i’ve tried writing about my biological father for years. it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions for me for a long time as i’ve navigated my feelings and i’m not sure how clearly i’ll be able to articulate my thoughts here. sifting through the rubble of uncertainty, pain and grief is the toughest task anyone could go through. it’s also tough to write about someone i’ll never get to meet.
i was adopted when i was a baby, and it wasn’t like I was lacking anything really. I grew up the youngest of seven kids, four of us adopted, with an incredible dad who worked extremely hard to provide for all of us. My dad was also the perfect example for us about how a husband should treat his wife. It’s just that you always will wonder where you come from when you don’t have any connections to your bloodlines.
i used to daydream about those bloodlines. maybe my father was a famous NBA star, maybe he was an actor. how cool would that be? for the most part, i figured he was a regular, non-famous, guy. even though i was born in north carolina and grew up in michigan, i wondered (hoped) if i would ever bump into him and just know that he was my father. sometimes, when i was a kid, i’d see a black man and i’d want to ask him “hey, are you my dad?” i just wanted to see someone who looked like me. i wanted to see someone and it just be so obvious that we were connected. i envied my friends who took for granted that they looked just like everyone else in their family. i never experienced that. i really just wanted to meet someone who had the same DNA as I did. anyway, as it turns out, he wasn’t an NBA superstar or an Oscar winning actor, which i suppose is okay. those who knew him would probably say he was much more than just a regular guy. he also wasn’t the man i started to think he was.
for a long time i thought he had abandoned me, leaving me as another statistic. needless to say, i grew to despise him and vowed to never be anything like him. i thought up a lot of names for him, none that i’ll display here. truthfully i was just hurt and disappointed and really, what kid would feel any differently? it wasn’t his fault though. he didn’t know that i existed for years after i was born. once he found out about me, he vowed that we’d find each other. he wanted to be my father and he wanted to be there for me. he just never got the chance.
well, i did find him. i had to go to his grave site to see him.
my father died when i was 19, on march 22, 1999. he had just turned 45 years old. his name actually was also james, though he went by the nickname “tadpole”. that’s all anyone ever refers to him as. i don’t believe in coincidences but it’s pretty crazy we both have the same first name. i never got to meet him or look in his eyes or see his smile. he liked to shoot home movies, so i’ve heard his voice and his laugh and seen him party and dance on camera. it’s pretty surreal to create memories of my father from VHS tapes. i read his obituary online and found out i had more brothers. it’s a strange way to discover that i had siblings and the younger brother i had always wanted.
sometimes i will look into my daughter’s eyes and wonder if there is any resemblance of her grandfather (“Paw Paw”) in her. i wish that they would have been able to meet. sometimes i will squeeze her extra tight and thank god that i get to be her dad, but more, that she will hopefully always have me around and not experience the emotions i’ve waded through.
never getting to meet my father has been one of the toughest experiences of my life. i remember the first time i went to his house in north carolina. it was surreal and was rainy of course, just like a movie. i walked in and i felt his presence immediately. it was overwhelming to think that my father had lived in that house, walked and slept in there and now i was there. now i get to bring my wife and daughter to his house. it’s incredibly surreal to think of the long road it’s been.
today marks 19 years he has been gone. i didn’t get to meet him, but i’ll always feel his connection to me.
i’ve often wondered how i could feel so much love and pain and grief for someone i never knew, but the truth is, you always know. you don’t have to be physically present to experience a connection with someone you love. what i’ve found is that no matter the distance, and especially when they are no longer on this earth, they will always be with you in some form. i’m proud that he was my father and that i’ll always be his son.
we’ll always share bloodlines and hopefully i’ll be the father to my daughter that i know he always wanted to be for me.