I miss you so much. I struggle now to remember your voice, and laugh and that troubles me. I am no longer your rebellious seventeen-year-old daughter. I am now 38. At this age, at this stage in my life, I think you would still call me your Babygirl. That comforts me on levels I was too ignorant to pay attention to before.
I understand now, Daddy, just how much you loved me. I understand how you tried to prepare me for a world that marked to devour me and all my power. I understand now why you were so hard on me–why you needed me to be tough, sweet and beautiful. I get it now, Daddy. I get it.
I have gone though the rest of my formative years with your guiding shadow. I have wanted to call you when I was failing College Algebra. I wanted to call you when I got pregnant with Lauren. I wanted you there to meet her, and Danielle. I wanted you to see what a brilliant young woman your granddaughter is becoming. I have missed all that her paternal family cannot understand. I am utterly convinced, if you were here, Daddy, she would be infused with such a strength that she would be indomitable.
Daddy, I want you to know that I forgive you. Finally and at last. I forgive that you didn’t know how else to be. You tried to give me all of what you had because that is all you could do. Time is rarely fair to fathers–regardless of color.
I need you to know, Daddy, that I am grateful for the seventeen years your gave me. I am grateful that you are my father. I am a grateful to be your daughter. I am blessed to have been given a father that was visionary, revolutionary and keenly aware what it means to be Black. Daddy, I want you to know that Immabe okay.
Daddy, I need you to know that I will give your granddaughters every drop of the strength you gave me. Daddy, I need you to know that I’m not going to be a doctor–not of medicine anyway. I want you to know that writing, speaking, teaching and activism are my bent. Daddy, I have harnessed my intelligence, my presence, and your whit to service. Daddy, I need you to know that this is what I believe I am on the planet to do.
Daddy…I love you. I miss you. And I know you are somewhere, even when I write this, telling me “Keep going, Babygirl. Don’t let no body stop you!” Despite the tears. Despite the frustration. Despite when people don’t believe me, support me or find me too brash to be female. To the people that call and classify me as ‘too’. You made me strong, Daddy. You made me unfearful of my voice or thoughts.
Daddy, I accept the call on my life–even when you didn’t understand it. Even when you couldn’t perceive how to focus this. I forgive you because bitterness is too great a burden to dwell in. But you gave me so much, Daddy. And on this, the twenty-first birthday without you, I love you more than I did then. Perhaps because like Anne Frank, ‘regret is more powerful than responsibility.’
I know that this year you would be 71 this year, and I feel robbed that I don’t get to enjoy the latter, sweeter half of daughterhood as an adult. But I am still overjoyed to smile when people ask me who my Dad is, I can grin and say, “Richard.” A king’s name. I am the daughter of a titled Shakespearean figure. I am a powerful woman because I could not suffer to be less. But in some circles, especially to other friends and family, I am still “Doc’s oldest girl.” This is still a comfort. Being a Daddy’s girl is still a comfort. It is my crown and cloak. It has blessed and equipped me to be both Queen, mother, daughter, sister and friend.
Daddy, you did the best you could. Besides, who less could raise one such as me, unless he himself were much like the child given to him? Richard, through the time and need of God for me to be in the world, raised a fireball. And, Daddy, I thank you.
The blessing of you, is that, when I think really hard, and when dreams are deep, I can still hear your laugh. If love holds up the world, nothing can be lost.