The way my father looks at me is as if he is looking at the world in every color, tone, measurement, and description all at once. He takes me in — processes me, and tries to understand my words while I am speaking. He hears me. It is a blessed feeling to allow someone to dissect what you are saying when at times, those words have proven difficult to express. Given my father’s background and his marriage to the church as an elder and minister, listening is one of the things he does best. Coming out to my father was not as hard as I envisioned it would be. As a matter of fact, it was quite easy. He knew I had something to share, he had known for years — thus, he pressed forward with opening the door to our conversation about who I, his daughter, was. I touch on this just a bit in “Unconditional.”
“Listen to me, baby. You are my child. I don’t care about anything else. I love you for who you are, you hear me? That will never change. Never.”
I could never have selected another man in this world to be half of what makes me whole. It would be pointless and an impossible feat. My father was made just for me at a time when roaming the streets, hanging out with his friends, and catching up on homework should have been the only things on his mind. To be a teenager, trying to bring a female mini-version of himself up in a crazy world, I am sure, was the last thing he wanted. But he did it and in his own way. I had enough years with my father in our home to know what I should know about life and understand what I should about right versus wrong.
“You can come to me. I hope you’ll always remember that. I love you.”
He fathered the way he knew how. He stumbled. He struggled. He made a ton of mistakes. But one thing he did not fail at doing is loving me. It took me nearly fourteen years after my parents’ divorce to realize that fact. Today, I can call my father up and we can chit-chat about whatever, like whatever is the best thing since jelly on toast. We can hoot, holler, boast, brag, and commend each other freely without that awkward silence that used to layer itself around us.
“I no longer have to wonder what my dad will say or do about his oldest daughter being bisexual. I no longer have to shelter, hide, or deny myself happiness thinking I will be shunned from the spirit of the messenger. After all, I am his child.”
I am grateful for a father who openly loves me and dotes on me around his peers regardless of how many of them misinterpret the Bible. He has not struck me down — with words nor his fists. He tries to guide me in his own way and sometimes it may come off a bit preachy (that’s a given), he notices the coldness before I can even utter a word and simplifies and coats his words with love so as to not break my heart. There were years when I did not mention him, would not mention him. He was there, but not there. Not to me. Divorce can cloud a teenager’s mind and when step-parents are introduced, it can do even more.
I think back now to many of the hurtful things I said — how I allowed myself to let my tongue walk all over him without apologizing for my crassness. My father, knowing who I was at my core, gave me the space to vent and be free with my words in my growing up years without causing me to shrink. One thing he would say often was, “When you are older, you will know all that I did for you, how hard I tried.” I did not recognize the importance of that then. Oh, but I do now.
I am equal parts Michael and equal parts Angela and with the two of them buried deep inside my veins, I am one person. I finally understand why I ached for so many years when I thought of, interacted with, and tried to hold on to a bond with my father — stubbornness. The older I get, the better I am becoming at understanding who he is simply because he has always tried to understand who I am. My eyes are no longer closed.