I think I was maybe 9 years old the first time I realized the importance of feeling secure. I was on my way home from school (yes I was a latch key kid) and there was a man sitting in a car directly across the street from my house. As I approached the car to cross the street I noticed he was naked from the waist down. I panicked, ran to the house and locked myself in. I immediately called my mom, who instructed me to make sure the door was locked and call the police. By that time it was too late, the guy was gone. I can't describe how afraid and alone I felt in the home that had before then had been my comfortable safe haven. It was where everything and everyone I loved was. Upon my aunt arriving home from work, I went upstairs to her house to tell her about the terrifying ordeal I'd experienced that day. I just knew there would be some sort of comfort, a hug, a pat on the shoulder, something that would reassure me that security had not vacated my world. Her response: "yeah, and so?" You see some people just don't think outside of their own box. I had to listen to 30 minutes of "When I was a kid and this happened to me, my daddy did......". It became clear to me what was missing...a daddy. A male figure who would have either chased the big bad man away or beaten him within an inch of his life. But there was no one there to do that. Not a neighbor, not an uncle, not grandpa, everyone was out living their lives while I was at home alone peeping through the blinds to make sure the big bad man wasn't coming back. That day my first thought was, How DARE this man come to my nice safe neighborhood & violate it so. My second thought was, but I'm just a little girl, who am I to tell him to go away? He was an adult and in the south you don't just speak to adults any kind of way. Although this situation presented an exception to that rule, at 9 years old I did as I was told and feared the consequences of breaking one of the golden rules. This is what a man was supposed to address. That day my aunts 30 minute speech instilled in me a feeling I'd never be able to shake. Is it possible to ever feel completely safe and secure again without a man who cared enough to face danger on my behalf? Unfortunately it's a thought I still wrestle with until this day.
When I was about 15 years old, I went to a high school that was not very far from my fathers' home. You see I'd known OF my dad all my life. Even spent a few nights at his home as a child and got to know his wife and my siblings. The problem was, whenever I was there, he wasn't. He was always out at a bar or club but being a kid, the other kids in the house were a new found source of entertainment for this only child. I knew I didn't like being left with all these "strangers" when I was supposed to be getting to know my dad, but it was okay as long as there were toys around...lol. The first heartbreak I ever experienced was a promised trip to the beach with my father and his family that never happened. My second was my father's brother asking me to come & spend time with his family, even enjoying me so much that when the time came for me to go home, they wouldn't hear of it. Instead they went out & bought enough clothes for me to extend my stay. And in all this, I NEVER saw my father's face ONCE. See a pattern here. So at 15 I decided to take it upon myself an make myself available to develop a relationship with my father. I didn't leave it all up to him. I dropped by the house 3 times a week and hung around until it was time for him to come home Needless to say this became quite a burden for his wife but even though she made snide comments, she never turned me away. I was a determined young woman but as in times past, he always had some previous engagement i.e. bar or club taking precedence over a visit with me. I decided then that I had done my part and would not bother myself with trying any more.
At 22 years old I was a victim of date rape. I never told my family about it and most of them still don't know (well I guess they do now) but the feeling of security I'd developed in the years approaching woman hood was slowly crumbling once again and I decided once more to reach out to the one man who I felt was RESPONSIBLE for my healing. The man who was supposed to say "Who was it babygirl? I'm going to get him!" I decided to start visiting my father again. On one particular evening I dropped by the house, which by now was about the only way I could catch him. We exchanged pleasantries and I decided to test the waters. I started with "hey dad, can I have $5?" He responded with "I don't have any money, I gave your sister the rest of my cash." So I'm thinking okay, he didn't stammer, he seemed sincere besides, I didn't need it & was just gonna give it to my baby sister. It was only a test. Later that night I decided I'd hang out at the club with a few friends. Who did I see sauntering through the door with some woman (EMBARRASSSSSSSING) but my good ole dad. He had a seat and started buying round after round. I watched and waited, hoping he'd at least notice me over in the corner with my friends. When he finally did, he spoke from across the room, said goodbye to his buddies and bee lined it out the door. I quickly followed and caught up with him at his truck. I walked over to the car window and asked "Daddy why'd you lie?" To which he responded, "look, I never promised you anything." Those words shattered my world. I thought if my own father, the man who gave me life, the man who had nothing but kind words of praise to offer about my mother, the man who carried my graduation picture in his wallet and showed it to any and everyone who would listen (according to my siblings), the man who I looked EXACTLY LIKE. How could this man deny me? It wasn't about the 5 dollars. It wasn't about the insincerity. It was about this man who'd raised and doted on 2 other daughters and a son, dismissing me as if I were a $2 whore asking for a tip.
