My experience with my fathers could be a short film. My biological father was a drug addict. At 2 years old my mother gave him an ultimatum, the drugs or me…It was 23 years later when I met him again.
In the time in between, my stepfather had taken his place. From the age of 4 up until 19, he had been the model of what a father should be. He taught me about computers and now I do IT as a career. I learned to cook, joke, and reason from him. He never treated me like a stepson and when it came to choosing to love, I thought he was the perfect person to replicate. That was until he and my mom divorced. After the separation, me my mom and my little brother moved in with my grandmother. We hardly ever heard from my step-dad the few years following but he was the sole breadwinner of the home. So with my mom being unemployed and my brother only having just started high school, it was up to me to step up and take his place. I dropped out of college, got promoted in my job to full-time, and became the man of the house.
So here I am, 19 years old, down 2 fathers, and more bitter than you can ever imagine. I carried this bitterness for years. They both became the subjects of many of my prayers, poems, and raps. I was motivated to be better than both of them. Insert clip of Will Smith & Uncle Phil scene here, you know the one. But this is when I learned the most important lesson of my, all be it young, adult life. You cannot control every outcome, but you are in control of your response. Let me rephrase it, you are not responsible for your pain, but you are responsible for your healing.
See, I used my hurt and bitterness as an excuse to do whatever I wanted. Now in comparison to others, I never did anything “wild” but I knew I did things out of character. After a lot of praying, talking with my then-girlfriend and now wife, and some reflecting, I knew that I had to be in charge of my own choices and not let my situation or emotions lead me down the wrong path. I learned how to heal. I learned how to see them as humans. Imperfect mistake-making men, who lacked the same direction or support that prevented me from replicating the same cycle. It was at that point I made the choice to repair my relationships with them.
Repairing the relationship with my stepdad was just about spending time. We talked, I vented, and he listened and apologized. He was there to see me get married and I can’t imagine how hard it would have been if he wasn’t there. Things still aren’t perfect but I learned what reconciliation really looks like and how freeing it can be.
Repairing the relationship with my biological father was about being intentional. We hadn’t had as much as a text in 23 years. I didn’t know where he was, who he was, or if he was even alive. I found him on Facebook and contacted him but nothing. Found someone with the same last name as us and contacted them. Turns out she was my aunt. She gave me his number and I called him. I’ll spare the details, but 4 years later he is one of my biggest supporters. He got clean some time ago and said he had been waiting for the right time to find me. Since then, he has been in my children's lives and he even has a cordial relationship with my mom again. I learned to be patient and to forgive through our relationship. Practicing these and pushing through the bitterness put me in a position far better than the prideful resentment I found myself in prior.
Now I have a pair of 8-month-old twins, and as I reflect on my own relationship with my fathers I continue to remind myself that in some way I might fail them because no parent is perfect. Still, I will always position myself to listen, learn, apologize, be patient, and forgive. I also remember to stay dedicated and promise to never make my kids feel like I am not there for them no matter what.