Warning: Those of you expecting a typical humorous DD entry will be disappointed. I’m feeling melancholy today.

Father’s Day has been a bittersweet holiday for me since 1999. 1999 was the year my first son was born. It was also one year after my father was murdered. As much as I love my children and feel the blessing of their birth every day, on the 2nd Sunday in June, I also feel the burden of not having my father here with me.

My father and I were not close. At all. Oh, when I was young, I thought he hung the moon and bought the stars just for me. He was a character; smart, funny, charismatic, able to talk to anyone about anything. The problem was, he often told anyone anything to get them to help him out or to curry favor. He was a charlatan, a chameleon, a man who knew every angle and cut every corner. As I got older, I began to see that more and more.

He and my mom got married to each other twice. Twice. Once before I was born, naturally, then divorced when I was in the 2nd grade; and again when I was a junior in high school, then divorced when I was a freshman in college. And in between, he was married again to another woman whom I hated with every ounce of my 12 year old being. I spent a few summers with them up in New Jersey, and all I can really recall about them was Dad going to work and leaving me at home with The Shrew all day, who damn-near insisted that I call her “mom”. I informed her quickly that I HAD a mother, and that she was in South Carolina, not New Jersey. It all kinda went downhill from there. Oh, I also watched “The Terminator” on VHS every…single…day. All summer. It was my greatest joy.

When Dad and Mom remarried a few years later, I was happy, but by then I was getting a feel for how my dad really was as a person. Phone calls went unreturned; promised gifts and money and cards and trips went unfulfilled. Still, he was a hero to me, in the way that any parent in a divorced home is, when the child isn’t living with that parent. Dad represented freedom from the oppressive regime instilled by my mom, whose job it was to raise me. Kids don’t get that. All they know is that Mom is the one putting them on restirctions, or whipping that ass when they screw up. The other parent is seen as a savior, and that’s how I viewed my dad, warts and all.

I never heard my mom and dad fight. Ever. Never saw them disagree, never heard a cross word between them, never saw the looks and glances of couples having silent arguments in front of others. However, when Mom told me that they were splitting up, I wasn’t surprised, or even hurt, really. The only thing I said was “Is that what you want?” She said yes, and then I asked how everything else was. Like I said, I had an inkling of what my Dad was like, and truly, their divorce didn’t affect me much in college. I was on my own by then.

I didn’t get the full brunt of the Dad experience until after their second divorce. By then, I was attempting to be self-sufficient, and Mom was trying to help me where she could, but times were tight. I asked him for help a few times…please help me get a car so I can get a job…please loan me $100 so I can buy groceries…and time and time again, I’d get the “Sure, buddy, I’ll wire you the money.” The money never got wired. The car never arrived. He showed up 8 hours late to pick me up from college at the end of my first year, big ol’ heart-melting smile on his face, with no explanation on his lips. I had sat there, on the curb, evicted from my dorm room, for 8 hours, afraid to leave lest he show up when I wasn’t around. That experience told me that he couldn’t be counted on, and I began to wean myself from him.

A few years went by with little contact…I was busy trying to survive college, and he was becoming a minister. He contacted me to tell me the news, and it was difficult not to laugh at the thought of him leading a flock toward salvation. But hey, maybe he had changed his ways. Maybe he had seen the light. Maybe was a changed man.

He wasn’t.

He was still up to his old tricks, only from the pulpit. He was swindling people And in the interim, he had legally adopted a kid from the streets. This angered me beyond belief. I was his REAL son, and he could never bring himself to do anything for ME, but yet he could feed, house, and raise a stranger – and had the audacity to call him my “brother”. Fuck. That. But I tried to be the bigger man. I accepted his offered hand, hoping to repair and preserve the relationship. But as I saw more and more of what he was about, the more I didn’t want to be a part of that life. I knew he had smoked pot back in the day – hell, not knowing what they were, I used to sell the roaches to the kids across the street for $0.25 each. I didn’t know why they wanted them, but I knew the value of a quarter. But Dad was now into bigger shit, worse shit. And he was dealing with people who didn’t like the word “no”. I disassociated myself from him completely. He had a son. He didn’t need me.

My wife had just left that morning on a work trip to Boston when I got the phone call. At first, I couldn’t believe what my Mom was telling me. It didn’t register…like hearing jibberish when you expected to hear winning lottery numbers. I couldn’t track it. But as it sank in, I felt the full crushing weight of the news:

“Your father was shot and killed last night in his office.”

As bad as this was to hear, as utterly devastating as it was, it was only made worse by the fact that about 2 weeks prior, my mom called me, saying that Dad wanted my phone number so we could talk. I told her no. I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t deal with his bullshit…maybe later.

Maybe later.

He was my dad. I didn’t like him, but I loved him, and I never had the chance to tell him that. People, I’m not much for giving advice, unless asked directly. But try not to miss an opportunity to tell the people you love how you feel, while you have the chance. I wouldn’t’ve listened to that advice 8 years ago.

I’m gonna go hug my kids now. Happy Father’s Day, everyone.

Peace.

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