The final straw was just following Hurricane Katrina. I evacuated a few days after the hurricane struck but stayed close enough to home to get in early and check out the damage. My father and his family were scattered everywhere so I took it upon myself to go over and check on his house to try to soften the blow for them. When I called my father and gave the report his words were: "I'm so glad you're okay, and my children are okay too. We're truly blessed." Now while I understood his intentions, and even understood the slip up *AND MY CHILDREN ARE OKAY TOO* I mean let's face it, I didn't grow up with him, he never held any financial or emotional responsibility for my well being and after Katrina we were ALL QUITE LOOPY to say the least. Those words still echo in my head. I began to question, why didn't my mother do SOMETHING to force this man to acknowledge his responsibility? Why didn't she marry him like he begged her to do when she told him she was pregnant? Why didn't she at LEAST put him on child support? Why didn't she allow him to sign the birth certificate? At 38 years old I now understand why my mother decided to handle her relationship with my father the way she did. She was wise enough to know that 1. you CAN'T force a man to take responsibility for his actions. 2. The man who had fathered her only child was a Wimp. These weren't things she shared with me, but after forming my own "relationship" with my father, I get it.
What daddies, fathers, parental paternals if you will don't seem to realize is the IMPORTANCE of instilling in their daughters a sense of security. The first man you love is your father. The first man who loves you is your father. This love and treatment sets the bar for how your children will ALLOW themselves to be treated. It instills values and morals in your children that yes, they will LEARN from their mothers but they'll never feel or even understand when it's time to form relationships with the opposite sex. Even deeper, it forms a sense of self-worth that can't be taught verbally. It has to be felt. One has to FEEL security to know it. One has to know what it's like to be loved by someone so much that they'd KILL to protect them. If those things aren't established, there will always be an empty whole. There will always be that voice in the back of your head saying "Am I deserving of this persons' love? Am I deserving of my own love? Am I special enough to be loved unconditionally? Will my flaws and quirks allow this man to love me no matter what? " After all. My own Father doesn't even love me. Am I worthy to be loved?
In time, I've learned my worth on my own terms. There are still bumps in the road in terms of relationships with the opposite sex. And basically at 38 I'm still, learning to love and be loved by a man. I don't mind it too much as I love to learn but I feel my growth in that area has been stunted and I'm 25 miles behind everyone else in the love department. It's a slow process and there's always a part of me that will feel some emptiness and insecurity. I am also conscious of the "daddy issues" pitfalls that accompany many relationships and try my HARDEST not to take my issues out on the ones I love. Let me tell you, it's a process. There are certain characteristic traits that still sting me to the bone such as, Not following through on promises, but I'm getting there slowly but surely. Despite my fathers current seemingly self-punishment for NOT taking those precious opportunities to build a relationship with his oldest child. While my siblings don't understand why I feel so abandoned by my father, they still try to "patch" up a relationship that's far too gone to repair but I love them for it because they love me. Fathers, Daddies, Parental Paternals, please take the time out to tell your children that you love them. That they are Special. That they are Smart. And especially your daughters...That You'd do everything humanly possible to protect them. Most of all from their own dead-beat daddies.