Just a week ago, I was the keynote speaker for the Maryland-NASW annual conference, and it was wonderful to be in the presence of people that save lives each and every day. Social Workers as I have said previously, are “Angels on Earth.” Social Workers saved my life. I also was in Virginia the first Saturday in May, 2015 as the keynote at a wonderful Project Life Conference with Foster Teenagers. Many of the kids there, also do not have a father in their life.
In these speeches, I often publicly talk about the fact that my father never signed my birth certificate. No man ever did, except for the doctor that delivered me at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. I have a mother, but literally, at least on my official birth record, I don’t have a father.
All my life, almost 51 years of age now, I have blocked out the tremendous pain, or at least I thought I had, of never having a father. I literally lied to myself, and said to hell with him. It was my coping mechanism. That I was better off without him in my life.
I have stumbled at times, and my “demons” if you will, almost destroyed me, however I’m happy to say that my wife Marilyn and I have made it to 31 years of marriage.
I did go on to a career in TV News. I’m one of the fortunate kids where taxpayers paid for me to obtain a college education coming out of the housing projects of NYC. I was the first one in my family to ever attend college, and go on to grad school at the prestigious Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University.
As a journalist, I got the opportunity to moderate debates with Hillary Clinton, and be one of only a handful of American Journalists to ever interview Nelson Mandela. The kid that faced many, many obstacles, and with no father.
For the record, I was raised by my grandmother in the Bronx, and by an aunt, my aunt Inez. My mother suffered from severe Mental Illness, and was diagnosed as a “Chronic Paranoid Schizophrenic,” who heard voices that told her to do terrible things to me. I was also sexually abused as a child. My grandfather, sadly, for part of his life, was a heroin addict on the streets of New York. But I am proud of him, because in the end, he beat his addiction. We all fall down in life, do you get back up.
I rarely admit this, but the last few days I have been struggling on an emotional front after reading about the horrible deadly incidents involving apparent mentally ill mothers and their children. One 3-month old child’s head, completely severed inCincinnati children frozen in Detroit and in NY, a toddler smothered to death in a restaurant bathroom.
These are triggers for me.
That was my fate….That was my fate. One could ask themselves why me? I have always despised feeling sorry for myself, but lately I haven’t had much of a choice.
I am fortunate that family members and social workers intervened. After my mom did some horrible things to me, I was placed in Foster care as a toddler, until my grandmother could gain custody of me.
I have been running from my past all my life, but I can no longer hide. I have not been able to read those stories, they are simple too close to home. They make my cry. Since, I was twelve years old, I has been also running from crying, because I have strongly felt that with the life I have lived, if I started crying, I would never be able to stop.
I’m also starting to realize that subconsciously even my “daddy issue,” is there.
This is the first time in my entire life ever that I am spending any time thinking about him, surely the first time ever writing about him, but I was boxed in this time and cornered.
I am the alarming statistic about African American Children being born into single parent households. I am extremely sympathetic to this harsh reality, but was determined this would not stop me.
Then I faced a situation. The most simplistic of one, but it opened the flood-gate to the fact that I don’t have a father, and will die without ever having one.
Here was my encounter that has left me speechless without an answer.
I went to my local post office because I have to renew my passport. The lovely ladies that work there, told me I have to fill out form DS-11.
DS-11 is a form I will never forget. After all these years, the DS-11 forced me to do the unthinkable, think about my father.
I was told that the form had to be filled out in black ink. On page 2 of 2, I sensed the trouble coming.
It asked for my mother’s information. I filled it out. Then the DS-11 asked for my father’s name. I know that. Then the DS-11 asked for my father’s date of birth. I have no idea. I have never had that information. It also asked for his place of Birth? I believe he was born in Jamaica, but I have never been provided that information.
The easy part of the form was the question about his sex, but then it also asked if he is a U.S. Citizen? Another question I do not know the answer too.
All I can tell you is that he died of alcoholism right around the time I went to college. About the same time, my beloved Grandmother, Anna Pearl Carter, from Augusta Georgia, that raised me passed away.
Maybe you can help me with my dilemma. I have completed all the information of the DS-11 Passport form, except for the part about my father.
The Postal employees watch me on TV, and have followed my career.
What do I say to them this afternoon when I turn in the uncompleted form.
Do I make up the background information on a government form about my father where I have to certify the information by raising my hand and swearing under oath. Clearly that is not an option.
What do you do when you don’t have a father?