As I light this Swisher Sweet and take my first hit. I think about, and reflect on my life. I get into deep thought about not having a father and imagining a father figure being present and how different things would be. He disappeared out of my life and my family’s when I was 8. Midway through second grade.

When he left, so did a piece of my childhood. There’s a blank space in my memory banks that I want to fill. Memories that are blurred with no way of obtaining clarity.

I’m chilling on my back porch looking at the dark sky. Cruising through memory lane. Remembering playing my dad on Madden, cruising in my dad’s whip bumping T.I. and Too $hort, him cooking me and my little sister breakfast at his apartment, my mom and my dad arguing, my dad pulling a knife out on my grandpa, seeing my dad in an orange jumpsuit. Just recollecting all the times I was with him. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Was my father a bad person? Who is he? Did he ever love me? Why did he leave?

These questions and many more pop up in my head. I think long and hard about each one.

My family has answered most of these questions multiple times. And the answers vary.

My mom said he was a piece of shit. My grandma said the same to a lesser extent, but added that he couldn’t cope with his problems.

He was an Army veteran, drug dealer, drug addict, father, thief, convict, etc. All these labels.

My grandma said he loved us. But she didn’t say it confidently. No one else answered that question.

I’ve heard a lot of reasons for why he left.

But none of that really matters to me. They’re my family and I love them. But there’s only one person who can answer these questions. And he’s not here.

I’ve come to my own conclusions based off of my own experiences with him and what I’ve been told.

I’d like to think he was a good person who made bad decisions.

He was a war veteran who probably suffered with PTSD. He saw his best friend get blown into pieces by a bomb. From what I heard he was already into drugs. He came home when I was about 4. And getting back home with the visions he brought with him probably made his condition worse.

He took us out to eat, he spent a lot of time with us, he told me a lot of good things that I just don’t remember. He showed me his Army outfit. I wanted to be a soldier just like him. We’d play with my G.I. Joe’s reliving his time in Iraq.

He was always soft and gentle with me and my sister. But he’d argue with my mom a lot in the kitchen. I’d be in my room peeking or in the living room playing GTA or Madden.

I didn’t really know or understand what was going on.

All I knew was cereal for breakfast, PB&J for lunch and Spagetti-Os for dinner.

All I knew was hide and go seek when there’s knocking on the door.

All I knew was playing Army when my father was peeking out the blinds at midnight.

All I knew was dad was gone all day and mom was gone all night.

Later in life, I started putting the pieces together, and I still am to this day. Trying to make sense of my early life.

Now I know we were on foodstamps, now I know police were looking for my dad, now I understand why certain things happened.

But I still don’t really know who my father was.

I’ve seen him in a military uniform. I’ve seen him in an orange jumpsuit. I seen him smile and cook us eggs. I seen him pull a knife out on my grandpa and take off in a blue-green Probe.

My mom was always so cold towards my father. At dinner they’d talk and smile with me and my little sister. But they had straight faces towards each other. They never even looked at each other. My dad always told me that mommy was mad at him. And that was that.

I was always observant, I could tell they didn’t like each other. I didn’t know why. And no one gave me answers. Felt like it was my fault.

I loved my mom and dad equally. But I looked up to my dad more so than my mom.

I’d wear my hat crooked, walk with a little swag and say I’m a gangster. Trying to mimic my dad and the men on MTV.

That was my life up until first grade.

I was 6 when my mom and dad split. I don’t really know why. I just knew I’d miss my few friends from school.

My mom moved us into my grandparent’s house in Graham. Me and my little sister used to stay here when my mom had to work night shifts and my dad never came home.

My dad moved into an apartment on South Tacoma Way. Me and my sister would go there every weekend and most of the summer.

At this point I had a lot of enthusiasm, lots of passion, I was mostly a happy kid. I knew, but didn’t understand what was going on. I just wanted to be a soldier, football player, zookeeper(I loved animals), singer, rapper, just a bunch of things kids aspire to be. My mom and dad supported those things. Even though they separated.

They showed up to pretty much all my Bethel Rec games. I don’t remember them ever missing one.

I remember one time I was playing soccer in first grade. The goalie dropped kick the ball straight into my ballsack. I fell on my knees and made the funniest face ever. At least that’s what my mom and dad thought. I just thought it hurt like a mufucka’.

Then after the game my mom and dad took me out to Denny’s with my little sister. We talked and laughed about the game. My parents actually engaged with each other. It was fun.

