Hey! How ya doing? Good to see ya. Glad to be here. Sorry it’s been so long. And let’s not forget, Happy Friday! I know it’s been a long time. And honestly, I really want to get better at being more consistent. It’s been an interesting journey through life thus far. I keep finding myself in these stages of growth and when that happens, I need to take steps back and process. So that’s what I’ve been doing. But I had to share this video because I got a lot of feedback (unexpected feedback at that) about something I said on Wednesday. Wednesday was the 9th anniversary of the day my dad died and I said something about that day and people really seemed to resonate with it so I felt led to share this. I hope it helps whoever needs to hear it. Enjoy your day and your weekend!
So can we talk about last night’s episode of This Is Us? I have long since become a huge fan of the show and I am not ashamed to admit that I cry at every single episode. Every. Single. One. Each episode touches me in a way that makes me think they can’t possibly make me cry any harder than I did on the previous one. Yet, they prove me wrong each time. They did not fail to up the ante yet again with last night’s episode titled, Memphis.
In this episode, we found our beloved Randall taking a cross-country trip (even though he’d told his wife it wasn’t a cross-country trip) to take his ailing biological father William to his old stomping ground of Memphis. It was significant for both of them because William was dying of Stage 4 stomach cancer and this is on the heels of Randall’s nervous breakdown from the previous week. If you follow the show, you know that Randall was adopted by Jack and Rebecca because William and Randall’s mother were drug addicts, so William left baby Randall at a fire station. They reunited in the first episode when adult Randall showed up unannounced on William’s door step. Since then, we’ve watched their relationship evolve from strangers to a more intimate father/son relationship.
Last night’s episode was so moving for many different reasons but for me, it was a beautiful vision of what I wish I could have had to experience with my father. Death is an interesting part of life. We all know it’s going to happen, yet we are ill prepared when it does occur. I loved that Randall was able to spend his father’s dying days with him, learning about him, growing with him, and even usher him into his dying breath. It was so beautiful. And it brought me to tears. I was a blubbering mess in my bed. I cried sad tears for Randall because he was losing another dad, and right when the getting was getting good. I cried for William because he got to end his life on a happy note. At the end, he told Randall that he didn’t have a happy life, yet the two things that were good to him were the person at the beginning and the person at the end.
And through all of my tears, I couldn’t miss that there was a part of me crying for myself. Entertainment can provide us with such a gift, and that is the ability to shine a light on some of the realest, most intimate parts of life. I can think of no more intimate part of life than death and dealing with the death of a loved one–particularly a parent. The writer of This Is Us gave us all (well let me speak for myself) me such a gift because it provided a glimpse into a real moment of a relationship. We got to see a father and a son have honest, yet difficult dialogue about life and death. It can be so difficult to have those conversations, but I truly believe that they are so worthwhile.
While watching, I recalled the moment my father died and I wished I could have had those moments with my dad. For a long time, I felt that I was robbed of that moment. My dad was feeling under the weather one day, went to the doctor and next thing I know I was getting a call that he was on a ventilator after going through sepsis. He remained on that ventilator for three weeks. He was sedated for the duration of those three weeks as well. We never got a chance to talk. I didn’t get to ask him questions or tell him how I felt. The closest we came to that was during week 3 when he awoke for a moment. He was still on the ventilator, so he couldn’t speak, but he mouthed the words to me, “I’m dead.” I didn’t take him seriously because he would speak like that when he was sick. I brushed it off, but he shook his head No and mouthed the words again. He even went limp to show me what it would look like. I laughed because I didn’t want it to be true. While I always say I didn’t realize he was warning me, if I’m honest, I’ll admit that I knew he was telling the truth. But I wasn’t ready then to admit that so I dismissed him and hoped he was wrong. He died two days later. He didn’t get to die surrounded by mom and me. No, instead he died alone in a room with doctors. He didn’t get the peaceful transition that William received. He crashed several times, was revived each time, until that final one where he just would not return. That haunted me for years. I wanted closure. I wanted to have been able to hold his hand, kiss his cheek, and tell him it’s ok. Since I never got the chance, I have envisioned how our final conversation would have gone if we’d been given the chance. I feel like it would have gone something like this . . .
Dad: Well Boops, it’s been real. But I gotta go.
Me: Wait, don’t go yet! There’s still so much more I want to talk to you about.
