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By Michael "Yasir" Belt
“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.” - Anaïs Nin
How many can understand, first hand, what it´s like to truly suffer growing up without a father? What once could only be conceptualized by an esoteric guild, this intrinsic suffering has become common knowledge. Regrettably, I am a pundit of this humor.
I always wonder if I look like him or if I really grew up to be just like him – like my mother always said I would. I think my mother felt like, at that time, a woman scorned because every time I heard her make such statements, well, I guess that just meant she loved me; right?
I wonder, did he ever love me? I wonder if he ever actually cared about me and wanted to be in my life? Maybe he wasn´t afforded the opportunity. All right, feel free to have a hearty guffaw on that last one, but it does happen in inauspicious circumstances. Just not this time, in this unpropitious life of mine.
There are so many wonders concerning him though. What ifs. Hows. Oh, so many whys. We could conjugate them all into one huge mass and call it the eighth wonder of the world. Connoisseurs of wonder would come from afar, oogling and giving all sorts of connotations, yet no true answers would ever come. No one would ever knowledgably speak on any of its parts. No one ever could. Except for one: Him, my father. So, these equations shall never be solved.
I never knew him. I never really knew anything about him. From what little my mother ever told me, I gathered that he was a no-good bad ass, maybe a Casanova type. And, again with the wonders, am I really my father´s child; as was impressed upon me? Are his characteristics embedded within my DNA. making me what I am, or more accurately, making me who I once was?
His side of my family is also mostly a mystery to me. Our relationship is best described as estranged. In earlier times, age seven being the earliest, I can remember, I used to spend the night or the weekend over at my father´s mother´s home. My grandmother was a kind, loving and fully capable woman. She had the air of a contrite mother who wanted to right the wrongs of her son. I´d like to think her eye ailment gave her more insight than she would ever have had, were she not blind. There were times though -- moments, late at night, that no sight could see nor should have to.
One night, when I was barely nine years old, I called my mother in tears, begging her to come get me. She angrily consented and pushed my one year old baby brother in his stroller the dark miles to retrieve me. And I heard her displeasure as I ran by her side, churning my little legs and trying to keep up during the long journey home.
If only she had known what atrocities I had been facing at the hands of my uncle. Where was my father when I needed his protection from his brother?
That was the last contact I had with my father´s family until I was about 17. Once I was old enough to protect myself, I reached out and found my grandmother once again. I visited her a few times. My uncle still lived with her, attending college somewhere in the city. He acted as if nothing had ever happened, and I didn´t bring it up. I was too young and hot-headed to go to jail for life.
There was one time when I got to meet my sister, who was ten at the time. We sat around grandmother´s house that day waiting for our father to arrive. My grandmother had planned to make a day of it. We were all going to go out, eat, shop a little, and play the family game. He never showed though and that was the first and last time I ever saw my little sister – as we sat around the dining room table and settled for eating cold pizza for dinner. Shortly after that was the last time I´d ever see my grandmother again. No, it´s not anything as tragically sad as her dying. I just couldn´t do it; I couldn´t take it anymore. Even years later, when my wife found her for me and begged me to contact her, I just couldn´t do it.
On one occasion I did get to meet my father; when I was maybe 5 – 7 years old. He picked me up from his mother´s house. We rode the # 34 trolley towards downtown. I remember being shy and bashful, turning my attention out towards the passing scenery instead of meeting his smiling gaze. He had been excited to make my acquaintance and took me to see his apartment. I can recall riding up on a freight elevator; one of the ones that open from top to bottom instead of side to side. The only thing I can recall aside from the way he opened the strange doors, is stepping off of the elevator and directly into the studio apartment and how pleased he was to show me, his son, where he resided. And now I realize why I´ve always been fascinated by the layout of studio apartments.
The subconscious is astounding. I can no longer tell whether I am holding onto my sole memory of seeing my father, or a vivid dream. John F. Kihlstrom said: “Memory isn´t like reading a book; it´s more like writing a book from fragmentary notes.”
Even with the absence of my father, I managed to receive “fatherly discipline”. Though it was more like a “beat the little kid because I can” type of discipline than anything. My mother used to date these rude dudes who didn´t find beating a woman and her child to be crude. She never really said anything to them, though. She was probably afraid that they´d do her worse than how they were doing me. So instead, at times, she would just sit there with her head down, oblivious to my screams and pleadings.
One time one of my mother´s boyfriends, whose name I´ve scraped from my memory, beat both mother and me at the same time. We were lying on his bed, side by side, both of us thrashing, curling and covering, trying to escape his menacingly blows. After it was all over, I remember my mother and me sitting up side by side, licking our wounds. She turned to me, tears streaming down from her beautiful brown eyes. “This is your fault!” she yelled at me, as if we were siblings and she blamed me for our plight. Or she might have been sitting six feet away from me, holding herself as she said it. “Every journey into the past is complicated by delusions, false memories, false occurrences of real events,” (Adrian Wrench). One thing for sure though, the two of us certainly got our asses whopped.
