The Consistent Man In My Life

June 16th, 2013  |  by Veralyn Williams |  Published in Blog, Personal Essays

Another train ride post… It’s 3:24am and I just boarded a local 2 train to Brooklyn from Harlem. This is sooo not like me! But I guess in addition to writing for 30 days I am also trying to step outside my comfort zone. But… as much as I want to just gush about my night with my Sierra Leone sister, Leeann– I have more thoughtful fish to fry.

I want to talk about my dad, Victor Williams.

It’s only been in recent years, with so many bloggers, “experts,” and comedians telling black women that we are single and unlovable because of our daddy issues (among other things), that I have really come to acknowledge my dad’s consistent role in my life. It never occurred to me growing up that I should be grateful for that. Sure I knew not all families were shaped like mine, but in my reality, my dad was just always there. Being our dad and my mom’s husband.

Truth be told, what I love most about my dad now, is what embarrassed me the most about him growing up. He is soooooo African! And during my awkward pre-high school years, my dad was the only thing that “gave me away.”

No- I wasn’t always as proud of my Sierra Leone heritage as I am now. “African” to my peers meant someone who smells, who couldn’t speak English, or who dressed funny… And on my own, I wasn’t associated with any of that. My mom “passed” too, but my dad had an accent that alerted my friends, to my truth. And then I got the, “but you don’t look African”… and I’d simply smile and try to accept that statement as a compliment. But it never felt that way.

However, my dad was my dad, and he was going to show up to my school as much as he wanted. Sure he complained about “ALL the graduations we have in this country”: pre-school, kindergarten, elementary school, junior high school, high school, college… But he was there for every one.

You would think I’d take him into consideration when I started to date, but of course I didn’t. In fact until recently, I never dated an African man at all, because I associated them with my father and my family members. Instead, when I started to look at guys, I wanted what I saw on BET. I was looking for a guy with “LL Cool J” looks and “Ja Rule” swag and I found just that.

I will never forget the first piece of “man” advice my dad gave me. It was my first boyfriend’s birthday, and my plan was to take him to the movies in New Rochelle. My dad worked in White plains at the time, and I begged him for his metro north pass, so I wouldn’t have to pay for both of our rides there. After grilling me about my plans, he obliged. And life was perfect! Except “the boyfriend” (who of course I stayed with for years after this) went MIA. He never showed up for our date and he didn’t even have the decency to call. I was soooo embarrassed.

After finding me in my room, pretending not to be home, my dad flatly told me something along the lines of, “you shouldn’t be with someone that doesn’t respect you.” But again taking my dad for granted, I didn’t really hear him, and he was that last person I wanted to be talking to about it. (I instead talked to my girlfriend, who convinced me to hear the “excuse” on what “had happened” out. Sigh)

These days I am constantly calling my dad for help. Not about men still, but about music, food, the tea he drinks when he needs energy, for the correct way to say something in Krio… and just the other day I was in Target trying to buy light bulbs and I needed to know what the wattage in my bathroom should be… I phoned my dad and he told me.

I guess what I’m trying to illustrate is how much my dad is just a part of me.

I’ve done radio stories about the mistakes he’s made, but sadly I’ve never told him how much I appreciate all the things he got right. In fact my dad is often right… But as I do always tell him, it’s not what he’s saying, it’s the way he’s saying it!

Tonight as Leeann and I danced to the sounds of mostly Nigerian and Azonto music, as we got especially hyped when the ol’ school African songs of my dad’s collection came on… I for the first time thought: I would love to meet a guy like my dad.

Someone that I can depend on so completely, I don’t always realize just how much I do!

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