Lessons Through Absence by Javante Kelly

My relationship with my father is a tale of love and heartbreak among the gambit of emotions and feelings. I was born into a strange dynamic involving my parents. This dynamic would ultimately be the cause of his absence. I thought my father was everything. He was the first person I looked up to. The sins of the father plagued the son, but that’s another story

I loved my dad as a child. He was as active as he could be. I anxiously waited and yearned for our once-a-month visit where he would take me to the store and buy me a toy or candy. When he left, we would hug and say I love you and I’d be counting down the days until I saw him again. I remember my mom at dinner saying ”You're the man of the house, Jay.” I was all of 6 years old but I took pride in it, a pride I still have today. This was until 11 years old when my father called me saying “I promise to call you every week”. A promise I hung onto because I wanted a relationship with him. That would be the last time I spoke to him until my 28th birthday. That act alone caused me to never really trust what a person says and to hold them accountable for the things they say.

My father’s absence had a grave effect on me. I never could have father and son talks, he never took me to my first football or basketball game. He didn’t teach me how to ride a bike, how to fight, or how to talk to women. I learned through my peers and firsthand experiences. I was essentially a man before I could experience childhood. I resented him for this my entire life; how could you have a son who lives 15 minutes away and abandon him?

The next time I saw my father was at his funeral in 2021. This was one of the most heartbreaking days of my life. As I looked at him, I could do nothing but cry. Imagine seeing the person you look like the most, who you’ve always wanted to hear ”I love you” from on a birthday, or “I’m proud of you” but can never receive those things ever again. At that moment, at 31 years old, I felt like I was 6 again. Just wanted to hug him and tell him I forgive him. “I forgive you for not being there. I forgive you for the words unsaid.” But his absence is what made me into the man and father I am today.

I had no relationship with my father, but it lit a fire in me to never have that happen to any of my children. The absence of my dad propels me daily to be actively involved. It had its pros and cons. I wanted children so badly, I wanted to give them the love I never received, but I was also smart enough to wait until I knew it was right. I knew the exact parent I wanted to be, how I wanted to love my children, and even the type of disciplinarian I wanted to be.

I have 3 beautiful children that I adore. 1 non-biological and 2 from a past marriage. I love being a dad. I love taking my oldest to the mall shopping and watching tv and listening to her play her instrument. My son is my rollie. I love waking up daily to him jumping on me, I love our rides to school, I love bumping music and singing together, and I even love helping with homework. Now my baby girl is my heart. I can honestly say she is the one I wanted the most and she looks exactly like my mother. She is quirky, feisty, and quick-witted. Watching her change and grow daily amazes me because she is like a sponge.

I take my sense of fatherhood very seriously. I understand it's my role not only to protect them but to love them to life. The tools I instill in them will lead them into whatever lives they want and that’s what matters. I can teach them the most important lessons, and some that I learned the hard way, so they don’t have to learn the way I did, and that excites me. So in conclusion thank you, Dad, for everything that you taught me.

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