It is imperative that I interject an understanding on my mother. None of this would be proper without the insertion of my “Dear Mama” moment. Some may say I am askew for speaking of my mother in the manner above and below. Though this is more reserved than what I have revealed to a few, in confidence. Which is why, in the words of Oscar Wilde, “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”
My mother is a good woman. No, a great woman. Loving, caring, considerate, nurturing. Highly protective of her children. My lady, i.e. royalty. That´s who my mother is and I love her to death. She still has her ways and can be cantankerous at times, but she is nothing like she used to be. And, just as I spoke briefly on my inherited traits, my mother´s upbringing was the opposite of functional.
I was born to Lady when she was only 15 or 16. Being no more than a child herself, how could she have any idea how to raise one? We grew up together. The stove burned both of our hands at the same time. She is not to blame for her actions as a youth or a forcefully matured adult. Just like I shall not bear the blame of how I felt nor what I perceived in my young mind. Life was hell growing up with a single, inexperienced child who had no help, no support nor any guidance as to how to raise a young boy. In all of us, subconscious psychological intricacies drive us to places where, once there, we have no idea how we´ve arrived at the unsolicited destination.
I love my mother. I always have. I just didn’t feel that she loved me. Time is the teacher of us all, though.
We now return to my antipathy towards my father.
“Dynasty album, track 16. Man, I can´t take back that 16. We never kicked it at all. We never pitched or kicked at a ball.” Beanie Segal. You know Dad…Is it sad or are you? The fact that I don´t know anything about you except for what Mother told me, that you weren´t shit and that I´d end up being just like you. Well, congratulations, Pops. Your grown boy looks to have fulfilled the prophecy. Aren´t you proud of me?
Dear Dad, I had to learn how to fight in the streets. I spent a lot of lonely nights in the streets. Spilled blood on the same curbs I had to bite. Is it all because we failed to meet?
Yes Dear Dad, this is the part where I blame all of my woes on you. Someone has to take the blame, so….you can do something for a change. All of my mishaps, all of my troubles, questionable decisions and qualms, are because you weren´t there. You didn´t teach me right from wrong, so you allowed me to sell my soul for a song. Through all my abuse and emotional distress, where were you? When Mother threw me out into the streets and the wolves devoured me, where were you? When I wanted to die, when I tried to die, when I needed a shoulder on which to cry, you were never around.
I´ve considered whether you could have prevented any of the turmoil that was my life had you shown a remote sense of consideration. Would your presence have changed my outlook on life, the outtakes of what stemmed from behind the scenes? If you had claimed me as your son, would my mother have hated you so vehemently and in turn despised my existence for so long? Question after questions, all for a foregone conclusion. None of it even matters. Because you don´t matter. I am my mother´s child; and she did her best with me.
Dear Dad, Did you know I wanted you dead? For a very long time, when I wasn´t strong enough to stand up to life´s evils on my own, when I didn´t seem to possess the graces of my mother, all I wanted was my father. Then once I was older, once hatred had ossified into malice in my heart, I couldn´t wait to finally meet you. I used to say that the day I meet you would be the day you´d die; and in no way would I have felt contrite had it happened. But, it didn´t. And you´re still alive. Maybe. I don´t know. And that´s sad. What´s even sadder is the fact that I´ve been coming in and out -- more in than out -- of prison for most of my life and I´ve been searching for my resemblance in the faces of the older prisoners. Like I said, they told me I´d be just like you. What reason do I have not to believe it if I know nothing else?
Dear Dad, I never knew you. So how can I miss what I’ve has never known? Deep down I always wondered why I was so sad; why I was always so mad. Now that I am finally cognizant of its cause, of your effect, I am glad.
Recently I was having a conversation with my ex-wife. Oh how I wish I could blame the ex part on you. Nevertheless, mid-conversation I reflexively pulled out my daddy issue, blaming you for something or other. I said I´d kill you, in a tone as casual as if I´d said the word “cheesecake.” She said, “Yeah, you need to get over it.” And she was right. I need to get over you. Therefore, this is our swan song.
Until now, your non-presence has haunted me. Your solely mental existence has been malicious to my psyche. You are a long, bloated, drunken night filled with fondue and White Russians and I just discovered I´m lactose intolerant.
Morning has come and I am dismissing you. Or at least the 20% of you that I ever had. As Woody Allen said, “80% of life is about showing up.”
To be continued in Part 2:“A Fatherless Child: The Next Generation”
|Michael Belt KU8088|
P.O. Box 1000
Houtzdale, PA 16698