Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Dear Dad (excerpt from new book)

Dear Dad,

I know we’ve never met, but I still imagine you being there for me the way I see other fathers being there for their daughters; makes me wonder how it would feel to be pushed on a swing, walked to school, carried on your shoulder or just be held so tightly like I matter. You see, I’m grown up now and my needs have changed from learning how to ride a tricycle to knowing how to drive. Yet I find myself still wishing you were around to help me understand myself and this crazy thing called life. And though you broke up with mom, I just wished you hadn’t broken up with me because it’s not easy for a girl in the hood to grow up without a dad. Boys step to you any ol’ way ‘cause they know you don’t have back-up; and grown men step to you too, many of them fathers themselves, and try to get you into their cars ‘cause they think you’re that desperate for affection. I see it happen every day. Even males in my family try to play me just ‘cause I’m female and nothing’s ever done about it. Seems like no matter how fowl a boy is, he gets away with stuff just ‘cause he’s male while a girl who brings in good grades and stays out of trouble is expected to cater to him. That’s what I mean by this crazy thing called life. There’re so many different sets of rules and I need to understand why. Like I don’t understand how a man can make a baby and never check to see if she’s okay. How does that work? Do you block it out of your mind like it didn’t happen? Help me understand. Whenever you see a dad and his daughter, do you think of me? Or do you wonder at what age she’ll be before she’s ready to date you?

I’m almost done with high school and plan on attending college, thanks to mom and all the troubles she went through to help me get this far without ever a single hand or dollar from you. I don’t know why exactly you and mom split up, and I guess grown-ups have the right to go their own way when they don’t get along anymore. But you could’ve at least tried seeing me, even if she was too angry with you to let you. You could’ve gone to family court and demanded your weekend visits. Kids of divorced and separated parents know the drill now. We’re smart enough to know that mothers can be very spiteful and fathers innocent. But to not even try ‘cause you just don’t want to be bothered with courts and child support? Help me understand.

I’m happy, though. Got lots of friends, and I’m the one most likely to succeed in whatever I put my mind to. ‘Cause not only am I a survivor, I’m a miracle! I wasn’t even supposed to be here, in case you didn’t know that I was born premature. But my grandmother told me that I was making such a fuss inside mom’s belly that the doctor said, ‘This child has important things to do and she’s not waiting any longer!’ And that’s how I got my name. If you even know my name.

Sometimes when I’m quiet and just looking out the window, I wonder what you might look like; if I got your ways, and if you’re somewhere by a window too wondering about me. But I’m not alone. Most of my friends either don’t get along with their dads or never even seen them, so how can I miss out on something so many others don’t have either? But it must be nice to just go about your bizness without a care in the world. Must be cool to go out on a date and never mention me. Must be peachy-king to go around chasing chics who’re old enough to be your daughter. Must be real nice!

Anywho—that’s how I like to say it, by the way. One of my little quirks. Like French fries and mayo, sitting by water, or writing poems. Am I your daughter?

But I’m doing fine without you, considering how challenging my early teens were. It wasn’t the growing pains so much or trying to figure boys out, but deciding who I’m supposed to be with so many different messages I was getting in music videos, at afterschool hangouts and in the school cafeteria. As much as mom tried to teach me the difference between a decent boy and a playa, your loud absence told me that even a good guy can play you. In a way, you did do your part in raising me. So I should thank you for helping me find my way on my own and learning that I’m much stronger than I thought; that the best thing I can do is keep my head up and make the ones who matter proud!

Not yet mailed

"This book was a joy to read and share with others...It should be seriously considered by persons conducting workshops, teaching courses, or providing counseling on [youth] development..."

-- Dr. Alvin Lee Keyes, Clinical Psychologist

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