My mother and father divorced as soon as she found out he was involved with drugs and had a ton of legal issues. I appreciate my mother’s decision because had they stayed together, it could have turned out quite differently.

My one memory of my father was during a visit with him when I was about 3 or 4 years old. He was fighting with his girlfriend about who knows what and in retrospect when I replay the entire scene in my mind – they were both probably high. He wasn’t able to leave that life behind so he left me instead.


One of the only two pictures I have with he and I.

I was in high school when it hit me one day, I suddenly realized I had gone 18 years without a biological father (by this time I did have a step-father) in my life. I ran to the school counselor with tears of rage and he tried his best to comfort me over a period of a few days. What good timing because his support prepared me for what was coming.

The September following high school was one of new beginnings for me. I had moved into my own apartment, started a full time job and would start college in January.

I was on my way.

Getting ready the morning of my second day of work I got the shock of my life.

My father called me.

As soon as he said “Hello”, I knew exactly who it was. I hung up and he called back. We spoke for a bit as he asked me how I was, what I was up to and doing for the day. I responded to each question with very direct answers – I was in shock at what was taking place. The rest of the conversation is a blur but I do remember telling him I had a job at a local pharmacy and I had to get going.

I was at work stocking batteries when I heard a voice behind me say my name. I looked up and had a feeling similar to the feeling I had on the phone. I had never seen him before (as an adult) but I immediately knew who he was. I got up and asked him what he was doing there.

I can’t recall what he said but he took a picture of me. This picture would later be on a poster used in the case for his death. I ran to the back room, upset that he’d just pop up, and in panic not knowing what to do. He bought some things and left by the time I came back out.

That was the last time I would see him.

We had some exchanges via email in which I’d curse him out for being a “deadbeat dad,” for choosing drugs over me, for treating my mother like crap, and for some other things. A simple “Hello” through instant messenger from him would provoke the world of wrath from me. I stopped taking his phone calls and eventually stopped all contact for a few months.

In May of 2007 I had a medical bill I really needed help with so I asked my father for his help. His response? He had a toddler, a new baby, and couldn’t help; but we could to meet up at McDonalds and talk.

That was it for me. I was furious! After all of those years of never contributing to my existence when I actually need something, I couldn’t get it because of your two new kids? I was hurt to the core. I also couldn’t understand how he could continue having children while neglecting one already here for so long.

The McDonalds thing, yea that tripped me up too. That night I wrote him the nastiest email I could’ve conjured up. He replied asking if that was any way to talk to my father, and I told him he wasn’t my father.

That was our last interaction.

The night of July 8th my phone rang at exactly 11:36 pm. It was him. Holding the phone in my hand, I thought to myself “What does this jerk want?” and tossed it back on the counter. The next morning I got a text from my older sister saying my father died.

Initially I didn’t believe her because I mean, he had JUST called me the night before – it was barely noon, how could he be dead? A few minutes later his sister called me and that’s when I knew just how true it was.

Around 4am on July 9th 2007, he was on his motorcycle and got into a horrible accident with an 18 wheeler. At his funeral (which was ironically the second day of my new job) I met my older sister, eventually met my older brother, met my younger brother and met those two younger sisters who were 1 year old and 2 months old at the time of his death.

I met a lot of his family members and let me just tell you – it was a lot for me.

So let’s do a quick recap. My father was absent my entire life. I met him, had angry interactions, 10 months later he gets killed. I still hadn’t dealt with the feelings of his abstinence, much less his sudden appearance and boom – I’m sitting with his death.

Thankfully I had (and have) an amazing, wonderful and nurturing therapist who was there for me through it all. She was patient with me as I avoided the subject for months, as I periodically touched on it and as I’d call at midnight leaving voicemails in tears. When I did talk about it, her office was my safe space when those around me either couldn’t understand why I could feel anything about someone who was never in my life.

Although it was and is overwhelming, with his death came meeting my siblings which I’m extremely grateful for. In addition to the little sister from my mother, I have two from my father. If you know anything about me, you’ll know it was no coincidence that I now have three little sisters – I like to think of it as a blessing from the universe.

I also got to meet more of his side of the family which I’d like to get to know better than I do. His family is another side of me, a sort of extension of myself. Sometimes I think when we have situations like an absent parent we get so caught up in emotions that we forget the rest of the family is an extended part of that child.


The end of a LONG journey which started with meeting my father then his death during my first two semesters.

When I talk about this it’s for a reason bigger than my own experience – it’s to share the lessons that I learned.

Some of us have family members we never speak to, for whatever reason. It could be an aunt, brother, cousin or our own mother or father. Grounds for not speaking could be warranted, just as mine were, but something I don’t want for anyone is to have an experience like mine.

My actions represented my feelings at the time and given the situation I felt they were justified. I was hurt and angry as hell and who knows, maybe with time I would’ve come around. I didn’t know then like I know now about addictions, so although I still maintain my stance that he should’ve done whatever it took to remain in my life, I can now acknowledge that it may not have been easy. As for the illegal activities that landed him in and out of jail – the same goes for that.

