As the month of love comes around again, I have decided to reflect on where I seek love, where I pour it out to and where I receive it from.
The story goes that my mother and father were in the midst of a whirlwind love affair; my mother a teen and my father slightly older. As often happens with all things fun and thrilling, there were consequences; my mother fell pregnant.
Upon finding out, she informed him. He questioned the authenticity of the story, denied paternity and then completely extricated himself from the situation.
In light of this, and owing to the times, my mother had to identify a man (or boy) who had done this to her. She named someone she had not had a sexual relationship with. He stated his case and left egg on the face of my mother, my grandmother and her sisters. I was thus born with the identity of my father a secret.
I grew up with murmurs and rumours about who the father of this once light-skinned and now very dark child could be. The rumours continued well into my teen years. I went to school and teachers would ask for my father’s name as part of routine information collection, and some of them would shame me for not knowing. I eventually decided to give them my grandfather’s name.
I was nine when I was finally told who my father is. I was shocked to learn that it was the “uncle” down the street who had a wife and son and lived what seemed like a beautiful life. Considering that I was living in poverty and he seemed not to be, I developed deep resentment for him, his wife and entire family. I wondered why he didn’t ‘save’ me.
It was this story that made my grandmother hellbent on not collecting any maintenance from my father or his family. The funnier part of this is that our families, by proximity, were friends. Looking at pictures from my earlier years, I can see his sister and brothers in some of the photos.
Psychologists say we experience rejection and develop ‘daddy issues’ as a result of such histories. I will admit that I have suffered from these issues, and perhaps they do indeed stem from this background.
I have carried resentment and anger towards my father for years and have moved around in search of something that could replace his role in my life. When this is met by rejection and bullying from the world for me being gay… you can imagine the kind of mess I have been. The hard work of healing had to begin. And today, I am forgiving my father, while he is still alive.
I was 12 when I first tried to have a relationship with him – a whole khumbulekhaya vibe – which fell flat. I tried again when I was 16, with a speech that explained that I didn’t want his money, I just wanted a relationship with him. It was another fail. I was 25 when he eventually was the one to reach out. I am 30 and he is still trying and failing.
I am not saying it’s a tit-for-tat situation, I am just telling you the facts. It is hard to build these relationships – it is either the wrong time for one party or it is impossible because of other challenges. On my end, I was not able to reconcile all the issues from our past to have a relationship with this man.
But I now know that all that needs to happen is for me to forgive him.
So I forgive my father for denying his paternity. I forgive him for being that man who lurked in the background and never stepped up. I forgive him for the resultant rejection I felt as a child. I forgive him for his absence. I forgive him for his rejection of me again at 12 and at 16. I forgive him for not showing up when I hoped he would. I forgive him for being who he is.
I won’t make excuses for him; those are for him to account to his God. But I will have to account for carrying this anger and resentment with me for this long.
Now that I have started to heal and address my issues, I have resolved to forgive my father for all the love I have wanted, needed, hoped from him and never received and may never receive. I forgive you, dad
If you carry similar feelings, I hope you find your own healing and forgive those you need to forgive. Perhaps that can be your Valentine’s month gift to yourself.