I Don't Want To Be Like My Father...
by Sharel E. Gordon-Love
"I don't care what your father said! I said I am not driving two hours just so you can pick up some stupid video game. Every time that man calls this house, you expect me to drop everything and run you down there like that's all I've got to live for. He is not running my house from where he lives, two states from here! It's as simple as that..."
Mom has spoken, so I walked out the screen door, slamming it behind me.
"Boy, don't you slam that door again or I'mma slam you! Do you hear me?"
"Yeah..." I mumbled under my breath.
"What did you say?" asked my mother.
"Yes... I hear you..."
"All right then..." Moms walked back in the kitchen continuing to fuss. Yet again my father, her ex-husband, calls to ask us when we are coming down. This gets her riled up because we always get excited about visiting our father. He can't visit us, so.... Mom's complaint is he don't call for weeks, and when he does, it's the promise of some new jeans and shirts, or a video game or two for our PlayStation he finally bought after promising to buy it for months.
I didn't go past the porch, instead I leaned on the side of it with my head in my hands, feeling like it was dooms day. All the time my brain is working over time.
"I don't know why Mom thinks I catch an attitude every time my father calls. She acts like she don't want us to see him. Just because he didn't treat her right don't mean he treats us like he treated her. Besides, he is our father... I wouldn't want to be like him though. Well, in some ways I do, but not all ways..."
"Hey Alonzo! What's up, Mon?" asked Jimmy interrupting my thoughts. He lives down the street from us.
"Nothing man... just chillin', trying to find something to do. Where you going?"
"I was going to get the fellas so we could ball. You want to play?"
"Man, you know my game is football. Besides, I've got to try to talk my mom's into taking me driving. I'll be sixteen in less than a year, and I'm not going to be like my brother and wait until I'm 18 to get my license."
"Heard that... I'mma be out then. Where's your brother?"
"Playin' that trumpet."
"Peace out then, yo..."
"Alonzo, come in here please. I need to talk to you," Moms called out to me.
"Oh man," I thought, "here she go..."
"I've got sense enough to know that you don't want to hear what I have to say, but I'm getting tired of getting to this point with you. Especially when you know the circumstances behind the attitude I take when it comes to your father. I hope this talk will clear up any questions you might have... and your attitude. Walking around here with an attitude like you pay bills. Until you can pay any around here, I think you'd better straighten up..."
I slunk down on the sofa, waiting for the usual lecture on how negligent my father is and how she doesn't want me and my brother to be like him. Use the negative to build the positive, this, that, and the other...
"Raymond! I want you in here too. Put the trumpet up and come in here, boy."
The trumpet stops suddenly and Raymond walks into the living room, taking a seat next to me. We exchange knowing glances because we know we might be in here for the rest of the afternoon. Don't get me wrong, I understand how my mother feels and all because she's the one who makes sure we have what we need. Drives over an hour to work one way, comes home and cook, clean and listen to how our day went. On top of all of that, her commitment to God and the church. But she is the one who really don't understand... we WANT our father to be a good father and take time with us. We already know that it ain't like that, and we'd rather not hear it from her. But it's coming anyway....
"I know you think that I'm gonna tell you that your father tries to smooth everything over with gifts, and that he needs to improve his father skills, but I'm not going there today. No... I've decided that it's gotten a bit tired and you're probably tired of hearing it. Right?"
"I am," Raymond said. Why did he answer her? Is he crazy? I give him a look that says I think he is crazy.
"Well, since we are all tired of my mouth, I want to hear what you have to say." This was definitely a switch for my mother.
"But let me say this first," my mother started. I knew it was too good to be true. "Quite naturally I don't want you to be abusive to your girlfriends or wives. Alonzo you were right there that day when your father put his hands on me for the last time. No woman deserves to be abused in any way..."
Mom got silent after stating this as if she were reliving the day of which she spoke, but it wasn't she who relived it, I had already started drifting back to that cold January morning....
"You are going to call my mother and talk to her!" my father shouted in my mother's face. If she were afraid, you wouldn't know it because she told him she was not calling his mother for nothing, all the time continuing to iron her clothes for work.
Instead of listening to my mother, my father gets on the phone and calls his mother anyway. But my mother refused to get on the phone, still ironing her clothes. While my father had my grandmother on the phone, he threatened my mother with the starch bottle, picking it up in a motion to hit her with it.
"Go ahead, Alonzo, hit me if that's what you are going to do!" shouted my mother.
"Talk to my mother!" my father shouted at my mother who stood her ground.
My father then grabbed my mother around the neck in the crook of his arm choking her. My mother still held her ground. By now I am terrified because I don't know what is going to happen, but I knew it couldn't be good. One thing I did know, and that is my father could seriously hurt my moms. He has always been a very big man, and my mother was very tiny back then. Realizing that my mother wasn't budging, my father talks into the phone telling my grandmother he'll call her back, hangs up the phone and jumps on my mother like he's jumping on a total stranger. I stood at the bottom of their bed that day screaming and crying at the top of my lungs for my father to stop hitting my mother. I was four years old, almost five, but I knew my father was hurting my mother. The strangest thing, though, is she wasn't screaming or crying like she did in past times. I didn't know why then, but as I think about it, I know why now.
My father was pounding on my mother with fists of fury, while I screamed and screamed. All of a sudden I heard my mother saying, "Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus!" over, and over again. It was more than evident Moms was praying in her heart. Suddenly my father jumped off of her shouting, "Look at what you made me do to you!" I believe he heard her and felt really bad. You see, he was then and still is now a deacon in his church.
Looking at my mother's face, there were no tears, but a new strength took over. She continued to get ready for work, and get me and my oldest brother ready for school. She even spoke to my grandmother when my father called her back. She let her know how she felt about a situation that involved my grandmother without biting her tongue. Yes, my mother is a strong, black woman. Of this I have no doubt.
That very cold day in January changed the way I would live for years to come. That was the day I began to live in a single-parent home. We never lived together again in the house that my parents bought. It is something how my youngest brother has no memory of any of the things that happened in that house, not even the fact that my parents once lived there together. I guess only being about two and a half years old at the time may be the reason why he can't remember.
I do remember what I said that morning as we pulled away from in front of the house: "My father don't know how to treat nobody right..."
"Are you even listening to what I'm saying, Alonzo?" my mother asked, bringing me back from my trip to early childhood. "I asked do you know what you said about your father that morning we left him for good?"
"Yes..." why wouldn't I remember it? "I said my father didn't know how to treat nobody right."
"I don't want to be mean like Daddy," Raymond stated. "I know sometimes I get real mad like him, but I don't want to treat anybody bad."
Raymond is almost 13 and I'm 15, so we really do understand what Moms keeps trying to get into our heads. We really do, but the way I figure it, every guy wants a father who is going to be there when you're playing football, have your first real date, or just want to talk about real personal stuff. Especially sex... Moms has been there through all of this for us, but it would sure be cool if my pops could be there too.
"What about you, Alonzo?" my mother asks. What can I say to this? My only response is:
"No.... I don't want to be like my father..."