That was my life for about a year. During the week, go to school, go home, eat, watch cartoons like Ed, Edd n Eddy, color, play football and Army in the backyard by myself, etc. Then on the weekend, go to my dad’s crib, play video games, watch the Crocodile Hunter with him and my sister, go out to eat somewhere, have a good time.

Then during the summer my dad and mom would take us out to parks and whatever bumping Jay Z ‘Big Pimpin’ and T.I. ‘Shoulder Lean’. Even though I said “Soldier Lane”. Life was good. Even though we weren’t all living together anymore.

Then all that changes. I’m in second grade now. It’s early in the morning, around 5-6. Everyone’s sleeping. I’m at my grandparents house. My dad wakes me and my sister up. He whispers “C’mon, get up, get ready, let’s go.” So I do and so does my sister. He tells us to be quiet. Then my mom wakes up and starts yelling at my dad. I hear noises, shit’s falling. The front door opens and slams shut. My mom comes upstairs and tells us to go to sleep. And that’s the last time I seen my dad. Apparently he tried to kidnap us. But I just don’t know.

Then later on when I’m in 5th grade I’m told he moved to Idaho and is with another woman with 4 kids. She supplied him his drugs.

It’s high school now and my grandpa has called me a piece of shit “like my dipshit father” because I got bad grades, I’m anti-social, I drank a lot, I smoke weed and tobacco, etc.

So who was my father? It’s a complicated question. It’s confusing.

He was good with me and my sister. I enjoyed every second with him. But maybe it’s because the older I got, the less I saw him until I never seen him again.

I seen him do some bad things. But I seen a lot more good from him. Maybe he kept the bad shit away from us the best he could.

Maybe he’s a piece of shit and his life fell a part as a result. Maybe he was a good person with a bad past. I don’t know. But I’m almost positive that he cared for me and my sister. I’m pretty sure he loved us.

Where does that leave me?

When he first left I didn’t think much of it. Weeks passed, I start to miss him. Months pass, I’m hopeful he’ll come back. Couple years later, I accept he’s never coming back.

Halfway through 4th grade, I started acting out in school. Started disrespecting my teacher. I got disciplined at home. And at night I’d cry alone.

I developed depression, anxiety, and other mental problems. I put a mask on at school. I was the funny guy. And then I’d come home and just chill in my room most the time. Mostly spending it either starring at the wall or playing video games.

After he left, so did my hero. I stopped looking up to people. And eventually started giving up on my dreams. I lacked self confidence and self worth. Especially when I got to middle school. I quit football in 7th grade. I flunked half my classes. I just played video games and listened to music.

When I got to high school I started drinking, smoking, skipping classes, shop lifting and other shit. Trying to find an escape or something to at least help me cope with my problems. My grandpa would say I’m just like my dad.

I didn’t love myself. I hated life. When I looked in the mirror, I saw my dad and I hated him too.

Picked up bad habits and addictions. Shit my family associates with my dad. So I guess I hated myself. I just looked at myself as my father’s seed. Full of resentment towards everything, including myself.

Eventually, midway through junior year, a thought pops in my head. How can I be my father if I don’t even know who he is?

Then I started thinking to myself. Soul searching. Questions pop in my head.

Why am I the way I am now? How did I get this way? What caused my suffering? Why am I fucking up so much?

Who am “I”?

After hours of deep thought. I come to conclusions. All my problems start with me.

Lots of things have impacted me. Gave my addictions power and fueled my depression.

But once I started looking within, instead of looking out. I found answers.

I don’t need anyone to be happy. I’m in control of my happiness. No one controls me, but me.

I don’t need a role model. I just need to look at the man I was yesterday, and see how I can improve.

You can trap my body but never my mind or my soul.

At this point, I was still making bad choices. But I kept a level head. I didn’t need adrenaline rushes or liquor to feel good. But I still did shit.

Once I came to the realization that everything begins within me. I didn’t need anything anymore. I was at peace for a while.

But I was in the eye of the storm. Shit caught up to me. Friendships broke a part. My future doesn’t seem like a good one thus far.

But my head is level and I can get through it.

The man who thinks he can and the man who thinks can’t are both right. And I can.

Me wondering who my father was, was really me wondering who I am. Me and him are two different individuals.

I still don’t know my whole childhood though.

That brings me back to the question at hand.

Who is my father?

Guess I’ll go ask him.

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