Posts Tagged ‘family’

when your life becomes a murder porn* episode

Last month, three of my cousins were murdered by one of their ex-boyfriends/children’s father.  It still doesn’t seem like real life.  This is some murder porn* stuff.

The day started normally enough for me.  I woke up late and my mom said she wanted to talk to me. I remember being really annoyed that we were going to have to have a serious talk right when I woke up.  I don’t think I hide it well.

“You heard about the triple murder suicide last night in [town]?”
“Uhm, no.”

I feel bad, because my first thought was of my brother M, who lives in that town.  So now I’m really scared.

“Well, I think K and B were killed by B’s ex-boyfriend last night and then he shot himself.”
“What?  No.”

And then I left because K and B are the last names I thought she’d mentioned.  But a quick check to facebook showed that their friends had already heard the news and that confirmed it for me.  Later on in the day, I would find out the third person who was murdered wasn’t just a friend of theirs, but actually another cousin of ours.

At first I couldn’t believe it.  That doesn’t make sense.  Why would he kill her?  And why he kill the rest?  And then why would he kill himself?  And what about the baby?  (The baby thankfully is ok and is too young to ever remember any of this (hopefully).)  So I started digging for details.  Turns out the reasons were the increasingly common reasons a noncustodial father kills the mother of his children – child support and because she was moving on.

Now that I could believe it, I was angry.  Why is this the solution?  Why is it when a relationship doesn’t work out, violence is the next step?  What was his plan if the cops didn’t stop him?  I actually don’t want to know.

I was only angry for a little while before I became sad.  My cousins K and B were young.  Both under 30 and both with children.  They hadn’t lived life yet. My third cousin, T,  was older, and to be sure, I feel sad for her too, but at least she got to live most of her life.  I was much closer to K and B than T.

And then the guilt came.  I hadn’t seen them since the last funeral we all were at, which was K’s mom’s in April.  I had done a terrible job of staying in touch with that side of the family.  Even since I had moved back to CT, I only was ever around during times of tragedy.  That and I had gone into super hermit mode for most of the first year I was here.  Do I have the right to feel devastated over deaths of people I wasn’t close to?  I still vacillate between “they’re your feelings it’s ok” and “you don’t have a right to feel this way.”

The only thing I felt I could do now was to help.  B’s sister had come into town and was doing most of the funeral preparations.  I had to help her; I felt like it was my duty.  Some small way to make up for not being around while they were alive.  Man, did she put me to work.  It was difficult to watch everyone’s coping mechanisms, which ran the gamut from working instead of feeling and feeling so much they wound up in the hospital. It felt good to help, it felt awful to witness the families sorrow increase as they learned more details.  The murderer’s very long and disturbing history of domestic violence, my cousins’ last moments, how if the stars had aligned a little differently another cousin could have been involved and if they had aligned another way, it would have been the family matriarch instead.

But then there were good moments.  People volunteering food and space for the funeral.  A toy drive set up for the kids.  Donations of clothes and other things babies need.   People coming to share a laugh and good (but really bad for you) food.  And although I’m not into  Church, I even appreciated the many prayers shared.  But the best was the baby, who was just as happy as he always.  Hard to feel down when he smiles at you.

We planned a double funeral.  We had to find clothes for them to wear.  Something that seemed easy enough but quickly turned into a three day project while we worried about what they would wear, would they have liked this if they were alive and still getting something to cover up all the things the family wouldn’t want to see. Because everyone was so emotionally beat down, I wrote the two obituaries.

And then the funeral happened and it was terrible and beautiful.  Two white caskets next to each other, surrounded by flowers in their favorite colors, in front of a packed Church in the middle of a snowstorm.  People were sobbing.  Some had the decency to do it in the bathroom and not on the family who was already barely holding it together.  Thankfully, I kept it together through the funeral and the burial. Me, my mom and my brother had to do readings, but again, I felt happy that I could do something.   In the end, K was buried next to her mother and B was married next to her.  Best friends to the end.

