Island Soul City Dreams

I love New York, but my heart has a Caribbean beat. It pulsates to the traditions of my people. Attuned to the rhythms of this City, I stay West Indian to the bone. I reflect. I analyze. I speak my mind. ~ I Keep it Irie ~

Tears And Prayers For My Father

My father has always been one to disappear from my life. The first time he did so was shortly after my teenage mother told him she was pregnant with me. Over the next few years, he would suddenly “reappear” and without warning “disappear” again.  These so-called “appearances” were never in person, but rather through telephone calls and letters across the ocean from his home in neighboring Trinidad to mine in Barbados. His “here today, gone tomorrow” routine made for a rocky relationship between us and led to my mother raising me as a single parent. It would take almost a quarter century for him to finally appear physically before me.

During my young adult life, my dad and I eventually and miraculously built not just a parent-child relationship, but also a very dear friendship. We evolved from hostile father-daughter interactions to a daddy who doted on his beloved first-born and a daughter whose heart danced on answering the phone to hear her father’s sweet singsong Trinidadian accent. It seemed then as if my dad had retired as a magician – he was no longer pulling disappearing stunts. For almost a decade he remained a constant in my life and albeit late, I came to know and love what it felt like to have both a mother and a father. Three years ago, my father again disappeared for what might have been the final time, as today I fear he’s dead.

I never called my father  “Daddy” or “Dad.” To me, he was simply Lee, short for Leonard. It was weird for me to address him as anything else, even after we’d formed a close bond.  I met Lee the year I turned 23. It was a year of many firsts: my first trip to Trinidad; first time participating in that nation’s renown carnival and first time traveling with friends to another country to watch our wonderful West Indies cricket team play. It was the latter reason that resulted in meeting my father for the first time. That moment remains one of the most emotional of my life. And it was initiated by neither of us.

The late Malcolm Marshall: West Indies’ cricket legend.

At the time, my dear friend and now late West Indies’ cricket legend Malcolm Marshall who had retired from playing, was the team’s coach. Maco, as he was affectionately known, was intimately familiar with my story and had long encouraged me to meet my father. Knowing I’d be in Trinidad that weekend, Maco, contacted my father and invited him to the Holiday Inn (now Crowne Plaza), where the team was staying. Saturday morning, en route to Queen’s Park Oval for cricket, I stopped by the hotel to pick up my tickets from Malcolm. He was already in the lobby when I arrived. There standing with him was a strange but familiar looking man and the most adorable little boy of about 7 or 8 years old. As they gazed upon me, the man began to walk in my direction and for some inexplicable reason, I started to tremble.

As Malcolm uttered the words, “Queenie, this is your father,” the strange man grabbed and held me tightly, breaking down in tears. I too started to cry as did the little boy – his youngest son, my brother Lyndon.  “My daughter, Maquita,” were the first words Lee said to me through his tears adding, “I am so sorry.” Then he said, “You’re beautiful.” I returned his embrace still shaking, speechless, in shock. Malcolm stood there watching with his signature smile, but in silence. When my father and I regained composure, Maco sat us down. He advised me to forgive and pleaded with my father to take his role seriously and for us to work on building a healthy, happy relationship. He then gave us the tickets for cricket to go off and enjoy the match together.

My first impression of Lee was that he was an amicable man, a charmer and social butterfly who easily established rapport with fellow spectators and was seemingly well admired among his many friends at cricket. I lost count of how many times people walked up to him and in the rawest of Trinidadian dialects, asked: “Lee, is how she look like you so, uh dat yuh daughtah?”  He was ever at my beck and call, bringing drinks, food, and repeatedly checking to see if I were doing okay. That day, I felt proud to be called his daughter and to call him my father.

Father and daughter relationships are vital.

A couple of years later when I moved to Trinidad to freelance with the Trinidad Express newspaper, the sister to the one I’d been working for in Barbados, my father insisted that I come live with him and his wife Rosie of almost 20 years. On arrival at their home, I froze on entering the living room. There on the wall were framed photos of me throughout the years. Even when he had not been responding to my letters during his “disappearing” bouts, my father had been saving and mounting all the photos I’d continued to send him. He had also kept every letter. When my stepmother Rosie showed me my room, again I was in awe. They knew of my love for teddy bears, so adorning my bed were a few of varying sizes and to protect me from the vicious Trini mosquitoes, they had secured an insect net over my bed. They did everything to make me feel at home, including buying groceries to prepare my favorite meals and Rosie, knowing my love for cooking even taught me to prepare several local dishes. Among the highlights of living there was accompanying my father to his favorite entertainment event – Panorama – a steelband competition and vital part of Trinidad’s Carnival.

