I am most definitely, a Daddy’s Girl. I adore my Father. I call him “Poppa Smurf,” because much like the little blue-bearded cartoon character, my Daddy takes care of many (as in his kids, his girlfriend and her kids, his ex-girlfriends and their kids, his siblings, their kids, old homies fresh out of prison who need some money or a job to get on their feet…you get the point. He’s that guy), often, to his detriment. And I love my Momma one-hundred, but growing up, it was my Poppa Smurf who I chose to spend most of my time around. He was like Superman to me. People came to his shop sad and downtrodden and left with spirits uplifted and smiles on their faces.
To spend as much time as possible with Poppa Smurf, I would do whatever he liked to do.
Daddy’s Likes: work, talking shit, playing the lottery, watching baseball, and philosophizing, about women, mostly. Out of my (available) choices, I chose to work with him. So, from 7 to 18, I spent most summers and weekends of my adolescence down at his shop serving in the unofficial capacity of secretary/ “do-girl.” The latter was a term that I hated, even though that’s what Daddy called the different women who came down to the shop to run his errands, many of whom were “dating” him.
“There go ya new stepmomma Jas,” or, “Oooohhhweee, I might have to make her my new Do Girl,” he’d say when a woman pulled up who caught his fancy. He would immediately turn to catch my expression. I would crinkle my nose and scowl my disapproval. He would burst out laughing.
“Jas,” he said one day as soon as I answered my cell in the parking lot after school. By high school, my Do-Girl duties had expanded to include inventory pick-ups, client drop-offs, and food runs.
“Yeah Daddy?” I sighed. He can’t even say “Hey Jas, how was school today? How’s the college search going? Do you have time to run an errand for me?” I wanted my relationship with my Dad to be like what I imagined other kids had with their parents. But then, I’d immediately scold myself for not be grateful for what I had.
“You got anything to do after school today?”
Sometimes, I would be tempted to lie, depending on whether he’d said something mean to me recently. But more than likely, I never wanted to leave him having to deal with one of those trifling (this was pre- “ratchet”) women that he usually got to run his errands (by now, I had discovered that they were financial succubuses and a threat to my revenue stream). Honor thy Father and Mother. I was his daughter. I felt it was my duty. Plus, it gave me an excuse to spend a little time with him.
“No sir, I’m free. Whatchu need?”
“Come by the shop and pick up this money and this bill then go by the Water Gas & Light.”
“And don’t take all damn day Jas; hurry up and get here because I need it done before they close. Move like a Muslim not like a Christian. Move like a Muslim not like a Christian. Move like a Muslim not like–”
“Yessir,” I’d say, loudly cutting him off. This was when my Pops was going through his Minister Farrakhan phase. My sisters and I were raised Christian, so he knew it got under my skin that he was purposely being annoying, inappropriate, and brash. He however, would hang up laughing.
Today, my Dad called me while I was in the car with a guy friend of mine. This is a guy who has shown interest in the past in wanting to, at the very least, be intimate with me, perhaps more. I declined, telling him I didn’t feel like we were on the same wavelength. We’ve become cool friends instead. Anyway, for some reason, some part of me wanted him to witness the interaction between my father and I. I think it was because, I am proud of my father and I like to show him off in spite of, and perhaps a little bit because of, his inappropriateness. He’s a real badass and he’s gonna be who he is and do what he wants. I admire that freed will. Daddy comes on the line through a garbled connection:
“Taz? Taz? Jas, can you hear me?”
When I do finally hear him it doesn’t help that he’s talking to me through a mouthful of food.
“You eatin’ Daddy?”
“What? Am I eatin’? Yeah.” He mutches on through muffled mouthfuls.
“Whatchu eating Daddy?” The guy friend in the car is about to get out, but pauses a moment as if to hear Daddy’s response.
“Huh?” I hear him gulp.
“I said, a canary, man.”
I busted out laughing so hard it echoed through the parking deck. My friend exited the vehicle with a smirk and a chuckle.
“Did you just say a canary?! Man, I thought you said, ‘something hairy.’”
“Nah man. A canary. Something hairy?? Oh man. I’m not touching that one.”
