I am writing to let you know that I am a man now. This may come as a surprise to you, but I have some things I need to say. For most of my life, I told myself I didn’t need you. Big ma taught me the Serenity Prayer when I was just a kid. You not being in my life was something I couldn’t change, so I learned to live without you. I did all right. Been locked down from being in these streets, but I made it.
Growing up, mama would get mad and tell me I was just like “my daddy.” I always thought that was funny, especially since I never knew who that was. I was in and out of trouble in school. They said I had an “anger problem.” Well, that wasn’t no surprise to me. Heck, yeah, I was angry!
I was angry that when I looked at myself in the mirror I couldn’t see who I was. I was angry that I wore a face of the man who left me before I was even born. I was angry that I couldn’t identify the person who I got my walk from or my personality from.
I swore if I was to ever have kids I would be in their lives because I wanted them to know who I was, but most importantly, I wanted them to know who they were. Well, I do have a little son now and he’s the reason I am writing to you.
I need you to know that I forgive you. Not for you, but for me and for my son. See, I can’t be the type of father I want to be to my son until I confront my own issues with mine. I thought I didn’t need you, but maybe I did. I thought I didn’t care, but maybe I did.
Whenever I look at my son, I am reminded of what I’ve been through because I didn’t have nobody to belong to. “Li’l man,” he belongs to me. He’s mine and I’m gonna be the type of father he can be proud of. He’s gonna know why he has that gap in between his teeth and that funny laugh. He’s gonna be able to look in the mirror and not be ashamed to wear his face.
What I want to give to my son is so much greater than the built-up anger I’ve been holding for you. So, before I am able to give to him, I have to let this go. I may have your face, but I am not the man you are. I know who I am now and I have you to thank for part of that.
What gardener plants seeds and leave them unattended? While the flowers may sprout up from the rainwaters and sunlight that occur naturally, the gardener must be attentive to ensure the flowers grow to their fullest potential.
This is a fictional letter of a factual issue within our communities. It reminds us of the sense of self that is robbed from our sons and daughters like a worm eating away at a budding flower. The sense of self is eaten away until they are ashamed of what they see. When they feel inadequate about the holes in their lives, they sometimes find not-so-good things and people to fill those places.
Fathers and mothers, tend to your garden.
In the words of William Shakespeare, “It is a wise father that knows his own child.”
Contact columnist LaTonya Dunn at firstname.lastname@example.org.