Dad: Now what did I tell you? Be strong. I’ll always be with you. You’re going to be fine. Take care of my granddaughter. Watch your back and be strong for your mama. I’m counting on you.
Me: Wait, you’re dying and THIS is what you have to say to me? Not I love you. Not I’m proud, but be strong?
Dad: I just can’t do right by you. Can I, Je’Niece? I’m dying and I still just can’t do right by you. I told you before, I’m a hard man and I don’t make no bones about that. Now I said I gotta go.
Me: Well dang, fine! But don’t be a stranger. And since you won’t say it, I will. I love you, Man.
Dad: I love you more.
But I never got that moment. So I’ll have to live vicariously through Randall and William. It was a beautiful moment so I can live with that. Thank you to the writers of This Is Us. I cried some of the ugliest tears I’ve ever cried, but you gave me such a gift with each tear.
Happy Friday! What a wonderful time it is. It’s Father’s Day weekend and I feel like that’s a wonderful time to celebrate men. I love men. I can admit that I haven’t always been able to say that. However, I’m so grateful that I can say that now. I think Father’s Day is a wonderful time for us to examine and begin to take the steps to heal our relationship with the masculine because for many of us, the wounds we have in our relationship with the masculine are rooted with our relationship with our fathers. That’s why I’m not speaking today of the absent dads–the ones who couldn’t (for whatever reason) be the men we needed. The story is told so much. I think it’s time for a new narrative. Although, I will sidebar right now and wish love and joy to all of those whose dad was absent. I’m sorry he wasn’t there. I’m sorry he wasn’t what you needed. I hope you are at peace now, and if not, I hope you are on your way to finding peace.
So , as I was saying, dad’s (and men in general) have gotten a bad rep over the years, and it’s time to release those old ideas that no longer serve. Men are great. Men are vital. After all, women may make the world go round, but men are the axis upon which it spins. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads!
Salutations! Naw, that doesn’t sound happy enough. Hey! I’m sending all my good vibes your way because I appreciate you so much for joining me here on this space. Today is good. It’s cold in Chicago, but the sun is out. So I’m taking my silver lining. Today’s video was inspired by a conversation I was having with one of my besties. She and I are so in sync we actually activate one another. We’re like the Wonder Twins . . . Activate! So whenever I’m thinking about something, it tends to come up in our conversations and I take that as confirmation that I’m on the right track. We were talking about life and relationships and how we mere mortals have such difficulty with the endings of a relationship. We all know they have a beginning, a middle, and an end. But something about that end gets to us. We just don’t like it. But the reality is, every relationship we create in our lives won’t be one that we ride all the way to our physical death. And I’m not speaking of merely romantic relationships. What is it about the end of things that make us so uncomfortable? And we needn’t fret. No we need not. Because the end usually signifies the beginning of something else. Hmmm . . . let’s ponder that for a minute, shall we?
People love to ask me what it was like growing up with Bernie Mac as my father. I still don’t really know how to answer that question. It’s all that I know. He was Daddy. And while his story seems quite extraordinary to some, life with him seemed quite ordinary to me. I will say that it wasn’t anywhere near as hilarious as others seem to think it was. Don’t get me wrong. We laughed a lot. I mean, he was just a naturally funny guy and he had a great sense of humor. He passed it along. However, he took his responsibility as a father very seriously. And as his daughter, I can tell you that fatherhood, as far as he was concerned, was no laughing matter.
I tell people often that my father and I were soul mates. I know that the popular idea of soul mates lies in the romantic. However, I’ve always believed that a soul mate is that person whose connection with you is unparalleled. Your soul mate is the person (or persons) who are there to reflect you in your truest essence. They challenge you in the most life changing ways. That was my father for me, and I him. We were mirror images of one another. While I wouldn’t admit it when he was alive, I proudly say today that we knew and understood one another better than anyone. There were things we just “got” about one another. The flip side to that is that we also had the super power of being able to drive the other crazy.
People ask, “What do you miss most about your dad?” It makes me laugh now, but the truth is, I miss the way he got on my nerves. And he did get on my nerves. About 90% of the 100 billion estimated ones I have in my human body! Hearing that may sound odd to you, but it’s a comforting truth for me. Oddly enough, it’s not the tender moments I miss most. I miss his idiosynchrasies, his bad habits. I miss the little picadillos that made him Daddy.
