Written Father’s Day, 1996, this letter is an excerpt from my book, “Dear Dad: Reflections on Fatherhood”:
Dear Dad, I’m sitting here at the computer this morning writing this letter. Imani and Monica are fine. The Bulls look terrible. I can’t believe the Sonics have won two games. Man oh man.
Sitting here, I am filled with emotion. On Father’s Days in the past I have felt the same kind of things, but really have not been able to come to grips with my feelings. It’s even harder to talk about it. But I’m going to try:
I have at times in my life been very angry with you. Not necessarily for how you treated me, but how you treated my mother. I have been so very angry. But not only angry, I have been disappointed, troubled and hurt. I have found that those feelings have at times covered up everything good I felt about you. All the things you have done for me. The times when you were the only man in my life that I could really turn to for help.
I have been angry about the times when as a child we would wait for you to come home from work and we would be hungry. The times when I would as a kid clean up the house so that maybe you wouldn’t have anything to fuss about. I felt like you could have been a better husband, a better man, a better father.
And many of my feelings of anger and hurt, I carried to adulthood. I cannot lie. I cannot say that I still don’t feel them sometimes. At 35, it still makes me cry. And I wish I could wipe all of that ugliness away with all the hurt and pain and anger. But I can’t. And I believe that if you could go back and change some things, you would. But you can’t.
So where does that leave us? I don’t know. I do know that despite the anger and hurt, that I love you.
I have come to understand that it ain’t so easy being the man of the house. I’ve also learned that no matter how perfect a father I have tried to be, I have made mistakes. Hey, I’m only human. And I realize that so are you. And I want you to know that I do forgive you.
I thought about all the sacrifices you made for us. The times when you were there for us. Through disappointment. Through pain. Through marriage. And those feelings of hurt and anger I talked about earlier seemed to fade away.
It’s funny how in relationships we dwell on the bad. On the pain. But in my heart this morning is the joy of knowing a man who was not my natural father, but who was there many, many times that I needed him.
When I am playing with Imani, making faces, laughing, calling her names, I hear a piece of you in me. When I say, “Too late for the camel, ’cause the pig’s got his eyes closed” (whatever that means), I hear you. I sometimes hear Santana, Bobbie Gentry, the Mississippi Delta blues, and I hear you. And I realize that you are a part of me because you are my dad.
I’m still working on being a better man, a better father, a better husband. I hope and pray that you are too. Regardless, I still love you. Your son, John.