We worried if there going to be conflict within the family since T was just visiting and because she had died trying to help her cousins here?  But of course there wasn’t, because this is family.  My mom married into the family when I was little and I used to still be around even after her divorce.  K and her brother used to always be at my house and I have many found memories of us terrorizing my step-father with our antics (and bad and much too loud singing).  The one thing about that family that I always admired is that they always stood together, even when one was acting a complete fool.  ”The Mills!” I would say and laugh.  And so, when I learned that my cousins died because they were protecting one another, I was not surprised.  It seemed so fitting that this tight knit family would literally die for one another.  I could not be mad at that.  I don’t think they would be mad either.  I don’t think they would have even thought they had a choice.  And though I am still really sad and mad and guilt-ridden, I take small comfort in family and the things we do for each other.

e.

*murder porn is not actual porn.  It’s those murder shows like Snapped, Fatal Encounters, anything on Investigation Discovery.  Basically real life Law & Order.

I love it when you talk Daddy to me

I must say, nothing makes me happier than hearing about my friends’ children. But my real joy comes when it’s my male friends doing the talking. I don’t know what’s so special about men doing what I’ve started to call “talking Daddy,” but I just can’t get enough. Luckily for me, a quick trip to facebook normally provides my fix. And if that doesn’t work, I simply have to ask my friend Jose how his son is and squeal when his answer is something super sweet like “delicious.” I almost can’t take it anymore.

I love when my friends tell me how their infant does something new or totally unexpected. I love watching videos of babies who have no idea how precious they are as they fall asleep while their parents try to get them to dance to songs. Or even simply little observations of their cognitive development. My favorite is when fathers tell me their child is their new best friend. I eat it up.

Something tragic happened to one of my closest friends, and yet even still, everything cool thing he does, he says it’s for his son. And even in private conversations, I can hear how this child who left the earth too soon has changed his life. My friend still talks Daddy to me.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by how much I enjoy Daddy talk given my field of research. I literally read and write about fathers all day long. And I find when I talk about my research, I spend a lot of time debunking this idea that fathers that aren’t married to the mothers of their children aren’t around and that they can’t be good fathers. And I spend the most time talking about Black fathers. Man, they get a bad rap for no reason. Especially when the research shows that as nonresident fathers, they are the most likely to actually be involved with their children.

It was with this understanding that I was totally annoyed when Courtland Milloy came out his face talking about Trayvon Martin and asking where Trayvon’s father was and why his mother was the one leading the charge for justice for her son. I mean, has he watched any of the press conferences? Tracy Martin is always there next to Sybrina Fulton. I mean, Travyon was visiting his father to get his priorities back on track when he was murdered. The next week, Milloy apologized… sort of. I get it, he’s writing about what he sees, or rather what he thinks he sees.

But this selective vision is the problem.  We really have got to stop assuming fathers aren’t around. We need to stop for one second and realize that we’re surrounded by many men talking Daddy to us. We need to start listening.

e.

On Daddy Issues

I hate the way people talk about “daddy issues.”

I think the biggest misconception about daddy issues is that people know how to deal with them. It took me easily 15 years to figure out that “dealing” with my father meant forgiving him and accepting him where he was. It took me a few more years to actually be able to do that. And I was lucky (using that term real loosely here) because my father had an excuse I could buy (addiction and PTSD) but more importantly, because he changed. (I wrote about it yesterday.)  I’m only beginning my research on adults and their fathers, but from what I’ve learned so far, this is not the way it always goes.

More often it’s a painful disaster. A few months ago I read Naked With Socks On’s piece about when he confronted his father about why he wasn’t there. His father didn’t have a good answer, he barely had an answer at all. And when that happens you are crushed. Hell, I was crushed and it didn’t happen to me. Another public example is a scene in the documentary the Prep School Negro. Andre visits his father’s house for the first time and confronts his father about what happened, where he’s been, what the deal was. To be honest, watching this scene was like watching a horror movie. I didn’t want to watch because I was scared of what the father would say.  And like NWSO’s father, this guy didn’t have an excuse and it hurt.  It was literally painful to watch.

