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It’s a fact that children are born into either a single family or two parent home. Unfortunately, some children, born to single parents, never get a chance to meet their noncustodial parent because he or she decides parenthood is not a responsibility worth taking. This is a common situation experienced by children of different races and ethnicities, not just one specific race. Under the circumstances, this is sad and disappointing since it can prevent siblings from meeting each other and establishing a connection.
Although I was born into a single parent home, my father was an active part of my life, despite the distance between my mother’s home and his. And though I didn’t have his last name, he gladly acknowledged me to his friends and family. Like most parents involved in co-parenting, my father called regularly to talk to me and check on my welfare. During school breaks and holidays, especially summertime, I would spend time with him. As his youngest child and only daughter, I looked forward to these special times knowing that my summer would be filled with fun and excitement since my father and I would travel throughout the east.
However, when my mother lost her oldest child and only son just before my 12th birthday, my summer with him began earlier than usual because of the hurt I was experiencing after losing my big brother. It was obvious to my mother that I needed to get away from the town, specifically the location in which I had lost my brother. So, a couple days after my brother’s services, I rode back to Chicago with close relatives to meet up with my dad, upon his request. Though I was only 11, I knew my hurt would not change the fact that I had lost my big brother, someone who was always there to love me and protect me.
That summer of 1977 was when I came to the realization that despite how loving one family member can be, some family members will have their doubts about the validity of a child’s connection to the family. Why? I would say because of personal beliefs of those individuals or because that child doesn’t have the father’s last name. Skepticism is not an unusual feeling of family members when it comes to accepting children who do not share their father’s last name. This even occurs with children of unwed parents, who share their father’s last name.
I can remember sitting on the back porch of the apartment home of one of my father’s sisters that summer, talking to my imaginary friend since the younger members of the family lived on the other side of town and I had no one to talk to. My dad, who was diabetic, was inside taking a nap until later, when he and I would be going out to visit other family members across town. Except for me softly talking to my imaginary friend, Barbara, outside was quiet. That was until I heard a door back door open on the floor above me, footsteps stepped onto the porch and three familiar female voices began chatting. Immediately, I stopped talking because I didn’t want them to hear me talking to myself and think that something was wrong with me. In retrospect, it probably would’ve been best if I had just gone inside with my dad and watched television.
I knew my place as a child, and that was to not listen in on grown people’s conversation. So, I wasn’t trying to hear what was being discussed. Still, I did. And what I heard was something no child should ever have to hear, especially while trying to cope with the loss of a close family member. It was obvious that I was the topic of the conversation and there was doubt about my relationship to them. When I heard “and he don’t even know for sure that she’s his daughter,” I burst into tears and went inside, begging my dad to send me home to my mother. Like any concerned parent who realizes their child’s feelings had been hurt, my father wanted to know why I was crying. At first, I was reluctant about telling him what I had heard on the back porch because I didn’t want to cause problems. Then, I realized if I didn’t say anything, he would likely keep me there. With each word I repeated to my father, I could see him becoming more and more annoyed. Afterward, he walked out of the back door, then upstairs to where the ladies were still talking. Even with the television on inside, where I was sitting, I could still hear my father talking in an angry voice. A few days later, I was sent home on the Greyhound bus. Despite what I heard that day, the relationship with my father became stronger and remained that way until 1999, six months before my 34th birthday, when I lost him as a result of amputation due to his diabetes and heart problems.
After losing my father, who was dearly loved by his family, I foolishly believed that I would be more embraced by my paternal family since they knew how he felt about me. The family member that had expressed her doubts about me, had already passed away, long before my father’s health began to fail. So, I assumed that the welcoming affection I received, whenever I came around with my father, meant that I was accepted and loved as a part of the family. My belief is that one family member can not speak for all of the family. But I’ve been reminded numerous times when I’ve tried to reach out to certain members of the family, there’s no desire to communicate with me. Thanks to social media, I’m constantly reminded that of my dad’s three living children, two of whom share his last name, it’s me that ostracized from his family. From the behaviors and attitudes towards me, I was never really accepted or loved by that family, only tolerated to make my father happy.
Now that I know the true feelings of those family members who remain alive, I continue to love and care for them from a distance to protect my feelings. That’s the best thing I can do for everyone, including myself.