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Tynt

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Dance With My Father...





As a little girl, growing up in a year-round boarding school with my sisters and brothers, I remember vividly looking forward to holiday and vacation time, when I would finally get to see my ya’Toinette (a nickname I gave my mother) and mon papa. I wasn’t the baby in our family of 11 siblings, but I was the youngest of the 8 which were sent to Belgium for our education. Because of that, I always acted as if I were the baby of the clan. Granted, growing up I didn’t get to spend time with mom and dad every day, but when we were together I never used to think that the dynamic of our family was different than any other family, as everything that was emerging was natural and caring. However, I quickly realized that we were different.
We were unique because of how different my dad was from the other African dads I knew. I’m certainly not an expert on African culture, even if I narrowed it down to my country, the region we from, etc.… but what I know is, generally, the woman/wives would be the ones to take care of the kids, household, and anything other than earning money; which was the duty of the husband (please, no point intended, as I know that times have changed…but only ever so slightly). This was the norm, but not with my dad. Not only would he take care of his duty as a provider, but he was the kind of dad who (when we would come home for the weekend from boarding school) would have a full meal ready for us. A meal which started with homemade soup made from scratch. I remember the parties, the games, the talks where he would tell us how much his children were his pride and joy and it is through us, that for him, his true measure of success was defined… My father always felt like a rich man, not because he was successful in his profession but because of his children. He would always tell us that the legacy he wanted to leave with us was that we would always stick together and love each other.

Growing up, I did my share of the “commandment breaking” I was raised not to do, but regardless of any of my indiscretions, the love always was there…

In 1992, I moved to the US. Our way of life had taught me to be independent, resilient, determined, and self-sufficient. All the years watching my parents prioritize on our well being dissolved any lazy streaks in me.

In 1997, after 9 years of speaking to my parents randomly through phone conversations, and keeping a visual presence through photos (not thinking anything of the fact that I hadn’t seen them in all that time), they came to see us. At 26 years old, the image of my parents coming through the airport doors brought me to my knees and I cried, like a baby, hanging on to my parents and not wanting to let go. They had aged so much, I felt and saw the years I missed out of their lives. I’ve never told this to anyone but it was at that moment that I realized that I had let them down. All the hard work, sweat and tears they lived through by separating themselves from us so they could provide us with a better education, yet all I managed to learn and succeed in was the ability to not need them. This should’ve been the time in my life where I demonstrate my independence and instead I yearned to reattach the umbilical cord to my parents. It is also at that moment that I realized the importance of showing and expressing your love, because you can’t ever undo the missing moments…

I knew that my parents didn’t agree with the fact that I was living with my boyfriend, so after many talks, we agreed to have a justice of peace ceremony while they were here, and then plan a bigger wedding later. We set the date, but unfortunately, my dad had to return home before the set date. We felt OK about it, since my mom would stay behind and represent the both of them and they would both be back for the church wedding. In late January 1997, my husband to be and I drove my dad to New Jersey, as he was flying out from there. The whole ride, I felt so melancholy. My heart was very sad, knowing that he was leaving. At the airport, we sat and for almost 2 hours, as he spoke to us about the importance of loving each other, respecting each other, the kind of woman I needed to be for my husband and the kind of man he needed to be for me. I spent the time absorbing all of the wisdom he was unleashing on us through tears that I couldn’t contain. Thinking of that moment, what comes in my mind is that he was so frail but yet so grand because of his personality.

That day was the last time I saw my father alive…

On May 6th, 1999, my father past away…
He left two months and eight days before he ever got to see the grandchild I was so proud to give him and add to his "wealth"…. before I could show him that his little girl had grown…. before I was able to achieve my dream of having him walk me down the aisle in my beautiful white gown…. before I could tell him one more time that I loved him…. before I could say sorry for all the “don’t do’s” that I did…. before one last laugh….  before…the “never” happened.

Two weeks ago out of the blue, I called my husband and said, “Baby, I think I’m ready. I would love for us to finally have our church wedding. In 5 years when we celebrate our 20 year anniversary” …
Didn’t I say the same words when we were coming close to our 10 year anniversary? Why am I lying to myself? The day my father passed, my dream of a big wedding went with him, even though he blessed me with 6 wonderful brothers that could (and in so many instances) have taken his place. Through my marriage, I was also blessed with a wonderful father-in-law who has embraced his role as my father; however, I just cannot share that moment with anyone else…

These past few days, more than usual, my heart breaks, as I’m constantly thinking of my father. Thinking of how much I miss him, but more so, how much my kids are missing out not having him in their lives. I’ve been looking at my own family. I look at myself and its like looking at my mother; the one who was perceived as the disciplinarian, the one who seemed to keep everything levelled, in line, stable and safe. Then I look at my husband, and more and more all I can see are my father’s traits and behaviours. He was the one all of our friends used to love being around because he was cool and fun. He was definitely the one I would run to for a good time and for laughs. He used to listen to Hip Hop, R&B and dance with us while my mother in the background would give him a tender look and shake her head in disbelief of his silliness. So I know how much my kids would have enjoyed having him around...

I live everyday of my life praying that my dad, wherever he is, is just as proud of me as I’m proud to be his daughter and for the day I will finally get to dance with him again…

RosieSandz

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