I think the fear of these scenes becoming a reality is why I think a lot of people avoid having the conversation. What in the world do you say to a parent who wasn’t there and offers no acceptable reason? What do you do with that information? I don’t have the answers. I don’t know what I would do. And my guess is, a lot of you don’t know either.

What was the point of me writing this?  Lately, it seems that everyone fancies themselves experts on fathers and fatherless children.  And frankly most of what I’m reading comes from people who have no idea of what they are talking about.  I also have many, many thoughts on how we talk about women who grew up without their fathers, but that is another post.  I say all this to say that I hope the next time someone wants to tell people to go deal with their daddy issues, they’ll think for one second about what that really means, how much time it takes and how it feels.

To be clear, I’m not saying that people shouldn’t “deal,” I’m saying offer some compassion instead of ordering someone to do it.

peace,
e.

my father and me

This something I’ve been meaning to write forever. It looks like I first tried to write this last June and I’ve come back to see that I only wrote two sentences (and I’m not even going to use them). I want to write more about fatherhood in general, but I figured it would make sense to start with me and my father’s story.

But it starts before I even got here. My mother and father don’t agree much on the details of how they met but from what I can gather, my mother came to California, met my father and they fell in love. Like for real love, they got engaged and bought a house. Then my father messed up big time (“groupies” according to my dad and drugs, bad combo) and my mother left him. After she had me, she moved back to Connecticut. And since my father loved both of us, he followed. Since he didn’t know anyone in CT, he couldn’t get drugs and so he got clean.

For a while we all lived together with my grandmother. My mother’s work required her to travel a lot, so I spent most of my early years with my father and my grandmother. Eventually my mom was able to spend more time in CT, enough to buy a house and we were a “regular” family. I’m not sure what happened, but my father moved out but we still hung out all the time. I was the ultimate daddy’s girl and it was awesome. He spoiled me rotten and I loved it. Whatever I wanted I got and I got used to it.

When I was nine, my mother told me she was going to have a baby (with her husband, not my dad). That’s when my father decided to tell me that he had just had a baby with some woman I never met and that I had a six month old brother.

Somewhere along the way my dad started doing drugs again. His visits became more sporadic and when we hung out it was sometimes with real shady people and sketchy situations. I was also getting older, so I was more aware of what going on, but for the most part everything was cool.

Then my dad started going to jail. The first time was devastating. I remember hiding in the closet and crying. But after that, I began to look forward to my dad going to jail because when he was in jail he called and wrote all the time. And when he was out, he was gone.

During another stint in jail, the woman he had my brother with had a little girl. She was born addicted to crack and was placed for adoption. I only met her once, the day after she was born. And then she was gone.

Though I was getting frustrated with my father around this time, I was not done with him. I figured eventually he would clean up and get his life together. He had kids and all these mistakes had costs. But my father couldn’t clean up. My breaking point came when he missed my high school graduation. Later he told me that he was high and didn’t want to see me in that state. But I didn’t know then and that was the first time I cut him off.

Through all of this, mother has always remained calm. She never says anything negative about my father and his shenanigans. And whenever I talk crazy about his, she reminds me that he is my father. I’ve always admired this about her because if some man was driving my children crazy, it would be all over for him.

I don’t remember how, but we reconciled. I didn’t trust him and I barely liked him but I still loved him. My mother made me invite him to my college graduation. He came and was so proud you would have thought he had anything to do with my success there. It infuriated me.

The next few years were strained. I was going through my own stuff and didn’t want to deal with my father’s. I can’t remember now what happened, (I’m sure it had something to do with the truly awful man that I was dating) but I decided that I needed to deal with my father and our issues before it ruined any chance I had at obtaining and maintaining a function romantic relationship. So I wrote him a letter. It said three things: 1. You don’t know me, you haven’t made an effort, so I’m going to tell you who I am, 2. You’re either in or out. I’m not going to continue to chase you around and beg you to act like a father. You either do it on your own and leave me the hell alone and 3. You are not going to be the reason I don’t get married.

