Editor's Note: This is a tribute my mother wrote on Father's Day 2015 for my grandfather. I remember my grandfather very well. He's a part of many of my favorite memories as a child. Happy Father's Day Daddy Ben. "My father is in the great beyond but I have to pay tribute to him today. The world knew him as Ben, Benedict Williams, Santana, Technique and Luke Lewis. Yes he had two different names, and the story behind it is common in the islands. They knew him as a hard working man from Monday thru Friday around 5 pm and as the man who drank himself to the point where he was too drunk to make his way home from then thru Sunday night. What the world didn't know about him was that he was an only child who lost both of his parents before he reached the age of 2, that he was raised by an aunt who used him to help in the garden and do house work but never sent him to school. They didn't know that he was illiterate, he couldn't read nor write, that he was struggling to find himself, who he was, Benedict Williams or Luke Lewis, he was searching for the authentic man and when he couldn't find the answers he turned to the bottle for solace. My father provided and loved us the best way he could and at no point in life did I resent him or not love him because at a young age I understood his pain and hurt. (Those who knew us back in the day would remember me on Friday afternoon looking for him in all the rum shops in town so I can take him to the bus and send him home.) I am a better person today because of this man. I don't drink alcohol because of him and I pursue higher education because of him. He's not here today to wish him happy father's day but my love for him is still there. I love you Benedict Williams, Luke Lewis, Ben, Santana, Technique."
My mother and I have something in common, we understand the nuance of loving a flawed father.
For a long time, my father was to blame for everything wrong in my life. My ill feelings were confirmed by books, television specials, and studies. We were poor because I was a fatherless daughter, my mother had to raise four kids by herself because I was a fatherless daughter, I dated the wrong guys because I was a fatherless daughter, I married the wrong man because I was a fatherless daughter.
It could all be traced back to my father not being head of the household. (To be clear, my father has been an integral part of my life, as far back as I can remember.) I would be lying if I said it didn't have an affect on me. I've had issues with abandonment and trust. I've struggled with loving my father and having a real relationship with him. I've decided to reject that narrative. Today, I'm more interested in getting to know who my father really is, understanding why he made the decisions. What traumas has he faced? What has he been forced to overcome?
Fathers are real people, with real stories, and real challenges. As are mothers. Society forces us to see them as one dimensional. Fathers as strong, protectors, and providers while mothers are perfect care takers who sacrifice it all for their families. But, they are complex human beings. I choose to love my father, and to understand his story. This does not absolve him of all personal responsibility, but it's an opportunity to heal and move forward in love.
I recognize this may not be an option for everyone, nor is it a recommendation. It is simply sharing my personal experience.
Happy Father's Day Daddy! I love you! Let's build.