my father and none of them could fill the emotional void of feeling abandoned by my natural father.

For most of my life a bore a deep-rooted anger (I stop short of saying hatred, because in truth, I still had a sense of love) towards the man. That anger ate me up inside.

Then, as fate would have it, several years ago my father was diagnosed to be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. My aunt and uncle encouraged me to visit him in his assisted living facility in Upstate New York. I’ve done so on two occasions. And while I’ve gotten rid of the anger, the pain still exists. Forty-three years later, the pain is still there.

The pain is not just my pain, but also the pain of knowing what my mother had to deal with in trying to raise a boy into a man. The pain remains from being 13 years old and losing my mother and not one phone call from my father to say “I’m coming to get you” or “hey son, how are you holding up?”

Now I’m trying to build a relationship with my father (in all my interactions with him, I cannot call him dad), but in a bit of irony (some would call it karma, but I choose not to think of it in that way) the roles are somewhat reversed. He’s the one who need care and he’s the one who needs support. And believe it or not, I’m glad that I can be there. I’m glad because I know our relationship – as fractured as it is – would have meant so much to my grandmother and I can tell it means a lot to my aunt. I’m glad we can have these short moments together because of the self-healing that’s taking place inside me. I’m glad because though I am a man of 43 years, in many ways I’m the boy sitting on the stoop waiting for my father to arrive home.

My experience is unique, but with 72 percent of African-American babies born to unwed mothers I am far from alone in this type existence.

How can our young black boys learn to be strong black men if there are so few strong black men providing the example? How can our adorable black girls grow to know what a healthy, positive relationship with a man should be if they never get to see one first hand?

I’m 43 years old and I’ve never been married and I don’t have any kids. See, even as a child I understood the void in my life and vowed to never have kids unless I could be 100 percent involved in my child’s life. Neither my future child, nor their mother deserves less than my full commitment. My legacy shall not be one of passing on “father issues.”

12 thoughts on “I’m 43 Years Old and I Still Suffer from “Father Issues”

  1. Thanks for sharing your truth and being so candid. I had a relationship with my father, and becasue of it, I had a sense of worth as a young girl, and as a woman. My brother was younger than I when our father was killed. He did not get the same time I had with my father. I see him do all the things he did with our father with his sons. And I see him do the things he wished he had the opportunity to do.

    I am glad you are able to spend this time with your father, and give the boy in you the opportunity to heal and exhale.

    Excellent article!

  2. Your article really “spoke” to me today of all days. I literally just returned from the cemetery. My father passed exactly 30 years ago today when I was 14 years old. He and my mom were married until I was 12 years old. In my case, staying together for the sake of the children was detrimental not only to me but to all of my older siblings (sister and two brothers). To write that my siblings and I all have father issues is a major understatement. It wasn’t horrific yet it wasn’t a positive or harmonious situation either. I see the wounds in each of us deep down although most people would not know the wiser as we are caring and lovable people. I am your age and while we experienced different situations, I too either consciously or subconsciously decided that unless I was in a 100% happy and committed relationship, if I was blessed to bring children into this world, I’d want a loving mother AND father in the home for the children. I did not want my children to feel the void that I felt all these years.

    Good luck with your life journey. You are a good person to now care for your father in his time of need.

    1. My most sincere hope is that by sharing my plight others too can begin to heal. Thank you for adding your insights to this unfortunately common situation.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It was so timely as I’m going thru a situation with my 15 year old grandson that I’ve raised since birth. You’ve given me another point of view to consider in making the most difficult decision of my life.

  4. Thank you for all you do for your grandson. I was raised by my grandmother following the passing of my mother and I’m so grateful for every lesson she taught me.

  5. Great read. Fatherless, unwed mothers kids have a voice in your perspective. Appreciated the openness into how growing up without a father is a defining part of shaping what you want and don’t want to happen. Easy written flow helped to grasp a very difficult subject. Nice use of statistics and social generalizations giving a sense of inclusion into your very individual reflection.

  6. The most powerful and mature piece was when you summoned the strength to care for your father when he needed. That speaks to the great faith and love that you developed over the years. I know your mother is looking down from above, bursting with pride. Then there’s your grandmother, who is a remarkable woman, and her role in raising an excellent, successful man cannot be minimized!

  7. Mr. Colbert, this article is spot on. Though you write about the black community, it speaks to every race, and every young man and young woman that is growing up in a fatherless home. I feel that this is an epidemic in this country that is colorless. Children need a strong male role model along with a strong female role model. Grand parents, aunts, and uncles are sometimes wonderful “fill ins”, but they will never fully replace a real mother and father. With so much that is going wrong in this country, I think a large percentage of society’s ills could be repaired if we could address this single issue and lower the atrocious number of single parent homes. Thank you for sharing your story and I pray that you may find some peace in caring for your father.

  8. I really enjoyed your piece. I am currently writing a book entitled “Black Fatherhood: Exploring The Importance of The Black Father.” I would love it if you gave me permission to use your story in my book. Your can go to amazon and see that I have published serval books of poetry, but this is my first book of this genre. If not I still wish you the best and thanks for sharing a great piece of real life.

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