“I know it's dark now, but we gon' see the light. It's us against the world, we don't need him, right?” JAY-Z
When I was younger, I was my Grandparent's favorite grandchild. I would sleep in the bed with Grandma Ollie and Granddaddy Elmer. During our late-night sleepovers, my Granddaddy Elmer would always said: The man sleeps by the door. So he could be the first to respond if anything goes down. That saying is engraved in my mind. But I can’t help but think about what type of life he had to live to think that way. Did he witness being woken up by someone wishing him harm? Did he see that as a kid?
People like to think about slave movies as period pieces, not realizing that it's only two generations away. My Grandparents grew up in the Deep South. One of my last conversations with my Grandma O was her telling me how much she hated cotton. She said she had to quit school to pick cotton to help her family. On the plantation, she fell in love with a man known as the fastest cotton picker in the county. That man, of course, turned out to be my Granddaddy. With a distant look and a weary smile, she sighed and said no matter how hard she tried to get away from cotton. It always found her. That was until an unfortunate incident.
My Granddaddy, god bless his soul, cheated on my Grandma. But unlike most women who just stayed. My Grandma shot my Granddaddy and pistoled-whipped the woman in the front of the movie theatre. It was only inches from the police station. How my Granny got away with it, I will never know. But she did, packed up her kids, and took the first Greyhound out of Alabama. She ended up in Detroit. My Dad told me he cried the whole way because he was sure that his Daddy was dead. I learned this story a few years ago. When my cousin told me, it was with glee. But now I think about how hurt my Grandma must have felt.
To have the only man she loved treat her like a fool in front of everyone she knew. How my Grandma had to stop her education, stop her life, to pick cotton and who knows what happened on those plantations. All that hell she had to endure, and she couldn’t get the one man who was supposed to protect her to act right? It's no wonder she snapped. My Granddaddy survived and brought his ass to Detroit to be with his family. Abandoning and neglecting the baby he had with that lady. They went on to live a quiet life together.
By the time I came around, my Grandaddy was chilling in his room, eating peanuts. When he died, it was as though my Grandma took his place in that chair. I am shocked that I’m writing about my Grandma Ollie because I didn't feel close to her when she died. Due to the strain between my Father and I, it put a strain on all my relationships on that side. But when I'm cooking, it's her voice that I hear. When I get readings, it's my Granddaddy protecting me and showing up in my dreams.
He's been so active in my life that I sometimes find it confusing. Because how can I be so close to my Father's parents in death? But I can't be close to my Father in life? I have written my Father a letter to express my feelings, and all attempts to reconnect have turned into a three-way meetups with my Stepmother. It had gotten to the point that I told my therapist, "I think my Dad is afraid of being alone with me…”
For the longest time, I have always thought of myself as a Daddy’s girl. I love my Dad. I've put him on a pedestal. I have protected my Dad. But my Dad has not protected me. It took a literal dream for me to see. Due to my tinted version, I couldn’t see the truth of him. I could only see what I wanted to believe. But I felt the awkwardness. My Dad is a light. When he walks into a room, he’s the star. He’s charming and loves to tell stories. He's the best uncle—the best friend. You can ask anyone around, and they will say he's a good man. But I do not know that man.
My Dad has weekly dinners with his truck driver buddies. Things he do with his homies, my brother, and the list goes on and on. But when it comes to me? That is one appointment that he can't keep. This pain from my Father has made me examine what it means to be a “good” person. Is it the ability to show up for a random stranger and friends? Or is it your ability to take care of your spouse and kids? I have tried to suck down my feelings. I have tried to act like my Father’s passiveness towards me doesn’t matter. But it does. His dismissiveness has been a permission slip for others in the family to do the same. Besides, how can I have a healthy relationship with a man if I can’t even have one with my Father?
Sometimes I find myself mad at my parents because it feels like their self-involvement set me up to fail. People see my degrees, my job, and they call this bullshit success. But it's not. It's some shiny medals that America has poisoned our minds to believe it means something. But those degrees didn't teach me how to be a human. They didn't help me find my passion or hell, even myself. All it established was how good I was at taking test and conforming to a system. So, while my Mom patted herself on the back for a job well done. I was dying inside and at the start of a mental breakdown. Everyone talks about having haters. But what about having no one rooting for you at all?
All because they think you already “got it together.” Imagine your Dad telling you he’s giving you to your mentors because he has nothing to offer you. Which is shocking to me because the last time I checked, you didn't need a degree to be a parent. I say all this to say that I'm tired of my Dad treating me this way. I'm tired of him expecting 100% from me while I get less than 10%. That arrangement no longer works for me. I require reciprocity in all my relationships. In Conversations With God, it says:
As a practical matter- if you look at what is best for you in these situations where you are being abused, at the very least, what you will do is stop the abuse. And that will be good for both you and your abuser. For even an abuser is abused when his abuse is allowed to continue. For if the abuser finds that his abuse is acceptable, what has he learned?
Psychology Today says, "neglect is a form of abuse—a silent and less visible form.” But abuse nonetheless. However, reading and researching that information didn't lead to this revelation. It took reading Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones to realize how my Dad was treating me wasn’t right.
Sliver Sparrow is a book about a girl who spends her whole childhood knowing she’s a child of an affair. She would sneak to watch her Dad with his “other” family, and she lived only a few blocks away. My stomach was in knots all while reading the book. But by the end, I was sick to my stomach because it articulated what and how I'd been feeling for years. My Dad had abandoned me all while remaining an active parent in his other children's lives. Everyone knew it and no one cared. My Father, just like my Granddaddy, cheated on my Mother with someone who lived not even a mile away from her. My siblings will forever be marked as Ghetto Twins. My Father loves my Granddaddy and speaks highly of him even in death. I truly believe he wants to be just like him. So much so that he was willing to mimic the trauma and repeat his patterns.
My Granddaddy Elmer was everything to everybody. When he went back Down South for visits, he gave all his family members money. He looked out. He was a good person. But when he died, not one of those family members from the South came to Detroit for the funeral. It made my Dad so mad that he stopped returning to Alabama for years. We’ve been conditioned as a society to believe that the measure of a good person is how well you treat a stranger or friends. But it’s truly how you treat your kin. Because while there is a good chance your good deed can improve a friend’s life. It’s a 100% guarantee that your behavior as a parent will have an everlasting effect on your child's life. My Father may not be aware of the cycle that he is in. He may not ever learn from my Granddaddy mistakes.
But that will not be me. I see the cycle of trauma and I'm breaking that shit.
As an adult, have you ever had any revelations about your childhood?
How did you overcome on it?
Did you talk to your parent about?