My Three Dads
I was born on an unusually mild July day in Baltimore, Maryland. While people across the nation were preparing for barbecues and fireworks, my mother was in labor with me, her first born. And just as my Grandmother would often say of her only son, later in life my mother would also tell of how I was nearly given to a family of a different ethnic background. So it would seem that, from birth, God was preparing me for the adventure that was to be my entire existence.
By all social standards, my life wasn’t planned; but over time I’ve come to realize that that couldn’t be further from the truth. I have no doubt that God planned my birth before I was even a twinkle in my mother’s eye. I doubt that as she stared at me, bundled in her arms, anyone could have convinced her of the insurmountable pains that I would learn to hide with an honest and carefree smile. While admitting that my life has been full of tears and heartaches, there has been one pain that has haunted me greater than any other: the men that either took up or were given the role father figure. Where most people can name one man as daddy or father, I have three. I know it sounds questionable, but once you hear my story, it’s really not as crazy as what you may be thinking.
My first dad.
As far back as I can remember my Uncle has always been an amazing man. He showered me with so much affection that it only makes sense that he truly was the first man that I loved. And not only was he my Uncle, but my Godfather as well. I can’t say for sure what the pastor said on my Christening day, but I have to imagine that it was along the lines of: will you always protect, love, teach and care for her? To which he enthusiastically would agree and live from that point on doing exactly that. My Godfather/Uncle, who I am unashamed to say I adore maddeningly, is Jamaican born, so I was privy to healthy doses of porridge and culture growing up. I also was blessed to summer in the beautiful Jamaican countryside, which is likely one of the reasons that I fell in love with all things Jamaica. I have pictures of being asleep in my Uncle’s arms as he too slept, and skating in front of the house where, if I fell, he’d tell me I was okay and to get back up. My love for him runs so deep, and I can’t even conceive how my life would’ve been without him. To this day he holds an unmovable spot in my heart. He’s a constant in my life, Popop to my kids and a man with one of the most generous hearts to walk the earth. When I think of my Godfather, love just isn’t strong enough a word. I live my life knowing that God has to love me, because he gave me such a wonderful father.
My second dad.
When I was four years old my mom met and soon after married the man who would become my step father. I say with some reluctance that, in my own way, I was rebellious when it came to the man whom I was to call daddy. In the beginning I looked at him as an intruder ruining my life; but throughout innumerable stages over his decade plus marriage to my mother, the affection and varying levels of respect I had for him fluctuated and evolved continuously. However, no matter where I may have been emotionally and mentally at any given time, he never let me see him as anything other than daddy. He was at the school meetings, graduations, giving me rides to my friends’ houses and scrutinizing every boy that called or dared to walk past our mailbox. And even after his marriage to my mother ended, I was still one of his kids. My father was a deeply flawed man in his early years who fought for redemption in his latter days, and I was so proud for how he finished his race. If I were to have one regret, it would be that my children never truly got the chance to know their grandfather…and those precious what could’ve been moments can never be restored. March of 2018 marks the third year since he was granted eternal rest. There’s no denying, my step father was indeed my father.
My third dad.
Growing up I always had such a difficult time self-identifying. Even though I was encircled with a history that my Grandmother made sure I was aware of, a piece of who I was always seemed to be missing. As I got older I realized that this “misplaced” feeling primarily stemmed from having no relationship with my biological father. My physical attributes are so chameleon-like that, growing up, I imagined him being everything from East Indian to West Indian to Mulatto to Asian to Hispanic. I didn’t really talk to my mom about him, but that never stopped me from wondering who, what, or where he was. Given all of this it was almost natural that by the time I was in my early twenties I’d begin my search to find my biological father. I’d run into quite a few dead ends before, with a little guidance from my mother, I finally tracked him down. Right from the beginning we hit it off, and often talked for hours at a time. There was no awkwardness between us and I felt that, finally, I could be daddy’s princess. And when he bought my ticket to come visit for a few days, I was in heaven. We went so many places and visited family I never knew existed…I couldn’t have asked for a better first meeting. I was finally beginning to feel complete. Our communication had been thriving and growing for some time, but then things changed. See, my dad was single when I found him. So it was years later, after he got married and had another child, that I was pushed back out of the picture. To say I was hurt is an understatement. I felt like old wounds were ripped back open and left to bleed out, causing my anger to rekindle and boil over. It took some time, but I eventually chose to work through the pain and on myself. I ultimately realized that, out of all the men in the world, God chose him to help bring me into existence. No matter my hurt, I had to understand that I was well-prepared and strong enough to handle whatever came my way. So to my dad, I forgive you.
My story is complicated and full of irony. I started this race with no dad, a quarter of the way I had three dads, and now I’m down to one. Actually, I’m down to the first one I ever loved and I couldn’t be more thankful for him. At one point I would sit around daydreaming about how I’d have all three of them give me away at my wedding, eyes full of love and pride. But as I sit here in thought and flooded with memories I am also having a moment of revelation: if I do ever get married, in a sense, I will still have them. One dad beaming lovingly down from the heavens, one dad flowing through the blood in my veins, and one dad smiling down at me right before he whispers in patois with a laugh…. “Finally. I wasn’t sure if this day would ever come.” And now I can say with all surety: I am whole, I am complete, I love and am loved in return.