The nightmares are back. They are not the nightmares where I’m sweating profusely and looking over my shoulder while running for my life. Nor are they the nightmares where some ominous figure is trying to kill me for reasons I can’t remember. No, I’m talking about the recurring ones I’ve had for the past nine years, where instead of running I’m confronting him, the ominous figure I call “daddy.”
The reasons for these nightmares are all too familiar. I want to know WHY? Why has he neglected his only daughter – his first-born? Why has love failed to teach him to show me love in a way that nurtures, reassures, protects, and more importantly, keeps its word. In each nightmare, I’m no longer a scared little girl afraid of daddy, but a hurt and irate woman in desperate need of answers.
It would be easier to rationalize our relationship if I could blame it on a) I was the product of a single family home, b) I never knew my father, c) He went to work one morning and never returned, or d) He was deceased. The truth is my brother and I were the exceptions to the typical single parent households on Chicago’s Westside. We were privileged to live with two college-educated parents from the south, who migrated north in search of a more prosperous life for their family.
During my pre-teen years, my father was an integral part of my life. He checked homework, served on the PTA, and attended all family events. He was Daddy. It was only when my mother had enough of the rising crime rate that we relocated to the suburbs for my high school years. My father was reluctant to move, despite the changes in the neighborhood.
His faith in the resurgence of the all-black Westside community far outweighed any “better life” the suburbs could offer. As a result, his heart and dreams refused to leave and any involvement in his children’s adolescence was no longer a priority.
By the time I left for college, the deterioration of my family structure was well underway. I convinced myself that the problems between my parents had nothing to do with me and that our relationship would survive. Well, after four years in college and not a single phone call or visit from my father, quickly shattered that belief. If I couldn’t rely on the one man in my life that called himself “daddy,” then how in the hell was I supposed to begin to rely on total strangers? Time and experiences answered the question for me…you don’t.
As a result, I along with many countless black women have engaged, and do engage, in unfulfilling, unhealthy, and distrusting relationships, because something was and is missing in our lives that reminds us we are worthy of better. The love of a father is the “balm in Gilead” in a young girl’s life, and there are fathers who would lay down their lives for their children. These loving fathers free us from the bond of desertion and emotional neglect that plagues our community and defeats our children.
I tried to reconcile my relationship with my father more times than I can recall. I’ve needed him to comfort my broken heart or just follow through on a promise he made. Each time he responded with neglect. It takes its toll after awhile. I have to believe that one time in my life I was daddy’s girl and that daddy’s girls do exist for black women. I tell myself this when the truth about our relationship becomes too heavy for my heart to hold. I tell myself this with the hopes that maybe one day the nightmares will end.
In 1996, when I wrote a letter to my father the nightmares ceased. It was my attempt to release some of the anger, hurt, and disappointment that I harbored for so long. The power of my pen became my voice. I never mailed the letter; however, it sparked my interest in the experiences of other black women with similar childhood stories. I wanted a forum where we all could share how our daddies influenced our lives and helped us to become the women that we are today.
I set out to collect our letters, essays, poems, and journal entries and compiled them into a book, My Soul to His Spirit: Soulful Expressions from Black Daughters to Their Fathers. It is the first book that allows black daughters to celebrate, cry, question, understand, and more importantly heal themselves in light of their relationship with their fathers. Women from all over the United States heard the call and rushed to have their stories told. Their stories speak to fathers they cherish; fathers they miss; fathers they never knew; fathers they forgive; and fathers who are no longer with us. Although each woman and each father is different in their own unique way, the message is the same; little girls need their fathers, and here are the top 10 reasons why:
10. To restore our faith in our Black men
9. To never have to feel like we are easily left behind
8. To know perseverance and strength
6. To break the cycle of dysfunctional relationships that plagues our community
5. To love ourselves
4. We need to know that true love is possible
3. You are the standard by which we judge all men
2. So we don’t fill your void with others
1. Because we love you.
Mrs. Melda Beaty is the author of a groundbreaking book, My Soul To His Spirit: Soulful Expressions From Black Daughters To Their Fathers; an educator and lecturer who has taught, among other things, English at several universities that include Northwestern University, Illinois State University, Heartland Community College and Olive Harvey College; and a Contributing Editor to IN SEARCH OF FATHERHOOD®, a quarterly international male parenting journal exclusively published by BSI International, Inc. (www.bsi-international.com) and distributed in the United States and The Netherlands. For further information about Mrs. Beaty’s work, visit her website at www.mysoultohisspirit.com. Or send her a note via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.