I found one of my old journals that I kept as a child. I had to have been about 10 or 11 years old when I wrote in the journal. Almost every entry is about how much he got on my nerves and how I will never, ever, ever be like him. Now, those who know me well can appreciate the humor of this. I am like my father. Always have been. In fact, I think I was the last person in my life to recognize it! I’ve known one of my best friend since we were 4 years old. We’ve never had an argument. We were about 14 the one time we came close to blows, and it was because she told me that I was like my father.
This is yet another thing I wouldn’t admit because a large part of me felt like he was larger than life. My dad was a superhero in my eyes. He was able to do the impossible. Hey, he took us from true rags to riches, so why wouldn’t I believe that? I never believed I had that ability. But, I also wouldn’t let him know that. No, I would say the opposite of whatever he said. If he said “Up,” I went down. If he said, “It’s going to rain,” I said “I see nothing but sunshine.” He was intuitive and very strong with his intuition. So he was right a lot. I mean a lot, a lot. He could tell you what you would do before you even thought about the act. And I’m not ashamed to tell you that I just got tired of him being right all the time. So yep, I was contrary on purpose just to prove him wrong. You probably don’t need me to tell you that it didn’t work out very well for me.
Again, these are things that I laugh about now. But the truth is, as much as I resisted my true self (which is so much like my dad), I’m appreciative of it now. I like that we are so much alike. I think my father was a wonderful human being and I’m proud to say that I know him. So here’s a brief list of some of the traits that we have in common.
We’re both extremely stubborn. I mean for real, for real. We will hold our stance forever. You’ll get tired before we do.
We’re both humanitarians and care takers. We’re the one in our circle who takes care of everyone. The unfortunate thing is that we both do so to the detriment of our own selves because we get so busy taking care of everyone else that we forget to take care of ourselves.
We both have a very, ahem . . . colorful . . . vocabulary. Now this one is really funny to me because I was timid about cursing until he died. Once he did, it was as if a part of him fused into my soul and brought his vocabulary stash with it!
We’re both natural leaders. We’re not interested in following a crowd. In fact, we’re more inclined to intentionally go in the opposite direction of everyone else.
We’re both very sensitive. This may shock some, but it is indeed true that the MacMan was very sensitive. He cared a lot about what others thought of him. He just had a great poker face to throw you off the scent of his sensitivity. I, on the other hand, never developed the poker face. Yet, I am just as sensitive–if not even more. Now, we’ll still go on to do whatever we want and leave you feeling like we don’t care, but we do.
I miss my dad. I miss him every single moment of every day. For so long I expected this almost magic day to arrive where I would be over his passing. I finally realized that there is no such day. You never get over it. You just get through it. I can honestly say that I’m through the grief, but I still miss him. I like thinking of him fondly. And I don’t wish to martyr him. Yes he was a great man. But he was also flawed. But the beautiful thing about maturity is that you learn to appreciate the people in your life for who they are instead of who you wish they were. And I appreciate my dad so much for who he is and was. It is said that children go through three stages when it comes to their view of their parents. They begin by idolizing their parents. I am no exception. I idolized my dad. I was in love with him. I idolized him so much that I pitied any man who wasn’t like him. I actually thought that any man who didn’t physically resemble him had some type of deformity. My grandfather’s and my father’s friends were the only exceptions.
It’s said after idolization, children then judge their parents. I can admit that I did judge my father. I judged him for things he did and things he didn’t do. For a long time I felt that he was too hard on me. I felt that he didn’t give me everything I needed from him. It would take me maturing and learning to see him as a man, apart from being just my dad to understand that he did the best he could. He did his best to instill in me the values he believed would help me succeed in life. He didn’t know how to be soft. He only knew how to be hard–even his soft was hard. But it was well intentioned. It was covered with love. And I appreciate that.
People ask me am I proud of my dad. I understand that for many who ask, their question is rooted in his celebrity. The truth is yes, I am quite proud of my dad. But not necessarily because of his fame. I’m proud that my father, without having his father in his life, chose to honor his actions and marry my pregnant mother at the tender age of 19. I’m proud that he remained in our home, leading us as best as he could. I’m proud that he had the courage to dare to dream (a huge dream). But more than just dream, he took the steps to make his dream come true–in spite of the many naysayers. I’m proud that at the height of his celebrity, he held fast to his values and never allowed anyone or anything to deter him from that path. I’m proud that while he may not have been able to soften up for me, he was able to give me everything he had. So I guess that means I’m in the final stage, which is acceptance. I’m proud to say he didn’t have to die for me to reach that stage. I was there long before.
