Paid In Full.


groMore than a decade ago, I came across the poem below. I can’t tell you how often, I turned to these precious words. They provided hope and comfort in times when the storms came. The wind blew. And raged all around me. I had completely forgotten about it, until a friend recently posted it on their Facebook page. I have only recently realized the importance of collecting memories. Not things.

HEAVEN’S GROCERY STORE

I was walking down life’s highway a long time ago.
One day I saw a sign that read, “Heaven’s Grocery Store”.
As I got a little closer the door came open wide.
When I came to myself, I was standing inside.

I saw a host of Angels, they were standing everywhere.
One handed me a blanket and said, “My Child shop with care”.
Everything a Christian needs is in that grocery store.
And all you can’t carry, you came back the next day for more.

First, I got some Patience, love was in the same row.
Further down was Understanding, needed everywhere you go.
I got a box or two of Wisdom, a bag or two of Faith.
I just couldn’t miss the Holy Ghost, it was all over the place.

I stopped to get some Strength and Courage to help me run this race.
My basket was getting full, but I remembered I needed Grace.
I didn’t forget Salvation, which like the others was free.
So I tried to get enough of that to save both you and me.

Then I started to the counter to pay my grocery bill.
I thought I had everything to do my master’s will.
As I went up the aisle, I saw Prayer, and had to put it in.
For I knew when I stepped outside, I would run right into sin.

Peace and Joy were plentiful; they were on the last shelf.
Song and Praises were hanging near, so I just helped myself.
Then I said to the Angel, “How much do I owe”?
The Angel smiled and said, “Just take them everywhere you go.”
Again, I politely asked “How much do I really owe?”
The Angel smiled again and said, “My Child, Jesus Paid Your Bill A Long Time Ago.”

I LOVE this piece. I find it beautiful. Cathartic. Comforting. Hopeful. I hope you will either take a copy, or come back to this post again. As often as needed. So often in my life, words are the only things that provide hope and succor.
Until the next post,
Best,

Juan

#growingupwithoutafatherthewayitwas


I long for the days, when the only decision I had to make, was which dress to clothe the one doll I owned. Life was different then. Carefree. I am a 70’s baby.  Busy doing what kids do. I did not “notice” my father’s absence. You can’t miss something you’ve never had. But children grow up. don’t they? Become aware of things. Ask questions. I did. Like why mom was always working. Who was my father. Why he didn’t live with us.

At the age of 10, the awareness began to take shape. I began to feel a sense of loss. By then my responsibilities had increased tenfold. My sister came along. I took care of her. A lot. Life changed. Dramatically. I remember seeing fathers walking hand in hand with their young uns. Teaching them how to ride a bike. Giving “piggy back” rides. Little girls my age, showing off christmas gifts given to them by their dads. My sister’s dad coming to visit. The cousins with dads at home. Back then, my under developed thought pattern, could not formulate a logical explanation for my father’s absence. My mother never offered one. And I was afraid to ask. At the time.

The high school years were the roughest. We were dirt poor. But then again, who wasn’t?  On multiple occasions I went to school with only a hope. That one of my friends would share their lunch with me. Bus fare was all my mother could afford. In the third form, I wore the same pair of shoes until they had holes in the soles. And then some. Students made fun and snickered. Of course. They had no idea.  A roof over our heads was priority. All these experiences and a lot more contributed to the stifling resentment which began to stew. Towards a man I never met. One that would slowly simmer beneath the surface. For decades.

More than a decade ago, I immigrated to the USA. One day while channel surfing, the Maury show caught my attention.  I stared at the screen. Captivated. On this particular episode, a young woman obviously in pain, bravely shared her story. Desperate to find a father she had never known. After searching for decades, she contacted the show. I saw in this stranger a replica of myself. Someone who wanted closure. A beginning to an end. A face to the name. To have what so many take for granted. Their father’s identity.

A storm was brewing in me.  My heart was heavy. The heaviness got worse. After several minutes I gave up trying to focus on the screen. I decided to listen instead.  The tears which were threatening to fall, did. Unchecked down my cheeks. I didn’t think it was possible to cry harder at that moment. The DNA test revealed the man was her father. The search was over. She said her life could begin. The first meeting between father and daughter was nothing short of phenomenal. Days later, I cultivated the idea of taking similar actions. The thought passed. Let sleeping dogs lie. I reminded myself. You don’t know if the man is dead or alive. He could be anywhere. Really.

I always dreaded Fathers Day! In my church, its tradition to recognize the contribution and role of fathers. There are talks. Special dedications. Even small gifts in some places.  No other day in the year ever reminded me of my situation than this day. Unable to sit still and listen, I left the room on many occasions. How could I explain to my friends why I was crying? One year I decided to boycott the meeting altogether. It was too painful.  I didn’t have a father in the congregation to walk over to. Give a hug. Or kiss. And wish him happy Father’s Day. Dark times.

