Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Daddy Dearest

Sorry it’s taken me a few days to post. Things have been busy on the home front. At any rate, here’s a blog I wrote back in December. It’s a long read, so if you don’t make it all the way through on the first read, come back and finish it later.

For the past few weeks, I haven’t been feeling my best. Those of you that know me love (or hate) my quick wit and (sometimes mean-spirited) jokes. But, they have been on hiatus and my usually easy smile has become infrequent. I had been moping around for a few days, complaining to my BMFF [best male friend forever] and my BGFF [best girl friend forever] about:
1) My life being utterly boring
2) My job being a hellhole, and
3) My checking account being empty (not necessarily in that order).

I didn’t think anyone else noticed the fact that I’d had a terrible case of the “blahs”. At work, I kept on a happy face and most of my friends thought I was pretty happy with the way things have been going in my life. But, this weekend, when I was hanging out with my parents, my father noticed that something wasn’t quite right.

Now, for those of you that know the nature of my relationship with my father, you know that I avoid speaking to him at ALL costs. I am cordial, saying “hello” and “goodbye”, but I steer clear of any conversation that takes us further than casual greetings. We get along so much better when we are only exchanging pleasantries. I used to talk to him all the time, letting him on my innermost thoughts and dreams. After all, he is a mental health professional who tends to build a rapport easily with his clients and with complete strangers. But, the second I let him any further into my life, our relationship heads straight down the toilet. He is super-critical, outrageously judgmental, highly opinionated and über-conservative. All of which means that when he is around, my mouth stays, pretty much, cemented shut.

But, on Sunday, he approached me and asked if he could speak with me for about 15 minutes. I immediately tensed up. I just knew that he could only be interested in criticizing me about something I had done or said. But, I reluctantly left my place on my parents’ couch and headed downstairs to chitty-chat with my dad. We are sitting in his blue-walled man room with the TV turned on mute and his desk light shining on my face like a spotlight. We sit across from each other and size each other up.

Then he says, “So, let’s talk. We haven’t talked in a while. Tell me what’s been going on in your life.”

I freeze. I can’t think of ONE thing to say to him. I am thinking that it’s pathetic that I don’t even know how to start a conversation with my father!

“I’ll start,” he says.

He asks me about my piece o’ shit car and what I am planning to do about getting a new one sometime soon on my very limited budget. I sit silent, trying to see where he is going with this line of questioning. But, as I study his face, I recognize that he is being genuine. So, I let down my guard and we start talking. And, although he asked for 15 minutes of my time, we actually ended up talking for over an hour. The conversation came quickly and the laughs came easily. And he gave me some sound advice on life, love, career and finances. My father is a smart man, brilliant actually. (A girlfriend of mine and I had discovered that our fathers had been friends years ago and she said that her father had described my father in this way: “[Brown Girl's Daddy]? – that’s a smart nigga right there.” LOL!) Anyway, my father encouraged me to use him as a resource when I have things weighing on my mind. And, I have to admit that after talking to my dad, I felt 100 times better about my circumstances and my lot in life. I felt… hopeful… for the first time in a long, long time.

When we were wrapping up our conversation, he says to me, “I just want you to be my ‘buddy’. Just came and talk to me about anything.” Um… what? My father and I “buddies”?? The thought had never occurred to me, but if he was going to maintain this personality (Who knows how long it will really last? I am hopeful, but not naïve.), this level of understanding and compassion, maybe we really could be “buddies”. But, I’m not holding my breath.

Anyway, the holidays are about to roll around and after I thought about it for a while, I realized that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. It’s a time when nothing is expected of anyone, no gifts are expected (Christmahanukwannzaka), no declarations of undying love (Valentine’s Day), no lauding of long-forgotten historical figures. It’s just a time to sit back and reflect on all the things for which we are grateful. And I realized that the case of the “blahs” that I had suffered from for so many weeks was immediately cured when I realized all the things and people I have been blessed to have in my life. I have come to recognize that it is important to stop and gives thanks for all things that bring goodness to you life. So, I thought that giving thanks for those people and things that have impacted my life would be blog-worthy. This is the first in a series of blogs where I will give for someone or something that has been a blessing in my life this year. So, yes, you guessed it. I am saying that the first person on my list for whom I am thankful is… my Dad.

As much as this negro gets on my gotdamn nerves, he’s a pretty great guy. Rewind to a couple of months ago. I was chilling at a friend’s house for the Labor Day holiday when my mom called and told me that she needed me to drive my dad to the hospital. Now, my dad does NOT get sick. He barely sniffles and never stays home from work due to illness. So, when my mom called, my adrenaline started pumping. I ran out of my friend’s house, collected my mom and dad and drove my dad to the emergency room at Johns Hopkins. My mom and I were waiting in the Emergency Room all night (with a room full of colorful "Baltimorons", including a man who purposely pissed on the floor when the people at the admitting desk ignored his requests to be seen first – no joke) and were awakened early in the morning to the news that my father had been transferred to ICU while we had been sleeping. The diagnosis was internal bleeding and they didn’t know where the bleeding was coming from. By the time the whole ordeal had ended, my father had two blood transfusions and three procedures to stop the bleeding. He was in ICU for five days. And, for weeks even after he had been discharged, my father who walks approximately two miles everyday, got winded from going to the bathroom. It was a devastating experience. The doctors made it clear that we had almost lost him. For a few days, all was good and perfect in the Johnson household – that is, until my father realized that he wasn’t going to die and went back to annoying the hell out of everyone.

While we were talking on Sunday, I looked into my dad’s face, which is lined with years of creases, and at his head full of soft gray hair and I started thinking about the fact that my dad wouldn’t be here forever to bug me, judge me, get on my nerves. One day, he will be gone. I know the thought is morbid and – believe me – I hate to think about death. But, I sat and looked at him and imagined him in a casket. And I imagined myself throwing myself over his body and screaming and crying at the front of our church very melodramatically. I sat back and thought, do I want to be crying out of regret for having a terrible relationship with my father while he walked this Earth? And I decided right then and there that I don’t want that. And that I want us to have a good relationship. I want us to be “buddies” (I think).

So, Dad, I’m grateful for you being the critical, judgmental, opinionated, conservative that you are. And this year, I thank God that I’ve had you in my life... even though you’ve worked my last nerve.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I enjoy your posts so much. This one in particular is one I relate to too well. Thank you for always being so honest and candid. I look forward to a new post everyday! This one gave me food for thought and really helped me personally. Thank you and keep up the wonderful work!