16 and Got It All Figured Out
When I started writing about my personal life in my blogs it seemed simple enough. As I started getting deeper into them, that shit changed. It gets really hard to tell some of these stories. My boyfriend (John Hairston, Jr., the artist behind all of my cartoon art) has sent me three different progress pictures of the image for this post, and I have cried every single time I open them. He tells me that he doesn’t want to do these if they are going to hurt me… It isn’t him. It isn’t his art. It’s what I did at 16 because I had it all figured out.
At 16, my father had been in jail for about 2-3 years. I hated going to visitation. Not because I had anything better to do, but because I was embarrassed. I hated walking up to Dekalb jail. As you walk you hear the inmates banging on their windows. It made me feel gross. I hated walking past the correctional officers that seemed to ALWAYS have an attitude. I especially hated talking to my dad in his orange jumpsuit behind thick glass. So I decided that I wasn’t going to do it anymore.
During one visitation, I told my dad that I didn’t want to come back. I remember him looking at me in my eyes and with a stern voice telling me that he was my father and I have to come see him. I told him that my mom may be able to force me to get in the car, but she can’t make me walk the block up to the jail, or drag me down the stairs to the visitation lobby. He stared at me for a minute and asked if I loved him. I looked back at him and without flinching told him that I loved him, but I hate that I have a criminal for a father. The time was up on the phone and he sat there miming out, “I love you.” I put the phone back on the hook and walked out.
The whole ride home my mother asked if I felt better about myself. She screamed at me and told me that my father loved me more than anyone because I was the one that changed him. I laughed at her. I didn’t see any change in him. My father was a drug dealer that got caught. She slapped me when I laughed and I sat in silence the whole way back to Doraville.
When I got home, I laid in my bed questioning if I did the right thing and, in my heart, I felt I had. So why did it hurt so much? I couldn’t get past the fact that I was being kept from holding or touching the man that protected me.
(I swear to God as I write this, tears are streaming down my face. I know you guys don’t get it yet, but let me jump ahead a bit… My father died October 18th, 2011. It isn’t a post I am ready to write about, so I am just going to linger around in the years before it. Because I can.)
They say that hindsight is 20/20. At 16, I thought only of myself and what I wanted. I thought of my pride and my ego. I thought that spending time alone at home on the phone with my high school friends was what life was about. I just wanted to be a regular teenager. Very few of my friends knew that my dad was in jail. They just assumed my mom was a single mother. I let them. If they asked about my dad, I would pretend to not hear them. I felt that if I shared a little, they would never stop asking questions. So I lived in a life of pretend.
My mother would linger around longer when she was getting my brother ready for visitation day with my father. He would show me the school awards that he got and was taking with him to show our dad, and I would just roll my eyes. (I was a cunt.) As my mother got ready to leave she would always give me a glance. It was one of those looks where she was begging me with her eyes to just put my shoes on and go with her. I would walk to the screen door and lock it behind them.
When I was 17, my father was moved to Carrollton. We were able to visit face to face, no glass. I didn’t believe my mom when she told me. She stated that my brother and she were able to hug my dad. I remember a sting so deep in my chest that I pushed past my mom to my room. I hadn’t visited my father in over 8 months. I spoke to him on his MANY collect calls, but I missed him. I missed him so deeply that it hurt. I sat on my bed and looked at the photos of my father and I dancing in the living room of the tiny duplex that we lived in back in Brookhaven. I walked back out of the room and ased my mom if she could really hug him. She smiled and told me to come with her. She stated that she was going again on Saturday. I told her that I would think about it.
The following Saturday, I piled in my mom’s blue Rx7 with my brother and her. Carrollton felt so damn far. Mostly because it is, but it just felt like an eternity because I realized that I missed my father. (My tears are back.) When walked up to the prison, the vibe was totally different from Dekalb. I could see in the yard that some prisoners were walking with their families. I asked my mom if we would be able to do the same. She nodded as she pulled out the biggest fucking bag of quarters I have ever seen. What the fuck were those for!?! My brother screamed, “Honey buns!!” from the back seat and I realized that there must be a vending machine. The officer told my mother that she had too much change and she had to take it back to the car. I offered and she told me to sit and wait for my father.
I remember sitting down with my brother and staring at a door for what felt like 2 hours. It was only 5 minutes. When the door opened, I watched the families stand as their family member came out in their white and blue uniforms. I wanted to stand and hug too!! Sure enough, my time came. My mother didn’t tell my dad that I was coming and it was obvious when he hit a jog towards me. The officers told him to slow down, but by that time I was squeezing his head so hard, I am surprised it didn’t pop off. I started crying and I apologized to him. He told me that I didn’t owe him an apology and that he was just happy that I was there. Because that is EXACTLY what he would say… No matter how much of a cocksucker I was as a daughter, he was just happy I was healthy and alive.
When I think back to my 16 year old self, I REALLY want to punch myself in the face. Things would have been different if I had known that my time was limited with my father. I assumed that he would always be there. That I would have children that climbed all over him like I did when I was little. I know that things in life play out how they are supposed to, but I just wish…