Letters Week: A Letter to My Father by Naamonde Williams
As I look back over my life, I recognize that a lot of the mistakes I’ve made were tied to longing for something that I never truly had; something that was a part of me that I would never fully know. The agony of knowing that there was half of me that would always be a mystery is blinding. There are seemingly impenetrable layers of me that are influenced by your absence. Though I’ve talked to you at times in life, received your letters riddled with pretentious promises, and said countless, empty “I Love You’s”, I’ve never really talked to you. There is no time like the present…
My most vivid memories of you involve escape. So much so that even here in my present, escape is a prevalent theme. It started with us escaping you and you escaping us. A never-ending cycle of escape that carried with it the burden of abuse, neglect and abandonment is what begin to shape my perspectives in my earliest years. I’ll never forget the pain you inflicted on my mom and us. I’ll never forget pain teaching me at 5 years old that people could be hurt because of the things that I do. If you can’t recall, let me remind you. Mommy and I returned home from Dr. Millard’s office. I had been a “bad girl” in the dentist’s office, and mommy wanted to discipline me. She spanked me. You heard my cries, and that triggered your violent drunken/high response. You choked her, slapped her, screamed at her, and poured beer on her amongst other things. That day was a whirlwind of destruction as the abuse went on for hours. With each of her cries, I remember promising myself that no one would ever feel pain because of me. The only thing that my 5-year-old mind could process was that this was my fault. I remember feeling that if I had just been a good girl and made everybody happy then no one would be hurt because of the things that I did. So from that point on it was my mission to be “good”. While this was my resolve, mom’s was escape. She knew we had to go because we would possibly all end up destroyed. Yes, I remember that. Yes, it’s still a part of me.
I have spent so many of my years searching for perfection that does not exist. I have neglected to give myself grace while all the time extending it to others so that they could not be hurt by anything that I did. Needless to say, the mistakes came. I didn’t handle them well. Each time I was hurt, or inadvertently caused hurt I was nearly destroyed. Each time I wanted to cry out to someone and talk about what I was feeling, I stopped because it felt like this is what I deserved. I felt like it was my fault you never made good on your promises. I felt like it was my fault that you never showed up for anything that was important to me. All of the blame, I carried because back then I didn’t understand that it was bigger than me. Robert, before I learned all the things I know now, I wished that you were there. I wish that I could find the truth in the promises you made to us. So many raggedy ass boys I wished you could have chased away, so many secrets I wish I could have shared with you, so many days I wished I could just have my daddy to cherish me and tell me that I was exquisite. I wish I had my dad to teach me how I should be treated. I wished you were there to cheer me on at my basketball and softball games. I know that having you there wouldn’t have solved all of life’s problems, but I do believe a lot of the answers I sought would have been revealed. There’s still a little girl inside of me that searches for the fairy tale of a loving father. That little girl still waits for the security of your embrace. That little girl searches for you in every man that she loves. That little girl wanted to love you with every breath in her body.
Time has passed now, and I am a full-grown woman. I can honestly say navigating life without you has been interesting, but as I grow out of the lies I have fed myself as a result of your escape I realize that I needed all of these experiences to shape me into who I am now. I also know that had you stayed as you were, we would have all been broken into the tiniest pieces that would have taken a lifetime to repair. So thank you for letting us go. Even though you missed out on knowing and raising amazing children, we thank you. While you left us bruised, we were not broken. It took overcoming many obstacles, but Mommy and the grace and mercy of our God kept us in tact. We became triumphant because of what we lived through with you. The rejection does not sting as much anymore, and I have accepted that I don’t need to be perfect. I just need to be me.
Before, I go I will leave you of one more memory that isn’t quite as painful. In fact, it changed the way I see you with my heart. I remember the last time I saw you at Grandma Marie’s place after almost 20 years. I observed the little things about you. Like the way you talk with your hands, the brightness of your smile, the conviction that you spoke with about the things you hold dear to you, and the heartiness of your laughter. I saw myself in you, in those gestures, in those moments. There was sadness intertwined with glee because I now had memories that weren’t tied to the worst of you. I can honestly say that the longing for you has never gone away, but I am here now saying that even though our relationship is still fractured because of decades old issues and communication, I love you with the Love of God, the little girl inside of me knows that she is safe, she knows she is not to blame, and I am grateful for the men that showed up in our lives because of your departure. It’s true that they could never replace you and the illusions I had of you, but they have come pretty close.
Peace and Light,