To be honest, I didn’t expect an answer. But my father, ever full of surprises, wrote me back and sent a packet of other stuff. He said he was sorry. He said he had been clean for a year and was diagnosed with PTSD. He had been in therapy and was back to drawing again. He sent me all the information he had about my sister. He sent me info about veteran benefits for children (way too late as I was 25 but it would help my brother). And he said I was right. I was finally able to forgive him.

He started to call me. If we had plans to meet, you better believe he was there. And for that I am grateful.

Our relationship now is not perfect but it’s much better. I have accepted my father for who is. I can see who he is. And I am ok with that. He’s never going to be Bill Cosby.   He’s never going to be the man to financially bail me out of situations.  But he is the man who will come down to to New York year after year and move me to different apartments, even mice filled ones that scare both of us. He’s the man that tells me I’m beautiful, smart, funny, insert positive adjective here when I need to hear it. He’s the man that helps me calm down because he’s incapable of not seeing the bright side to a situation.  He’s the man that makes me laugh.  He is my father.

e.

on family and theory

I never know how to treat family “issues” on the blogosphere, but since this current situation is shaping a new theory I’m working on (and because frankly, this story is so over the top), I’ve decided to share it here.

I’ll start with the headline “Eleven Arrested, One Tasered, During Manchester Drug Bust” – and now you can tell where we’re going. In that day’s newspaper, there were actually three different stories about drug busts in CT, but this one involved my younger brother.  In fact, he’s almost the star of the article

MANCHESTER — Police arrested 11 people and seized more than a pound of marijuana, plus $7,796 in cash, during a drug bust Monday that included a violent struggle.

Many of the arrests were the result of drug dealing in the Spruce Street area of town, where undercover officers from a regional task force had bought marijuana, crack cocaine and heroin over several months, police said. One of the arrested people is accused of having children sell drugs near a school. In all, police served 28 warrants.

Millard “Marquise” Jackson, 19, of Oak Street was shot with a Taser by officers when he resisted arrest on a warrant charging him with selling marijuana to an undercover officer in the Spruce Street neighborhood. He continued struggling after being Tasered, police said.

When officers got Jackson under control, they found 86 bags of marijuana on him, police said. Officers added charges of possession of marijuana, possession with intent to sell and resisting arrest.

Yeah so that’s my bro. And while I could go on and talk about how hard his life has been (which is has) and his issues with mental illness, the fact of the matter is that my brother is his father’s son.  And I expect to see more stories like this for at least another 10 – 20 years.  And at this point, I’m trying to figure out how I want to deal with this, or if I want to deal with this.  Because I’ve been here before, and I’m not looking forward to doing this again.

So where does this theory come in?  The last time my brother was incarcerated he blew up my phone.  He called multiple times a day, told me how much he loved me and told me he was going to turn his life around.  Now rewind about 15, and this is exactly how my father behaved.  Much like my father, my brother pretty much calls when he needs something (the last time was to read a contract for a record deal that never worked out) or he disappears for months.  And like how I felt with my father, I’m used to him being gone and silent because that means that he’s fine. Fine here is relative, because for a long time with my father, and for the next 10 – 20 years for my brother, fine means running around in the streets doing things that are most likely illegal.

Long story short, some (a lot of?) sons who grow up without their fathers mimic their behavior as adults. I’m not sure that this has actually been written and this may be where I need to start. But I know a lot of nonresident fathers grew up without their fathers.  (Not knowing your father may make it hard to “prove” that they act in similar manners).  Anyway the theory that I want to work on involves the daughter’s relationship to her brother, who now acts like her father.  How does she act?  How should she act?  By this point in life,  I’ve had about 23 years of dealing with my dad acting crazy and simply do not have the patience to humor this behavior in my brother.  But I am unsure if this is the norm.  I need to flush this idea through… or just write my dissertation, graduate and then flush this idea through, but I wanted to put it on paper.

peace,
e.

But what about resiliency?

jeez i wrote this last week and never posted. lame.