It’s tricky because people can be assholes, they can be the one in the wrong and the ones who hurt us but that’s the thing about forgiveness. It’s not for them, it’s for us. While forgiveness has different definitions for different people, for me it’s about letting go of the pain and taking my power back. For me, it doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten but it means I won’t walk around with resentment.

For a long time I used to think about the night the phone rang and how I had that one last chance. Five hours after he tried to reach out to me one last time, he was gone. I carried that guilt around but I had to let that go too. What I do now is stress to others the importance of telling someone you love them when you have the chance, simple hello’s, talking things out so a person knows they hurt you, apologizing if you’re in the wrong and most of all – forgiveness.

While reading this did anyone in your own life come to mind?

If so, reach out to them. It may not play out how you’d like or might imagine but it’s a start. Perhaps this was a message given to my father, something I had to learn and now I’m passing it on to you all.


This post originally appeared on XOJane. Republished with permission. Click here for more
Justine Powell on XOJane!

  • BlackBeauty

    Your story is touching, and I imagine it hhas happened to thousands of others, especially black folks.
    One thing I have concern with is why after all those years of your father not being there, or ever giving you anything, and after you told him frankly to stay out of your life and you had nothing to do with him, why would you call him and ask him for money for anything??? Your having a medical bill was an excuse for you to call him. There was more to it than your medical bill.
    Just seems strange that once you shut someone out of your life you would then ask for money. Not love, not understanding, not friendship, but money!
    Good luck to you.

  • Rochelle

    First let me start by saying you look so cute in your baby pictures. Congrats on your graduation. But you went about things all wrong with your Dad. I understand the hurt that you feel toward your father. He did pick drugs over you. However, what role did your mother play in that? You should have just said “Dad, you know what, I don’t care about the past. Lets just move forward.” You never know when someone’s last day is. So the time you spent cursing him out, hanging up and walking away, you could have been getting to know him and mending any ill will. He might have been clean by then and explained his absence. Missed opportunity. We have to that our parents are only human. We make mistakes.

  • Sivon Lockhart

    This story touches so close to home for me because… it’s my story too. My father is still alive but I harbor the same resentment. I often struggle about how to deal with it. I’m no closer to a decision about a relationship with him than I was when he added me as friend on facebook 2 years ago. Before then I hadn’t heard from him since I was 6 (I’m 32 now). It’s a struggle…

  • Rochelle

    I agree with you. Can’t have it both ways. If she wanted him out of her life, she should have kept it that way. No favors.

  • Hollywood

    Maybe she felt he could not offer her any of those things.

  • Kaydee-P

    As someone who has been in a similar spot, I’m sure it wasn’t easy for her to ask. Even if she had shut him out, she had every right to. Asking him was essentially a test- though she needed the money, this also was a way to see how he would handle the role of being responsible in SOME way, given that he hadn’t ever up until that point. Also, he is still her biological dad and was legally responsible to provide for her until she was of age. Just because mommy doesn’t drag Daddy to court for child support, doesn’t mean he’s off the hook for the child he brought into the world.

  • stereotypeslie

    If you ever doubted if your story would help anyone, let me tell you it did. Starting with me. Each word you wrote speaks to me and so many similarities. Like you, I always wondered how can he take care of his 2 children and never have a relationship with me until I was in my late 20′s, heck I’m almost 30. And I’m supposed to respond to the far in between emails with “Hi Dad! Whats Up!!” Doubt it. I still carry resentment, but you made me pick up the phone today and email him just to say hello. Thanks for continuing to share your story. I think I should seek professional therapy too as a release.
    Blessings to you and congrats on succeeding, despite suffering.

  • march pisces

    i too gave the side eye at asking for money to help with the medical bill, but i must say we can’t judge the shoes she walks in. i have two cousins who have nothing to do with their father, my uncle, b/c he was not there for them as children. talks with my cousins i understand that children who are abandoned by a parent feel that the parent owes them, which to me explains why the author asked for the money. as a woman who had my father for 23 yrs, he passed, i really can never relate to things they say all i can do is try to empathize. there is probably a lot the author does not know about her father’s decision to choose drugs so she worked with the information that she had. wishing her well with the relationships with her siblings.

  • EbonyLolita

    Thank you for pouring your heart, soul & your liberation to all of us. I was adopted but met my biological parents when I was 25. Due to their toxicity I will NOT speak or visit them. But I was able to re-connect to Aunts/Uncles/Grandfather & Cousins. I appreciate that but folks don’t understand it when you choose to cut ties w/a parent due to their lack of emotional bonding & reassurance. Be blessed on your journey.

  • God’sDaughter

    This article just touched a nerve with me and made me send it to a friend who doesn’t have a relationship with his mom.

    My dad too has ALOOOT OF issues which he has struggled with my entire life from drug/gambling addictions to alcoholism, and it really was very hard for my mom and I to deal with , and even to this day, he still has many many issues and uses various people, self included , because he cannot be independent due to addiction. So I have wrestled with not talking to him , cursing him out, but it’s crazy because I can’t stay mad at him longer than a day…my greatest fear is what happened to the young lady in this article, something tragic happening to my Daddy and my last memory is of me calling him a No Good So and So.

