From the mouth of my driveway, it is approximately 3.6 miles, and takes 7 minutes, max. Go up the road, make a right, continue west for approximately 2 miles, and you’ll know you’re close when you see the white picket fence.
Then, you’ll see the house, a contemporary beige colonial with quoin brick wing walls and a circular driveway that showcases bright, perky perennials in the spring and lush hostas in the summer. It’s where I used to drink from the milk carton when nobody was looking, where I’d raid my mother’s closet for pearls, and where I’d probably still find my white and pink roller skates in the basement.
Though, now, the house is but a residence inhabited by my father whom I have not spoken to for nearly two years since my mother divorced him after 35 years of marriage.
Among all of my childhood friends, I was the one with a mom and dad at home. And, particularly because I am black, the reference to Rudy Huxtable came virtually by default. From the periphery, I looked like the quintessential Daddy’s Girl who had it all – the cute puppy, coveted “It” toys, and, most of all, my father’s adoration.
I’d be lying if I said my upbringing wasn’t charmed, but not everything was what it seemed.
Long before my mother filed, there were cracks in the glass as far as my father and I were concerned. Truth be told, I can’t recall precisely when his resentment towards me began, and I never quite understood why. I chalk it up to the deep-seeded yet mysterious tragedies of his childhood, a childhood that was bereft of love. I also believe that was why my father had come to place such an emphasis on appearances; he camouflaged his anger, resentment, and embarrassment with trappings and airs.
Things didn’t have to be OK.
But they had to look OK.
I played along, an accomplice to the façade, until, in adulthood, I realized that I had to be true to myself, and in doing so, I realized that it was far more painful to be around my father than away from him. It was also around that time that I would come to experience unbridled acceptance from another man in my life.
That man became my husband.
People aren’t perfect, they aren’t always pretty, and you can’t change them. But I know now they are to be loved anyway.
I have accepted my estrangement from my father, though I suspect I will never truly understand it. There will always be questions unanswered, words unsaid, and time forever lost.
But I believe that being bitter is futile, holding a grudge is pointless. For without the experiences I have lived, I would not be who I am today. Far from perfect, but whole.
That house with the perennials will never again be home, but it was, once upon a time.
And for that, I am grateful.