Today, I break down my wall of pride and fear; today, not being good enough will not be my truth. I need to absolve my soul of the heaviness of these shackles formed of thoughts and regrets that kept me from being free to be a better figure in your life. For the day that comes when I am no longer here, I offer this condolence. A testament of who I was and who I wanted to be in your life (#LegendAllenBishop).
We Two Sons
You know me as “Bubba”, but I have many names, a result of many years struggling with my identity. At the time of writing this letter, I am 36 years old, 4 years younger than my biological father was when he died. You are now 9-years-old and I’ve seen enough to know that we are so very similar, for better or worse. Aside from both being multicultural libras tempered by a traumatic upbringing, we share the fact that we were both brought into the world before our parents were ready, and just as our fathers thought they had a handle on their addictions, they slipped away from us into the night. Our mothers are still alive, but it was our elder mothers that ultimately raised us.
I first met you sometime shortly after your birth in 2013. My mom brought you to me for an introduction. Your father and mother at the time weren’t present, and your grandma was already more or less your guardian. You may not recall, but like me, your presence was jarring for many at first, Legend, not because of you, but because of the people that are a part of you. It’s difficult to articulate all the reasons without upsetting people that may still be present in your life, so I’ll keep to my own truth and hope that they someday illuminate theirs for you.
Under The Bridge
Your dad and I were friends when we first met, but in time, when we were kids, we shared experiences that lead to a falling out between us. People sometimes make choices that they later reject as being a part of themselves; they re-write events to fit the narrative most in-sync with their projection of self. When I was your age, I was made to observe and reflect on choices and consequences that resulted in a very different understanding of myself and others. It allowed me to stop the process of rewriting history, to accept my role in other’s lives and own up to my choices – right or wrong.
I was angry at your father after our fall out, more so because he didn’t own his own part in what happened between us. It wasn’t until the first time he was arrested that I resented him. He was an extraordinarily handsome, talented man that was blessed with every attribute and opportunity that would open doors to success naturally, whereas others, like myself, would have to work unfairly hard to achieve standing before such doors. Despite all his blessings, he commited himself to the choices that ultimately lead to his tragic death.
So Many Fathers...
When you were born, I was already on a path toward starting a family of my own. I started dating Manuel, someone I knew I’d marry, and I began making changes in my life to be prepared for a child of my own. You were born 25 days before we started dating. After your first appearance in my life, you popped up more and more with my mom, making it more and more difficult for me to avoid you. Legend, because of the past between your dad and I, I chose to distance myself from you. Each time I saw you, I’d resolve to stay out of your life, but you’d crawl or walk or run to me, hang onto me, ask of me the role you needed fulfilled in your life as I needed in mine, feeding me the missing bond I longed for, and tear down the walls that I built higher and higher between us.
Any Moment Now
I believed that Rodney was going to change. For 8 years, I kept thinking “I shouldn’t get involved. Rodney is going to wake up and swoop in to take Legend anytime now.” Surely, he saw how amazing you are, and I believed that I would be a pale imitation to your real dad. I didn’t want to be abandoned, and the thought of it cursed me; I wasn’t good enough for you and the short time we would have together felt cheap and superficial. It wasn’t good enough for me. So despite the pull I continually felt to step into your life better than I did, I let it go.
Besides… there were so many other would be fathers that stepped into your life, what could I have offered you that any of them lacked? PJ offered you the keys to being the cool kid, Robert offered you valuable working knowledge, Andy offered you a good example of how men ought not to act, and then there were all the other men that existed in your life that I knew nothing about. Your grandmother’s partner, your mom’s and aunt’s boyfriends, whoever else was there in the background… I kept thinking… any one of them will fill the role or already has.
We All Play A Role
I heard about Rodney’s struggle. His rise and fall, repeating the cycle over and over. I wanted to help him, but my own pride, bitterness, and fear prevented me from reaching out to him. I wanted to see him change and see the beautiful children he brought into the world that deserved his love and his presence. I wanted to see him succeed for you and your siblings. I realize now that our failures to do some small part for those lost in the dark do equal harm as a good deed does toward a positive outcome for someone else. For not doing something to help him be successful for you, I take some responsibility for his death, and I deeply regret my involvement in your loss.
Our Loss Is Not Lost On Me
I feared all that and yet here we are – still. A father without a son, and a son without a father. Years have passed and I wasted the opportunity I had to be what you needed when you needed it. I am eternally sorry that I let my fear and selfishness prevent me from being better for you.
Yesterday, I sat in a chapel to see you in a school ceremony honoring you for achieving A/B Honor Roll. Your class gave a performance to the song, “Am I Wrong?” and I felt privledged to be there and watch you in Rodney’s absence. My eyes swelled with tears imagining the pride you’d had felt for your mom and dad to be there. Tears breached my eyes as I felt terrible sorrow for Rodney to not sit where I sat and feel what I felt. We are capable of so much more than we realize if we just believe in ourselves and let go of the lies we’ve convinced ourselves of. In place of your parents, I sat there with my mom.
Our family is so funky and all over the place. It seems like we all raise someone else’s kids and that’s been going on since the boomer generation. If our family tree were a literal tree, it’d look like a Banyon Tree with limbs connecting and supporting each other all over the place in random order. You, Legend, would be like an orchid that found itself comfortably nestled between branches. Belonging not to the tree, but perfectly nutured within it’s gaps.
I Am, You Are... Good Enough
I know now that whatever time we have is good enough and worthy of what we desire.
That was a 9-year lesson for me. I look back throughout my life and see you, steadily present. I won’t move forward with the same regrets, though I’m an imperfect person, I am filled with perfect love for you. I took our time for granted, but I never took our shortlived moments for granted – only ever feared our loss of future ones and that overshadowed my attachment to you. I don’t know what our futures hold, but I promise that fear passes away now as you enter this next era of your life and will need the presence and persistence of someone too hold you fast from the temptations of darkness; those that took our fathers and would delight in consuming our light with them.
I love you. I will be better for you. I am here and present now.