The Death of a Deadbeat Father

August 23, 2019

By Rachel O. S. Edmund

For entirety of my childhood I didn’t know my father; not his name, not what he looked like, not his love. I found out his name when I was writing my secondary school entrance exam (back then it was called (Common Entrance). For the most part my father was dead to me in some type of way simply because I didn’t know anything about him as a child.

When I turned seventeen, we met because one of his younger brothers died and he was one of my father’s only relatives with whom my mother kept in touch as they worked for the same company. It was a confusing yet magical time for me because finally I would come to know who this man that was my father truly was.

My father was not a tall man nor was he short; he was a tad taller than I was. All of my father’s relatives when they met me for the first time disclaimed that I was my father’s twin! This caused me some angst as I still was yet to meet him. I wondered if what they were saying was actually true. Somehow I’d imagined music playing like in those movies where the long lost lovers were finally going to meet! I laugh at the thought now, but yeah, that was what I felt in the moment. The reality was that he was just a simple man and there was no music.

My father was built similarly to me or should I say, I was built just like him. When I looked at him I almost wished that what I saw I didn’t see because I saw myself. My body was awash with emotions that I could not process. I felt happy, sad, angry, disappointed, excited, fearful, anxious and so many more emotions all at the same time. I wondered whether he would like me or whether he would reject me.

My mother did not show a lot of affection to me as a child, she didn’t hug me very often and I was a very awkward child in that I didn’t feel as though I fit in anywhere and in that moment I didn’t feel like I did. I felt like a stranger but the weirdest thing happened. My father gazed upon me, said my name and quickly shuffled his feet toward me, arms wide open to hug me in order to plant a big wet sloppy kiss on my cheeks!

I couldn’t respond. It was as though my entire body went into some sort of shock. He grabbed my neck and squeezed so tightly that I couldn’t breathe as my head lay buried in his broad shoulders. He was overjoyed to say the least as his oldest daughter, somewhat of a prodigal, had returned to him. Everything was a blur after that because cousins, aunts, uncles, brothers, step mother and a sister all had to be met that day! That day, the deadbeat died.

My father never denied me after our meeting but our interactions were not as often as I would have liked. On the occasions that I would visit him and my siblings, he would be annoyed at me for not calling before I ventured up into the countryside. He would say “Why yuh didn’t call? Ah woulda bring some tings from de garden fuh yuh tuh go back home with!” Country folk would plant gardens and have a variety of roots and tubers that were dietary staples and he was no different, hence his ire whenever I made my way to him without telling him that I was coming.

Although during my formative years I had developed a hatred for my father, during our interactions those feelings seemed lost as my father always made me feel welcomed in his home and so did my siblings and step mother. She, my step mother would rush to get me something to eat or something to drink and she would always be interested in what I was doing and how the children were.

They had a relationship the likes of which I had never seen. They were married for thirty-five years. He had a pet name for her and they bantered all the time and I would find myself snickering in a corner at their discourse. They were hilarious! It seemed as though she knew him inside out and he seemed to know her the same way.

Whenever one of my siblings came around I would look at my father to see their relationship and it was something that I envied because they knew him better than I did. It seemed that they had healthy ties to each other and loved each other dearly, because they truly did. He was a proud man and was proud of his progeny including me.

When my father died two years ago, part of me died too and it hurt me to my very core. It was another time when I became so emotional because I didn’t know what I should feel and I felt so much. It was surreal and I couldn’t believe that it was truly happening. I was in a daze but I tried to hide what I felt deep inside because I was afraid to face it. I was again sad, angry, hurt, depressed, confused and lost. I remember standing at his graveside wishing I’d visited more and secretly hoping for his resurrection.

When I met my father I refused to call him daddy, I would call him by his first name. That seemed somewhat disrespectful to me but the word daddy was foreign to me so I had a hard time saying it. Later, I would use his name and “daddy” interchangeably. The day that he died, my daddy died. I was heartbroken. I wanted to bawl like the little baby that he’d held when I was hungry or in pain all those years ago. I couldn’t contain myself!

Sadness washed over me like nothing I had ever felt before. I wanted him to come back. I wanted him alive and well and chatting with me. I wanted him to tell me he loved me and squeeze me tightly. The pain was so intense that I thought that my heart would burst out of my chest. I thought that I would die too.

Then some truths hit me because I needed to know why I felt what I did in those months after his death. I felt loss and grief because a part of me was no longer, sadness because I loved him and missed him too. When I realized that I loved my father, my heart broke a second time because I recalled him saying to me how much he loved me but my mind couldn’t grasp what he felt. I never told him that I loved him and that hurt me so much.

My father never let that deter him from loving or teaching me. Looking back, I see how much he taught me in the time that we spent together. It didn’t matter to him that he lost my childhood and teens because he lived in the present. My father loved his family and always promoted harmony among all of us. He always said “Yuh issa Walcott! Dis is yuh famalee! I, Beres is yuh fadda, yuh always welcome here cuz yuh is meh daughtah!”

My father was humble but proud of his children. He lived to see weddings and grandchildren. He lived to see me and my sister return to him. He died happy and blessed, knowing that we loved him. As a single mother I comfort myself with the thought that he knew I loved him just as much as I know my children love me.

Love and forgiveness killed the deadbeat but cancer stole my daddy.

Beresford Walcott December 13, 1945 – May 13, 2017 RIP Beres! Love you and miss you! You may be gone but your memory burns and lives on in me!

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