    So allthat to say, our parents are not perfect, and many of them have deep deep issues that they need help for, but we still need to find it in our hearts to forgive because who wants their last memory with their parent to be a bad one???

  • cosmicsistren

    @Rochelle – I have to disagree with you. I don’t think it the responsibility of the child to try to work on the relationship with the parent. She didn’t ask to be born. I do wonder what role her mother played in the feelings she had toward her father. To say to her the way she reacted towards her father is wrong. I don’t know you Rochelle but to me you have not experienced anything like this. So it’s easy for you to say she wasted her energy being angry instead of trying to mend the relationship. the whole “we make mistakes” exucse doesn’t work in this case. As adults you know the difference between right and wrong. Making an error on an application is a mistake. Having a child, choosing not be in their life, and then producing more kids? Please stop giving this type of horrible behavior the easy excuse of “we make mistakes”.
    I believe when you don’t do right by your children that type of karma always comes back to you.

  • geenababe

    I, also find it amazing how men can abandon their earlier children but then move on have new kids and be in their lives like “father of the year”. It’s crazy to me and kind of crazy how women have kids with those types of men. I’ve always had my father in life but I relate to this story about a family member who I was close with that I am not speaking to now. I understanding what the author is saying but I am the grudge queen and I don’t see that going away anytime soon.

  • Rocky

    Do you mean you don’t understand how women have children with men who are not in their other kids’ lives?

  • geenababe

    @ Rocky


  • Hollywood

    It is amazing. My father did that to my sibling and I. I guess by being a ‘good’ father to the new kid(s), the father is able to feel like he corrected his mistake of being a poor father the first time around. The problem with this is that the father never actually makes things right with the previous children.

  • SpkKay13

    I completely understand the resentment that a lot of you feel towards absent fathers, because I have experienced extreme heartache from both of my parents. However,as I matured and closely evaluated how “I” allowed those situations to control my interactions with others, I had to choose whether or not to walk around being bitter, paranoid, and angry over something that I had no control over or the power to change. We are not responsible or held accountable for how others mistreat and abuse us. However, we will have to give an account for our CHOICE to dwell in, hold on to, and release the same kind of negativity into the universe. Yes, we should allow ourselves the opportunity to experience and except our feelings about what happened, but be careful not to tarry in that negative energy. In all honesty, the only obligations that the culprit has is to sincerely apologize, accept responsibility for their mistreatment, and try to do better. People who offend us are not obligated to be enslaved or subjected to our inability to channel and/or deal with our pain especially if they have earnestly attempted to right their wrongs. The pain that we experience at the hands of others can only be as heavy and as burdensome as we allow. Take back your power and put forth a genuine effort to work on you to free yourself. I speak from a place of having my mother who raised me steal my identity while I was in college full time, working 2 jobs to put myself through school (5k worth of damage), left me to clean up HER mess for the following 4 years, emotionally, /physically abused me since I was in the 2nd grade (busted lips, pulled hair, and 100 b*tches later), abused drugs (crack in my presence), etc. I too gave in to the desire to retaliate via cursing at her and cutting off all lines of communication for periods of time over the course of years. Although I felt justified, with growth I felt foolish because I allowed her to dictate my actions and emotions. I had to accept that my mother and I will never have the cookie cutter mother/daughter relationship that I so desperately craved and THOUGHT that I needed. However, I make it a point to cover her in love and prayer and HONOR her because God commands me to do so. I definitely keep my emotional boundaries, but I leave little room for disrespect on my end. The wonderful thing about life is that God (if you believe if not insert the universe) has a way of giving us everything we need. Although I don’t know the feeling of being deeply loved and valued by my biological mother, I was blessed to have the wisdom, love, and warmth of some amazing women who play that role. I also realize that had I not experienced what I have with my mom, my financial fortitude, emotional/spiritual strength, and determination to succeed would be lacking. You ALL are worth and deserving of so much more than your parents’ failures and the pain/bitterness that you allow to entrap your hearts. Make room for wholeness and healing. Also, find solace in the TRUTH that we will be blessed with double for our suffering at the hands of others.

  • lhoskins

    my goodness! you were such a unbearably cute baby!

  • Nikki

    I have a difficult relationship with my dad. He was an alcoholic and domestically abusive. We have had our ups and downs but every time I feel like I am attempting to look past what has happened and I give him a chance he burns me. He is someone where even when you try to be there for him he sees himself at the center of the world. That he has done no wrong and trying to express your feelings on what happened is hopeless because he is the victim so your feelings are irrelevant. Yesterday, he called out of the blue. I called him back and he had an attitude with me. He wants to be a part of my life yet doesn’t want to emotionally contribute to the relationship but expects me to bring him into the fold because that is what daughter is supposed to do. I can forgive him for past things and I have however I don’t know if I will keep attempting a relationship in the end because I end up hurt and I don’t want to put myself through that anymore. Yes he is my father but he lacks the compassion and empathy to realize what he has done to people and how they could be hurt by his actions. For that reason, I am leaning heavily on the side of cutting off the relationship and attempting really come to terms with what that means in the long term.

  • Frenchkiss

    Thank you.

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