Summertime in the late seventies/ early eighties was all about the block party. The long hot summer days were broken up by the appearance of white signs directing people to “Move Your Car” and that meant that one thing: Street Closure! The day of the block party my sister and I would be up early, hurriedly eating breakfast and then dressing to rush outside and get some street riding in. The street we grew up on was really, really busy and being able to ride our bikes or skateboards in the street without fear of getting hit was a treat.
Music would be blasting and some actual street cleaning would be accomplished. Popsicles would freely flow while grills were ablaze with sizzling slabs of ribs, hamburgers or hotdogs. And the fire hydrant! Yes, they are for fires, not for fun, but my seven year old self didn’t care anything about that when the day was hot and the water was flowing.
During one particular block party my sister and I didn’t ride our bikes, we didn’t run up and down the street and we didn’t eat any drippy popsicles. We sat still on the front steps watching and waiting for the arrival of our father, Malcolm. Night came and still we sat waiting for that moment for him to arrive. Several times this would repeat, our dad making some kind of promise to pick us up, my sister and I waiting for his arrival, him a no show. After a while we would stop waiting for him and soon he stopped calling and Malcolm was just a name from the past.
My mom and dad were young when they had children, twins to boot. My dad was in the service, my mom was trying to make make it through college. One baby is a challenge but twins…whoa mama! There are some early pictures of our small family. My sister and I are grinning brightly, my mom happily smiling, even Malcolm looking like he was excited. Pictures don’t tell the whole story. Behind the scenes there was late night fights, lots of tears and crying. My dad would be gone for days at a time and reappear blurry eyed and very sluggish. They would fight and the scenes would repeat until one day he never came home.
When I became pregnant with The Bee I remember thinking that I didn’t want her to ever have to worry about not knowing her dad. At the time The Dad and I were youngish, silly and thought we would be a trio of trouble. Despite my reservations about being a mother I was so happy to see The Dad cuddling The Bee or The Dad spending time with The Bee. Even when The Dad and I went our separate ways I would anxiously await hearing about the time the of them spent together, hoping that The Dad would never treat his daughter as I had been treated so long ago.
Before I met The Dad, before The Bee was a consideration, I spent time trying to reconnect with my dad. I would call him and leave messages that would never be returned. My decision to leave him be was made when after two events. Once he called while I was busy at work and seemed annoyed that I wasn’t able to stop what I was doing to have a chat. The second time was during a cold snowy day when an old boyfriend and I visited him. Malcolm seemed curious about the visit, his response was more bemused than welcoming. It was during this visit that he shared his reason for never having visited when we were younger. He claimed that my grandmother and mother would not allow him to see his children.
After that conversation I never visited him again. How dare he blame my grandmother and mother for him not being a dad? No amount of threats, feelings of discomfort or being embarrassed could keep me away from seeing The Bee and his reasons rang false.
I learned about Malcolm’s death one afternoon when I headed home for lunch. Malcolm was a drinker and after one night after having too much to drink he fell and hit his head. A friend helped him home and he never woke up. What a sad way to go; his mother was the one who found him. I comforted my mom, who had been in touch with him, and found out details for the funeral. As I headed back to work, I thought about what thus meant. A father I never really knew, gone. The funeral for my dad was held in a church somewhere in South Philly. The day was unseasonably warm and I can remember getting dressed with some care. Proper mourning outfit but nothing too sad; after all I hadn’t lid eyes on my dad for at least 17 years. Listening to his life story I felt like the cavalier manner of my outfit was disrespectful for this man who served his country, was a crappy father but had some issues that were never addressed.
After the service I lost touch with Malcolm’s family. It’s been years since I have spoken with any of them. A friend of Mom’s would keep us up to date but lately there has been no news. At times I feel like I should keep up with my paternal family but other times I feel like
This post was inspired by the novel The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver. Mere months before Noa’s execution, her victim’s mother changed her mind Noa’s sentence and vows to help stay the execution. Join From Left to Write on July 30 as we discuss The Execution of Noa P. Singleton.. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.