I know some pretty amazing people. I know the kind of people that I just love to sit down with and listen to their musings on love, life, and everything in between. They offer such wisdom. One such person is my great friend, Marc. Marc is a really cool and funny guy. He also happens to be wise. He’s that friend who gets on me for being single. He loves to tell me, “You know how it pisses me off to see you as great as you are, yet you’re single. And then I see all these crap women out with good guys? Put yourself out there woman!” I laugh. And I laugh because I’ve always found it amusing that he’s more bothered by my single status than I am.
The truth of it is though, I like being single. And I’m the type of person who likes to have myself together before I decide to partner with somebody. And right now, I’m just not as together as I’d like to be. Hence, why I’m pulling an Al B. Sure! and getting off on my own, Girl, Girl, Girl!
But this isn’t about romantic love. Nope. It’s about love, but not about love coupling with another for the purpose of romantic partnership. It’s about the everyday love we have for ourselves and our families. In the time since my dad has passed, I have experienced tremendous heartbreak. Not simply because my dad died, but because other relationships died as well. Relationships that I held as sacred passed away almost immediately after my dad passed. And it seemed to become more of a reveal of the truth than anything else. People I loved with everything that I have betrayed me in horrendous ways. One such person was the last person I would have ever thought would hurt me. It pained me to realize that the betrayal by that person wasn’t a fluke, but more something she’d been itching to do probably my entire life. That meant the entire 30 years of our relationship were a lie. Every kiss, every embrace, every uttered “I love you,” has been just a ploy to keep me from realizing the truth. This person doesn’t like me very much, much less love me. So yeah, I’ve been heart broken for quite a while. The heartbreak has actually damaged me more than I realized. I did what I tend to do best when I go into defense mode. I retreated. And I retreated in an unconscious way. I really thought I was still putting myself out there. But I wasn’t. I was keeping myself at arms length from people because I didn’t think I could bear the pain of that type of heartbreak again. It was too much. It hurt too doggone bad and to be honest, I feel like I’ve had enough of pain for a while. I’m on a Sabbatical from pain and heartache. The problem when you take a Self Sabbatical from pain and heartbreak is that you close yourself off. Yeah, you eliminate your chances of being hurt, but you also eliminate your chances for experiencing joy.
Enter my friend, Marc. We were simply talking one day about a month ago, and he looked at me and said, as only he can say,
“Woman, what are you doing? Do you know what a gift you are to people? Do you know that you are robbing people when you decide to keep to yourself?” After I gave a half-hearted nod, he continued on. “Je’Niece, look here’s the simple truth. You’re going to meet a lot of people in your life. Cause you still have a lot of life left. And I promise you that some of those people are going to be assholes and hurt you. But they’re just a minority. You’re also going to meet some wonderful people who will see you and celebrate you, and love you for being who you are. You can’t live in fear of being hurt because the truth is you will be hurt. You will absolutely get hurt. You already have been. And you survived. So you know that you will survive another but you’ll also be loved and enjoyed. So stop worrying and paying attention to the few and put yourself out there. The world is waiting for you.”
Well damn! What could I say to that? Nothing. I could say absolutely nothing. And I didn’t say anything. I simply nodded my head in agreement. Ok, I think I shed a few tears too. Fun fact about me: I’m a thinker. When confronted with a loving truth, I will ponder it for a while. And this incident was no different. I thought about what Marc said (you see I said this was about a month ago). And I thought some more about it, and I’ve concluded that he was–no is–correct.
The truth is, I have been hurt before and survived. And while the heartbreak is a most unpleasant feeling, it’s no excuse for allowing fear to rule my life. At this point, the pain is no longer there. Yes, I have the memories of it. But the pain doesn’t exist anymore. When I see the person who broke my heart, the one thing I’m quite clear on is that I love this person. While I hate the way this person has (and actually still continues to) treated me, I recognize that it’s because of her own issues and it has nothing to do with me. I wish she knew what I knew. Perhaps then we could have the relationship I thought we’d always had—or an even better one. But we don’t, and we can’t. And while it’s not my desired outcome, I know it’s ok. Marc is right. I’m going to meet new people, some of whom will hurt me. But others will not. And I now know enough to know that I can forge new relationships with those people who will not hurt, but instead will love me and accept me. And that’s exciting.