When I eventually went back to Barbados to join the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation as a reporter/producer, Lee and I kept in contact weekly via phone. One day, Rosie called to say that he had to be rushed to the hospital and was in critical condition. I immediately hopped on a flight for Trinidad, where we discovered that he almost went into a diabetic coma. He had not known that he was diabetic. Once out of the hospital, Rosie helped nurse him back to great health, changing his diet and keeping his blood sugar under control. His condition ensured that I stayed in contact when I migrated to New York to return to school. Lee and I would talk several times a month and like a true dad, he was always concerned about if I had enough money for college or rent. From time to time, either he or Rosie would call to say, “Go to Western Union, uh send something fuh yuh.”

Lee and I never missed each other’s birthday or any other special occasion and one thing that stood out with me was when he said, “I know if only one of my four children calls me, it would be you.” So when I tried without success to reach him for his birthday on November 30, 2008 I knew that something was wrong. Lee never answered or returned my calls. A month later for Christmas, I still could not reach him. I was especially worried as he had been depressed from a few months before in April when he’d called with the tragic news that Rosie had died suddenly after suffering a heart attack. Then at the start of summer, he called to deliver another equally sad message; his mother, my grandmother had also suddenly taken ill and died. While I didn’t think he was so deeply drenched in grief to take his own life, I was concerned that both deaths were unbearable for him.

In January 2009, after countless efforts to get some word on Lee, his boss (from the company where he’d worked for several years), called me from Port-of-Spain. I was listed as his next of kin and she informed me that he had been missing from work since early December and searches by colleagues for him yielded nothing. A missing person report had been filed by my aunt and brother Lyndon, but the police also came up empty-handed.  Lee’s passport, other important documents and all clothing were found at his home, but none of his friends had heard from or seen him and when anyone called, his cell phone would ring continuously. To this day, Lee’s phone still rings.  I’ve endured endless sleepless nights. I have cried my eyes dried. I have exhausted all possibilities for help on the matter. And every day I pray for an answer. I wish I could get some closure.  Wherever you are Lee, I hope you are at peace and with all my heart I love you and wish you a Happy Father’s Day.

~ I Keep It Irie ~

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45 thoughts on “Tears And Prayers For My Father

  1. Well damn. This is really tough. Can’t imagine what that’s like. Great recount of the development of the relationship with pops. Much prayers and thoughts.

  2. Fatou on said:

    This brought tears to my eyes, I feel like I know you a little better today Maquita. You and I never really talked about fathers so I never knew this about you. I know this was hard to write but it must have also been very cathartic, so thanks for sharing :). Love you always.

    • Love you too Fatou and as always, thanks for reading and your positive vibes. 🙂

      Yes, it was hard to write. First in terms of facing that “reality” and trying to articulate it and secondly in trying to condense the roller coaster relationship without losing the essence of the lesson(s) learnt.

      I’ve spent the past few years without “acknowledging” Father’s Day so as not to focus on, “What happened to Lee?”
      This year, the matter has been burning on my mind in the past few weeks, I told myself, I NEED to write something about it.

      Thanks again for your support.:-)

  3. Sonja on said:

    Wherever Lee may be, Maquita, take comfort in the knowledge that you brought him great joy and fulfillment.

  4. Nicole on said:

    I shed a tear for you my friend and that is literal. If it moved me to read I know that it had to be very bittersweet to write. I am happy that you got to know the love and friendship of your father despite the years that had gone by. Many people can still never say that. Take comfort and know that you are in my thoughts and prayers that you find closure.

  5. Nyah on said:

    Wow, can’t express my thoughts on this one…it really touched a nerve……..

  6. *Kia on said:

    This is really poignant Maquita, thank you for sharing and being so open about your relationship with your Father. Made me tear up as well PS, I call my Father Mac : )

    • Heeey Kia,

      Hope Mac had a happy Father’s Day!:-)
      Thank you so much for reading! And while it was tough to share it, I’m both happy and relieved to have done so. Thanks for appreciating it. Much love.

  7. Jewell on said:

    It’s beautiful and sad. Having such a big chapter close with no warning or confirmation is rough. Time will help to repair you emotionally but that window of hope will always remain open. I hope you find peace bella.

  8. Jewell on said:

    It took me a minute but it was well worth the wait…great job Maquita!!! nuff love always!!!!

