I was 24 when I buried my father; last weekend marked the 13th anniversary of his death. Nothing propels you into adulthood faster than planning a memorial service for a man you barely knew. But there I was, attempting to sift through the detritus of bittersweet memories to honor him. It’s hard to set aside the hurt, to swallow the anger and do the responsible thing, especially when you don’t want the task. In the end my father had disappointed so many people–his common-law wife and teen daughter among them–that no one wanted to be bothered. He died alone in a nursing home on Superbowl Sunday.
My relationship with my dad had always been contentious. All the missed birthdays and spelling bees and oratory contests and report card pickup days didn’t help matters. By the time he came clean about his drug addiction, I no longer cared; I was heading off to college, far away from him. Back then, I didn’t know how crippling addiction could be. I merely saw a man too lazy to kick heroin, and resented him for his weakness.
Some days I wish I had a TARDIS.
The clarity that comes once the hurt and anger subside usually arrives tardy for the party, too late to say what was necessary, what was needed. I’ve only recently made peace with everything that happened between my dad and I; I’d never told him how I felt. Never expressed anything but apathy and pity while he was alive. I didn’t realize being silent and stoic did me more harm than good.
Sometimes the people and things you love cannot love you back. In my case, it’s feminism.
Last week, when The Nation story ran, I was ready to rip out entrails and make party hats. I was quoting Liam Neeson and googling “best ways to throatchop people.” I wanted BLOOD, yo. I was hurt on behalf of my friends, who’d been painted as bitter and angry and obsessed. I saw a few people, ones I respected and admired greatly, praise it as a thought-provoking piece of journalism. (As a recovering journalist, THAT really made me angry.) I wanted to write an immediate response but something was holding me back. Perhaps I needed more time to calm down than I thought. It’s easy to get caught up in the outrage, especially when the transgressors have no problem with manipulating the truth. It’s also easy to say “fuck it” and walk away.
To be honest, I feel like that most of the time. Every time I’m hit with the latest episode of “Shit White Feminists Say” I’m ready to pack a hobo bag and do a sad David Banner walk along an empty highway. Then I think about the women in the writing workshop I teach, the son I’m raising, and the people from far-flung places who reach out to tell me how my words helped them, how Hood Feminism has created a space where they finally feel at home. I’m grateful. When you’re fighting to be included, fighting for your humanity to be recognized by people who claim to be allies, it’s important to remember those things.
So, I’m still here. Though it’s hard to set aside the hurt, to swallow the anger and do the responsible thing. Especially when you don’t want the task.
Anyway, go read this kick-ass post over at Prison Culture if you haven’t already.