Today, I look back and wonder about many things. I don’t have all the answers. Sometimes I think I am better off not knowing everything.  Would it change anything at this stage of my life? I remember getting the same answers from my mother when I asked where he was:” We did fine without him. You are better off without him now”. Was I really though? I was not. I know this now. But too little. Too late.

Childhood impacts almost every aspect of our lives. Visit a psychologist with any problem, and they will enquire about the circumstances surrounding your childhood. The remaining scars. Which affect your decisions to marry. Have children. Your relationship with friends. Even family. Fortunately, these scars don’t have to rule our lives. Change is painful to come by. But it’s not impossible. No one’s childhood was perfect. We don’t have to become a victim of our circumstances. It’s been a long journey. It’s not over.

I am grateful for a mother who worked tirelessly to support us. Made unbelievable sacrifices. Taught me the value of hard work. To never give up. My life could have turned out differently. In so many ways. I no longer wonder about it. It’s not healthy. Things are the way they are. As the Brits love to say : “Sometimes, you just have to get on with it” 

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

#growingupwithoutafatherwhynow.


I grew up without a father.Yes.There I said it.What a monumental relief.Question is:why now? Why after more than three decades I would choose to reveal something so private. And utterly personal about myself.Why the intense need to keep it a secret to begin with. Millions have shared the same fate. Some incredibly famous.Barack Obama. Halle Berry. Alicia Keys .Mary J Blige. Pierce Brosnan.What makes my story different? Nothing. Actually. It is unique. In my experiences. And the personal struggles I had to overcome. The resulting attitudes and behaviors. No situation affects two people the same.

This information will come as a surprise to many. Especially to those who have known me for an eternity + 1 day. I’ve never talked about my father’s absence in my life.When conversations did center on fathers, I made one of three choices. Changed the subject. Remained quiet. Or removed myself from the group or person. For a long, long time, I was ashamed. To talk about it. I believed I was not good enough. For him to want me. Watch me grow up. Be a part of my life. Ashamed I did not have a father to brag about. While others raved. Ashamed I did not know who he was.

Details surrounding why I never knew him will not be shared in this forum. I have other people’s privacy to consider. People get hurt. My only wish is to finally lay this matter to rest. I don’t want to carry this secret anymore. Let alone guard it like a watchdog. More than anything, I want to discard this inexplicably heavy emotional baggage, I have carried my entire life. I have fought with myself about sharing this. There is rarely a good time to discuss uncomfortable issues. In the end, I realized putting it off any longer would stifle the growth I desperately need.

Opening up become a battle of wills.On one shoulder, the little red guy seductively whispered: “Think of how you will be perceived now. Do you really want to spill these beans? Let sleeping dogs lie. Now everyone will know. Some things should stay private. You are opening yourself to scrutiny. And hushed whispers. Don’t give people weapons to use against you. This changes everything. You know that, don’t you?”. On the other shoulder, stood an angel, jumping up and down vigorously. Arms flapping.He practically shouts: “You will be liberated. You have carried this baggage for decades. It has enslaved you. From place to place. Country to country. Relationship to relationship. Aren’t you tired of dragging it around? The time is now. Deal with this. Get it out. Heal. Move on. You have to do this. For yourself”. Well, the red fella has moved onto greener pastures. Or so he thinks!

Recently, Paul, a friend of mine, shared his personal struggle with depression. It was open. Honest. And raw. Not an easy thing to do. By any means. Yet he found his voice.Undoubtedly, readers were encouraged to look inside. Shortly after reading his post, the wheels started turning. Seeds were sown. They flourished. Took root. And bore fruit. And here I am. So thank you Paul, for setting the example.

The older I get, the more freedom I crave. I want to be unfettered. Unrestrained. To live my best life. Words fail to express the level of relief I feel, by letting this go. To let everyone know what holding onto this burden has done to me. I no longer feel like a fraud.  This blog provided the best medium for me. It’s not as if I could call up my friends and say “Guess what? For as long as you have known me, you don’t know I grew up without a father. I met him for the first time about a year ago”. Writing offers me a better, richer perspective. It’s cathartic. I also can’t shake the feeling something extraordinary is about to happen in my life. Time will tell.

I know by doing this, I am subjecting myself to judgment. Scrutiny. Tongue wagging. Second looks. Hushed whispers. Back tracking. A collection of held breaths releasing “Oohs”. TBH, I am not worried. If you have worn my shoes. You will understand. If only you could taste the salty tears of freedom, which flowed the moment I made the decision to unburden. To finally begin to make peace with the regrets. Over bad decisions. Harsh words. And hurtful actions. To face the world as a newer version of myself.

Future posts will revisit some of my childhood and adolescent experiences. How I dealt with the fact I might never be able to put a face to the name. Our first meeting. The way things are today. And my hope for the future. Some readers will relate to this and later posts. Others will not. Others will follow out of mere curiosity. Hopefully, my reflections on this issue will help someone. We all have dragons to slay. Battles to fight. May each of us dig deeper. Search our souls. And find ways to be happier. To be free of the invisible chains holding us captive. Once. And. For. All.

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan