(This is part two of a series of blogs leading up to the release of Songs For… on Saturday)
Sometime in 1996
My father beat me.
|My father in 1942. Yes, he was that
That’s not one of those things that’s too out of the ordinary. I’m “black” and my parents were older than most. My father, when he died, was eighty-seven years old. Therefore, it’s doubly expected for these sort of things to happen, I’m told. But, my father, as much as he showed his love for me with tailored suits and the like, loved disciplining me with his metal cane. Usually a few swipes to my ass would be enough, unless I did something that really pissed him off. You know, like stand up to him and pretty much tell him that, even thought I was seven, him beating me with a cane wasn’t going to fly. Once, I even decided that I’d had enough, picked up a wiffle bat as he was trying to choke me out and did the unthinkable.
My childhood toy had become my gateway into adulthood. Granted, I was pretty much the man of my house since he was a weekend dad anyway–and I was the bastard child of his family. But, from that moment on, I knew my life changed. That, even if he and I were to repair our relationship, nothing that he taught me was going to be good and that I would succeed in spite of his attacks.
|This was from May 2006, two years
before he passed.
Fast forward to early 2011. My father had been dead for close to three years, and we did reconcile a bit; he said he was sorry for disciplining me in the manner he did, I apologized for, partly out of fear, distancing myself from him during my pre-pre-teen years. He said that he knew I cared about him the time I stood up to my mother for her fighting him. As I guess the case was, he showed his love in material possessions versus actual love. Upon his death, he left me two rowhouses he owned–both of which were in pretty shitty condition and I’m about to go to court to transfer one of them over to a receivership, but that’s a story for another day. In 2011, I became a father.
I told Raquel when I found out she was pregnant that I didn’t want to repeat the mistakes of my
|Jovanni and I, mid-2011|
father. I didn’t want to be the disciplinarian that beat the shit out of his kids just because they spilled, let’s say for instance, a cup of milk on the linoleum in the kitchen. But, just as importantly, I told her that I didn’t want to be an absent father. Those fears, truthfully, played a part in my lack of a very good relationship with Jovanni during his first few months of life. I didn’t really hold him because I was afraid that I’d break him. I was afraid that I’d pass my father’s anger–and my anger, as well–onto him. I was there, but in some ways, because of my fears of, you know, fucking him up, I became something worse than an absent father. I became apathetic. “As long as he knows that I’m there, and I don’t lose my shit or do something stupid, he’ll be fine,” I always told myself. I was still involved, but I admittedly let my anxiety about ruining him partially ruin my relationship with him.
And then the unhinged moments came. You don’t know how low you can go until you wake up after an anxiety-induced blackout with your almost-one-year-old crawling on you, babbling and looking at you with his chubby “chumbawumba” face with all the love in the world. And the only thing you can do is just say “hi, Jovanni” and then pass back out, because it hurts to even breathe at this point.
Upon my decision to leave my home and return home for the better part of 2012, I knew that I risked ruining my relationship with Jovanni even more, because I’d be gone from his life as a regular fixture. But, make no bones about it; I was still involved in his life, even while Raquel and I were going through our situation. We promised to remain cordial, even if we somewhat hated each other, for the sake of Jovanni. This is even after the phone call that’s the basis of “Owning Up.”
Our relationship got better, as I began to heal myself. But, I still kick myself in the head time and time again because I know that had I actually stood up and became a man before the “devolution” happened, our relationship would be a lot better. Hell, I know I’m one of his favorite people, but even now, he still prefers Raquel do some things with him, because that was what he was used to in my absence. In some ways, I had become a stranger in my own son’s life because of my decisions. So, since we’ve reconciled, all of us, I’ve been rebuilding relationships. One by one.
I do it for him. Music, I mean. I do it so he can know that his daddy has fucked up, but his daddy is trying to be a better man.
(Part three deals with the moment the “unhinged” Speed became a reality)