While Father’s Day for many is a highly anticipated holiday when fathers everywhere are recognized by their kids for providing unconditional love and support, this day has evoked many painful memories for me. I have encountered a lifetime of distressing experiences with a man I view as everything but a father, instead I remember him as a heavy drinker that terrorized my childhood and adulthood with emotional and physical abuse. I chose to celebrate moms who stepped up for all the dads who did not, especially my own.
As a kid, I wanted desperately to look past my father’s flaws and to celebrate the day that society designated as a day to recognize him. Giving him a card or a gift felt disingenuous, considering I felt he really deserved coal like a bad kid at Christmas. As I transitioned into adulthood, the gift giving desires came and went as I wrestled with wanting to build a relationship with a man with whom I share DNA while holding onto the scarred memories of every interaction we had.
The casualty of a lifetime of hurt from our interactions left me with a deep rooted hatred for Father’s Day. I would cringe when I saw ads for Father’s Day gifts. My blood would boil when people asked, “What are you doing for your dad?” I was so disillusioned with the day that I couldn’t even offer a Father’s Day greeting to men I knew were wonderful dads. My own “daddy issues” had completely shifted the purpose of the day and became the only lens through which I could view. That was until I had a heartfelt conversation in response to a blog post written by a friend of mine.
Though she has never met her dad, she chose not to frame her view of the day around her own absentee father or the “daddy issues” that came along with never knowing who he was. Instead, she embraced and celebrated her grandfather, who was the father figure she knew. That was a light-bulb moment for me that made me sit back and consider how my own maternal grandfather played the father role in my life. He was the epitome of what every man should be to his children and shared the same love with his grandchildren. Wilfred Jeffery was my example of fatherhood. He loved me unconditionally, he celebrated me, he held me, he loved me, he picked me up when I cried, he fiercely protected me. I was his angel from the moment my mother told him she was pregnant with me. And, it was in the happy thoughts of my “grandaddio,” my nickname for him, that I was able to find healing and reclaim Father’s Day.
This Father’s Day, I decided to celebrate the father figure I realized I have in my grandfather. This year, I also challenged myself to celebrate the countless Black fathers stepping up to the plate and being dads to their kids. Even in small gestures of celebrating black fatherhood, we begin to combat the negative examples mainstream media lauds at black fatherhood. It helps to destroy the myths that black dads are absent and puts a face to the CDC’s statistics that black dads are just as involved and sometimes more so than other races.
But for many of us, the journey to celebrating begins with letting go of our own burdened experiences with our fathers and replacing them with positive memories experienced with other men who have made a difference in our lives, be it a grandfather, a mentor, a professor, a friend’s father, or even the father of our own children. We all have someone we can celebrate this year!