  9. Sonji on said:

    Very gripping Queenie. Hold the love in your heart for that will triumph over everything

  10. Kelly-Ann on said:

    Beautiful and gut wrenching. What is very important in this message is love and forgiveness and sometimes we need people like Maco, to make us see what is important, to forge relationships. I am so thankful to God That you had that opportunity, as girls no matter the missteps we adore our Dads. I know you cherished the time you had with him and know that even in those years of disappearance you were always in his heart. I pray that there will be closure for you. Stay close to Lyndon for it must be extremely difficult for him as he has lost both mother and father.

    • Thanks Kelly! 
      So true re: Maco and yes I do cherish the time building that relationship with Lee. 
      Lyndon and I are very close and he looks up to me like no other. Throughout the initial stages of this ordeal, he would call me every day, a few times a day usually in tears, lost. Sometimes, I was clueless what to do, but I remained strong for him. You’re absolutely right, it’s been hardest on him. He kept thinking that God had punished him for taking away both his parents and he was still relatively young. He continues to struggle with coming to terms with the situation. But  our other brother and I have been working to help him better his life and I believe in time he will be fine.

  11. Reuel on said:

    Very touching and impacting story Ma!..
    Thank you for sharing your story.
    My prayers are with you,dear friend!
    Reu

  12. john on said:

    Touching indeed sis, sharing called for a certain amount of strength; but be sure in all this God will strengthen, he is in control. Keep good M.

  13. Raseedah on said:

    Thanks for the tears Maquita. It breaks my heart reading this, believe me when I tell you. I feel your pain. I had an absentee father as well, who refused to let any family member get close enough to him to administer the help he needed. Growing up I often felt ‘nothing’ towards my father and it didn’t help that my family members always said “you fada ain’t no good”. It wasn’t until he died last February, which really tore me up, that I learned so much about him and actually understood the demons he was fighting. I feel closer to him in death than I did while he was alive, which shouldn’t be the case. Its so sad that some fathers, especially from that generation, found it so challenging at parenting.
    Continue to cherish the memories and good times you spent with your father and use them as your rock when it gets painful and believe where ever he is, he is protecting and guiding you.
    xoxo

    • Oh man, Raseedah, that is quite a heartbreaking story re: your father as well. I’m sorry you didn’t get to find out all that stuff before he died. But it’s good that you’re left with positive feelings towards him. Thanks for sharing that and thank you for reading and your support.:-) xx

  14. Alison on said:

    Very touching Maquita! I do hope that you can get some closure soon. In the meantime, keep the faith and cherish the good memories.

  15. Ruth Cox on said:

    OMG Marquita, this is so hard. I hope it works out and you get some closure soon because I can only imagine the pain from not knowing. Will keep you in prayer girlfriend.

  16. Wow! I can’t front this was a real and emotional journey that I can kind of feel myself with my relationship with my pops. I really wish you solace in this situation

    • Thanks for reading Darryl! I truly appreciate that. I’m sorry that you too had a “rocky” relationship with your dad.:-/ Thanks for your well wishes and I’m happy that you visited.:-)

  17. Rashad on said:

    Wow! Amazing article! Lost for words. I will keep you in my prayers and hope you get some closure. Wow….

  18. Queenie, thanks so much for sharing this, I was deeply touched. Thank-You for revealing another layer of your intricately woven life blanket. Your father’s disappearance is heart breaking. As I continued reading, I could not help but think how I would cope if this was my family. By choosing to write this and share it, it shows such grace and strength on your part. Continue to be there for your brother, your love and moral support for each other speak volumes. I hold your hand sis…

  19. Pingback: I Am Going To A Sperm Bank « CaribScribe

  20. Reblogged this on Island Soul City Dreams and commented:

    Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my father. Today is especially sad for me, as it’s a special day when many cultures honor and celebrate fathers.This is a tribute to the memory of my father, Lee. I also dedicate this to all my friends who are without their fathers, be it due to death, desertion or any other unfortunate situation. Special mention to my dear friend Carolyn, for whom closure has been a constant prayer. Thanks for reading and feel free to comment. One Love.

  21. Kim on said:

    Maquita! So sad…

  22. Angel Eyes on said:

    Big hugs from me and KK my dear. I pray that you find the answers you seek. It was selfless of you to share such a personal side of you, which I know was not easy.

  23. Pingback: 2013: I Kicked Her Butt | Island Soul City Dreams

  24. Lisa on said:

    Maquita,

    I am in tears reading this. I am glad you were able to overcome the rocky part of your relationship with your dad. I pray for his safe return. Stay beautiful sis.

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