Friday, June 19, 2009

Obama making responsible dads a national priority

President Obama grew up without a father in his life, seeing his father just once after his parents separated at the tender age of 2.

He is now one of the most amazing stories of defeating the odds - Ivy League graduate, attorney and has attained the highest honor in the nation - President of the United States -some might even say - leader of the free world.

As I read his memoir - "Dreams of my Father" I wept and was touched by how much he has been affected by an absent father. I wept for my own father, who left the family home when I was in my early teens - we hardly saw him, except for the occasional weekend visit when he would come to the home, trying to reconcile with my mother.

I remember it as if it were yesterday. I had just returned from a scholarship summer abroad in Germany and was making my way on the bus back to the family home at 76 Tivoli Road in Southeast London. It was a beautiful home, a tree-lined street and neighbors who watched out for each other. I saw my dad pass by on a bus that he did not normally take - he spied me and disembarked, explaining that he had left the family home for good - in other words, he did not plan to return ever. I cried in the middle of the street as he told me the news - they had not wanted to ruin my summer abroad, and had therefore spared me that revelation. Years later, I wish I had known - my sisters had been there for the exodus - it was pretty violent - furniture smashed to smithereens and even the TV screen had been destroyed so that we would not have that form of entertainment - I shall spare you any more details as even now, decades later, it is too painful to go there.

Suffice to say, I was estranged from my father for years thereafter, seeing him once when he came to visit me and my former military husband with a new baby in Germany. I remember getting the call that he was coming. It was a pleasant visit, but the bond between us was irrevocably severed.

I have since reunited with my father, and have often wanted to ask him what was going through his mind as he smashed the beautiful glass and mirrored wall-to-wall closet and shelves and dressing table that he had lovingly created for my mother - he is, after all, a gifted carpenter.

Some things are truly better left unsaid.

I love my father, flaws and imperfections notwithstanding and hope to visit with him and meet his lovely wife in the near future.

Wounds heal with time, but the memories never fade.

I am a strong woman in my own right - a gifted writer and owner of my own consulting firm - not too bad for a girl who grew up sans father in my formative years.

I urge fathers everywhere, particularly black fathers, to heed the words of the President and make time for their children - you might be divorced, never married, or even separated from the mother of your children, but that is no reason for absenting yourself from your children.

Happy Fathers' Day!

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