So everyone’s asking if I read the NYT’s article, In Prisoner’s Wake, a Tide of Troubled Kids.  Yeah I read it and I did not like.  As a child of a parent who spent most of my childhood in jail or cracked out, I turned out fine and I am tired of reading all these articles about how kids growing up in single parent households are screwed for life.    This is defeatist.  Yes, fathers are important to a child’s well-being but if a father is not there, that does not mean that child has no chance of  a positive upbringing.

I had many problems with the article.  The article appears to say create difference categories in father absence by protraying a parent is jail as more damaging to a child’s well-being than a child whose father just isn’t around?  In both cases, a child does not have a father.

The chances of seeing a parent go to prison have never been greater, especially for poor black Americans, and new research is documenting the long-term harm to the children they leave behind. Recent studies indicate that having an incarcerated parent doubles the chance that a child will be at least temporarily homeless and measurably increases the likelihood of physically aggressive behavior, social isolation, depression and problems in school — all portending dimmer prospects in adulthood.

Children who grow up with fathers, whether they are in jail or not, are all at risk of low educational attainment, risky sexual behavior and violence.   I don’t understand the need to create levels of father absence as if one reason a father is gone is better than another.  They are all damaging.

We are introduced to the “Incarceration Generation,”   children who grew up with at least one parent in prison and the article.  The two children of the Incarceration Generation interviewed for this article are, in my opinion, extreme examples.  Herbert Scott, who is 20 with a child and was awaiting sentencing for drug possession and robbery.  By the end of the article, he was in jail.   Then there is Terrisa Bryant who also had a child and was a high school dropout.  I get it, the prospects are dim but it is not hopeless.  Why not at least provide an example of a child of an incarecerated parent who was jail bound, a young (single) parent, or a drop out.

The article feels like CNN’s Black in America – providing no new information to the Black community, downplaying the positive – specifically Adam Gaine’s story – to focus on the negative Herbet Scott and providing no solutions.  I would have rather read about how Gaine’s beat his addiction and how he got into (and stayed in) a program to train him to become a fitness teacher.  I am not interested in Scott’s oh to common story of coming out of jail, talking about how he wants to be there for his kids and then winds up back in jail within a year.  I don’t need to read that.  I don’t want to read that.  I would rather read about programming or policies that reach out to these children offer assistance.  I would have rather read about programming that successfully reintroduces Black men into society and assists with training and housing.  I would rather read about policies to loosen licensing restrictions to ex prisoners so that even low skill men can acquire jobs and make a decent living.

The article ultimately ignores a glaring issue – why are these men going to jail in the first place?  It makes little  mention of extremely harsh drug laws, and no mention of  the limited employment of ex-felons, the impact of low educational attainment on potential earnings, lack of support upon reentry to society, I could go on for days.  To place the blame solely on parents who are incarcerated is dangerous.

peace,
e.

On Choosing Single Motherhood

So I was perusing some blogs and someone mentioned this one – some single women choosing the single mother route.

“I don’t need a man to have a baby. I don’t have to find “The One” and fall in love and get married to procreate. My body doesn’t actually care if Cupid has shot my heart straight through with arrows. Love and sentiment technically have nothing to do with the fact that since my menstrual blood began I have been able to have a baby — whenever I want.”

This concept is not new to me, it just frustrates me.   Yes, one doesn’t need a man to have a baby but so much research shows the benefits of two parents.  I was raised by a single parent, and it was ideal considering what my father was up to, but that wasn’t the choice that my mother intended to make.  I haven’t met anyone of my mother’s generation that willingly had a child on their own.  They either divorced or broke up, but we all came from a relationship.  I’ve met quiet a few successful Black women who have said that if they aren’t married by a certain point in their life they were going to have a child on their own.  To each her own.

And I know where this thinking comes from.  It’s no secret Black women are least likely to marry.  And I’m sure these women will make amazing mothers, who will love their children unconditionally and do everything they can to give their child anything they could ever want or need, but that’s not for e. Given my line of research, I can’t, in good conscience, just have a baby just to have one.  If I have a child I want to bring it into the most supportive, loving and stable enviornment I can.  And to me, that means in a stable, happy and functioning marriage.

peace,
e.