In 1998, my father died of a massive heart attack, brought on by congestive heart failure and pulmonary edema. I was 17-years-old. The most powerful memory I have is when I was about four or five and my father was carrying my younger sister in his arms when I asked him to carry me. He stooped down with my sister in his left arm and he carried me in his right. We were walking up the red stairs to my grandmother’s door and I remember nestling into his shoulder. I remember feeling so safe that nothing could ever harm me. I knew that if I had my father, I needed nothing else. It is that feeling I have kept with me in the years past his death; this feeling that I was enough, special, unique. It assured me that I was loved and ever supported by him in body and in spirit.
My mother told me stories of how my father jumped around the room when he found out that I was a girl! As a child, I would light up, knowing that he thought I was a marvelous gift to the world – the feeling of being a complete individual, and a part of someone whom adored the fact I simply exist. I believe it was, it is, at these moments that little black girls realize the true essence of their father’s love. It is the moment that you learn that at your core you are enough. You decide that the world will know you as enough and should treat you as such.
Even in the moments where I felt he didn’t understand me and our relationship was the most trying, I knew my father loved me. When I decided I wanted to be a writer instead of a doctor, there was a breech that happened in our relationship that I couldn’t close and time didn’t allow. I became distant because I believed he didn’t understand me. He rode me harder about every grade, trying to force me back towards medicine rather than the arts. However, I was never not his daughter, even when it would have been easier to deny me considering my behavior towards him. Towards the end of his life in 1998, he talked to me more, revealed all the things he wanted to do, and spoke of how much he loved me. My father told me as I sat on a kitchen floor with my knees to my chest that the reason why he could speak so freely to me then was because I was old enough to handle it. That bond of being his precious babygirl was still there. It was a bond that endured childhood and the tumultuous nature of adolescence. I believe he knew he was transitioning; he was trying to get me ready for life without him.
In the years that have passed, now almost 20 years in December, there is still no safer place than in my father’s arms. There is still no one and nothing that can mimic that safety and assurance. I knew that once he left the world, I wouldn’t have it again. It is because of this bond that I can walk through the world assured and confident in who I am. In his loss, I can extend empathy and sympathy to girls whom have lost their fathers, or whose fathers couldn’t speak to the amazingness on the inside of them.
I never thought of myself as a daddy’s girl until after he died. I had the tendency to shy away from that moniker. However, in embracing it now, I can still feel his arms around me, my chin in his neck, still loved and being held close. There is still no safer place than in his arms.
Jennifer P. Harris | Write To Love Team