Our Father

Jose Vilson

Father’s Hand

I wasn’t supposed to write tonight, but I’m moved again.Excuse me for getting a little too personal, but over the last week, I’ve noticed the vital role that fathers play in their offspring’s role. Unfortunately, we still have fathers who won’t own up to being fathers, mothers who berate fathers regardless of how integral a person that man is, fathers who want to be great fathers but never learned, fathers who never wanted to be fathers to begin with but ended up liking it, fathers who love, who kill, who cheat, who work until their bones show, fathers who abuse their positions in life by projecting death, and fathers who despite their faults are fathers to their children.

Some social scientists and psychologists point to how many boys watch their own mothers and sisters go through some sort of abuse and at some point sympathizing with the mother but eventually turning on the victim and wondering how they could allow that to happen. When they grow up, they go on to mimic the behaviors they observed, subconsciously becoming the person they wish they weren’t, but isn’t that the beauty? It leads me to believe that there’s a potential, then, to reverse the negative, and redefine the role of a father, even in the most dire of straits.

This weekend, for instance, I got the chance to go see my fully recovered father in Miami, as I mentioned before. The effect he’s had on his children is profound, even when they don’t realize it themselves. The way they project themselves and treat others has traces of my father all over it. All of his children have a serious sense of humor and a charm about us that translates socially. Yet, each of us have a varying degree of cynicism towards the world, and that comes through in the sarcasm and insecurities some of us display (or displayed). Maybe it’s the way some of us belittle others, or aggrandize ourselves when it’s not that necessary. As water beings, we have a constant need to find a balance of some sort, and by going to one extreme, we can balance out the other extreme. Yet, that’s a reflection of whatever role our father played in our lives, how our mothers reacted to his oscillating presence, and how / if we ever grew from that experience.

Yet, in his most dire moment, close to death, we still made our presence felt near his bed in that ICU, hovering around him, in pain. Fortunately for us, he came back to consciousness. I can’t say the same for one of my good friends. Kel wrote a eulogy to his father on his Xanga, and honestly, it really cut me deep:

However, I did come to know that my father lived life by his own set of rules. And in accordance with his rules decided it was best to pursue his relationship with god on his own terms. In fact, my father said very little to me about life in general. My father never asked me if I did my homework or anything of that nature, which for a child I considered weird. Though my father never said much to me I was fortunate enough to observe his actions and decide for myself if those were actions I wanted to replicate. To some this may be a reckless, haphazard means of parenting, but I will say that it allowed me to become a man in my own right in accordance to my own precepts.

Damn. Underneath his admittedly apathetic exterior lies a man whose soul and heart no one could capture. He lives by his own rules, and thinks as critically as any human being as I’ve ever met. I discover today that influence is paternally genetic. It also makes me wonder if I’m ready to be a father. I’m already a bit of a perfectionist, and my experiences have only led me to believe strongly in the idea of a father, whatever that might mean when I’m ready. I’m far from. I have an ideal for what I want to be as a father, consisting of a boundless list of “not”‘s and “don’t”s. Most of my friends have a negative experience with their father, but the ones who had a father in their family are as well-adjusted as people get.

So while I send my friend his condolences over the loss of his father and appreciate the traits I adapted from my father, I try to redefine for myself what a father means these days. Because G_d forbid if I dishonor the title of a father. It’s not just about being 1/2 of someone’s DNA: it’s helping to compose your offspring’s whole humanity.

jose, who’s still trying to understand his own father’s impact on his life …