I laughed again. Given his bawdy sense of humor, I wasn’t either. But that’s my Daddy. The funny guy. The cool guy. The asshole. The boss. We talked briefly, he telling me that he spoke with my oldest sister and my nephew a few days ago, but me knowing that he was really just checking to make sure I was okay in the world and had some money in my pockets. I skirted the money issue somewhat. This is my burden to bear, my mountain to climb. I didn’t want to tell my Dad about any problems until I have answers. So I stretch the truth, a little.
“What you up to Jas?”
“Oh, not much,“ I say, trying to sound breezy. In reality, my days are filled with writing copy for my website while I frantically apply to all manner of freelance, seasonal, and part-time writing work, with the hopes of landing something that allows me to pay my bills, still have pocket money, and energy enough to keep up with my creative pursuits. There are many pots on the stove.
In 15 months, I want to be living in a tiny house on a plot of land that I will be lease-purchasing. In the meantime, I plan to go study abroad in Paris to study and work on writing my book in a small village sometime in the next few quarters.
If I tell my Father these plans, he will only fret. He will see dollar bills. He will see my lack of employment and “reliable” means of income. He will worry, though he may not say, about what happened to me the last time I went abroad (“You’re a woman Jas. It’s not safe.”). He may even worry a little about my sanity. Safe to say, he won’t see my vision.
So, I don’t tell him. And in his case, that’s okay. Poppa Smurf and I have a strange relationship, one where he doesn’t really care to know what exactly it is that I’m doing, though he would prefer it be something worth my potential. So as far as my Pops is concerned, as long as I’m either a good person or a lucrative, slick criminal, do me (It is worth mentioning that I am a bad criminal. Once, when I was arrested for shoplifting, I broke down crying on the floor of the grocery store manager’s office. Like, on my knees, on the floor. I shoulda won a Tony. I just kept saying over and over again, “I am SOOOOOOO sorry! I am sooooo sorry! I wasn’t raised this way!” My sister was on the phone cursing me out as I tried to tell her which precinct to come to to bail me out. The store manager was a young white man who was prematurely balding. When I had been apprehended, he’d said, “We got her.” During my award-winning performance, he stood in the doorway with a smirk on his face. I noticed through my tears and it only made the embarrassment that much more visceral. But, that’s for another Storytime).
My guy friend came back to the car from his errand panting from the heat. This guy, always making moves, I thought to myself. In spite of our incompatibility, I greatly admire his work ethic.
“You know, you remind me of my Dad.” He smiles a little, snapping his seat belt.
“Oh yeah? How so?”
“My Daddy works and works and works so he has money to take care of everyone; like his kids, his family, his girlfriends’ kids, his ex-girlfriends and their kids and literally half of my hometown has come to my Pops for a loan.”
“That’s how it’s supposed to be. Your Pops is a good dude.”
“Yeah, but he never took me to a park, or a movie…like I would give anything to just go to a play with my Pops, just the two of us.”
“Yeah, but he took care of you right? Made sure you had what you needed? He showed you love in other ways.”
Whether or not my Dad was a good Dad is inconclusive. Mostly, I feel like the proof is in the pudding on that one. If I let all the foul shit he said to me growing up motivate me to write and to share, then I guess he was a good Pops after all. It’s gonna come out in the wash. Parenting is a complex thing that I am in no hurry to take on.
These days, the goal is just to keep working and show him that his weekly calls asking me “What you up to Jas?” and “You good?” followed by a bank run, are not financial investments that are ill-spent. Poppa Smurf has some funny ways about him, but he’s my Poppa Smurf. And I want to make my Daddy, proud of me. Prouder, of me. Like a little girl in a pink dress in the school spelling bee, I can’t lie, I do. That’s what part of my writing is about. It’s me trying to say all the things I have been too young, too timid, too whatever to say to my Daddy, words that I need him to mull over, turn in his mind. And so. I write. I write, with the hopes that my words will make him, and other fathers and men who hope to someday become fathers, think hard about their roles and responsibilities. Perhaps they will realize, it’s never too late to take your little girl out for dinner and a movie.
In so doing, hopefully I’ll make my heavenly Father proud(er) of me too.