My First Week
It was like a dream, every morning we would sit around the breakfast table and eat like a proper family, then me and my dad would go off and have our talks, he told me what happened with my mum and why they broke up, he told me, he tried searching for me, for 20 years and how every birthday that passed, broke his heart but he’s happy he has found me now and he will make up for all the missed years.
Sadly, he never said any of those things.
I guess it was me wishing he did, our actual conversation was for about thirty minutes. We did sit around the table and he asked me, how I’ve been, and I said fine, and it was the truth, I had no other choice but to be fine. He went on to ask, “how has your mum been all these years?” I told him I didn’t know. “What do you mean?” he said, it was at this moment I realised, I was going to have to explain to him that I spent minimal time with my mum and I was brought up by the British care system at this point, I realized he had no idea I had spent most of my life in care.
I could tell he was shocked, all these years he thought I was living with my mum and she was keeping me from him. He asked me, “why did she put you in care”, “I don’t know” I replied because truthfully, I still don’t know but like I said earlier, I’ll get into things with me and my mother at another time.
So, my dad started apologizing for me growing up in care, I told him it was alright, and he didn’t need to be apologizing, especially when he isn’t the reason that I was placed in care in the first place.
We both fell silent, so I asked “what happened between you and my mum”, he explained that a few months into her being pregnant, he came home and she had left and taken everything in the house with her and left him with a lot of debt, during there time together, she had taken out several items on credit and didn’t pay.
*sounds just like her, to be honest*
After she had disappeared from him, that was it, he never saw or heard of her again. He would often get messages from friends and family telling him when and where she had been spotted, the very last place he knew she was, was in Africa, after giving birth to me apparently, but nobody ever mentioned seeing me with her.
Things fell silent again, so I asked him something that has bothered me for years, I wanted to know where I was born
*My mums always told me I was born in America, but according to social services I was born somewhere in The Gambia*
My dad told me, as far as he knows, I was born in America but he doesn’t exactly know where and isn’t exactly sure, and that was the end of the conversation.
Also, in that week, he took me around and showed me his old house and explained to me how it burned down… then he showed me his old workplace, he used to work for coca cola, which I thought was pretty cool, now he owns a nursing company with his wife.
We drove to a few other places around Charlotte, we also went to places like Target and Best Buy, which I remember hearing about in American sitcoms I watched, we also went to a couple shopping malls, and he asked me, what I wanted for Christmas, but that was it, our brief conversation and a drive around Charlotte was all I got.
In my second week – Not much talking happened between us, I didn’t say anything, and he didn’t ask anything. I’m not the best of talkers but I wouldn’t have held anything back from him if he had asked, but thinking back now maybe I should’ve told him stuff voluntarily? but after finding out I grew up in care, he seemed a hurt, which put me in an awkward position because anything I tell him now would most likely only hurt him further. Some of the things, I guess parts of me was to ashamed to tell him.
I mean how do you tell your estranged father, you never really had a childhood, you were moved all over the place, from one city to the next, me and my mother would always be on the move when she was around and if it wasn’t her then social services would be the ones moving me around, never allowing me to settle or socialize with other kids like a normal child should. How do I tell him I have been heavily involved in gangs, which put me on death’s door, one to many times.
How do I tell him any of these things and more without him attempting to blame himself again? As unsympathetic as this may sound, I wasn’t there for the blame game, to be honest, I wasn’t even there to talk about my own past, I just needed answers to help me understand who I was, what in happened to me growing up, happened and there’s no changing that, It’s not going to take away the pain I, it’s not going to make either of us happy.
so, we both stayed quiet.
The rest of my week not a lot happened between me and my dad, it was like I had been there all my life in his eyes, we would see each other say one or two things and then go our separate ways. This didn’t bother me much, i was used to being independent, actually, I was used to being on my own
*I could sit in a room with someone for hours and not say a word and still be comfortable and it often annoys me when others try to force conversations with me, it’s just not necessary.*
I could’ve gone the entire trip without speaking to him again, let’s be honest I’ve only known him a week and at 21, I’ve come a long way from being that child, that cried for his father.
However despite things between me and him being almost at a Cold War type of scenario, I did get to know my siblings a little bit more, I spent some evenings, playing Xbox with my little brother and spoke more with my sister, mainly about what she was studying and what she enjoyed doing when she wasn’t studying…
*my entire time there, she was always going off to revise or she constantly had her head in a book reading*
I told her a bit about the things that I’ve been up to like volunteering in Africa and the various charity work I’ve done and she was really interested and wanted to know more, at the end of our conversation, she told me she hopes to be like me one day, just going out there and trying things but she lacks confidence and she is not sure of what she would like to do. I told her the best advice I could give her, is to do what makes her happy, try new things and she should not be afraid to fail, because failing and making mistakes is how we learn, grow and eventually better ourselves, It looked like what I had said sent her into deep thought, as we walked around the mall over to the movie complex to pick a movie.
To keep myself busy on the other days, I found a Soccer Centre, you register online and then just turn up, pay and play with strangers. Whilst waiting for the game to start, I would often sit in the reception area and one of the owners came and spoke to me, he said he had seen me play on a previous occasion and thinks I’m really good, and he wanted to know where I was from, we spoke for a bit and somehow by the end of our conversation, he offered me a coaching job, which I had to decline and explain that I’m only visiting family and will be heading back to the UK soon but if I were to come back in the future, I would definitely come by and run a few sessions.
After the games my dad would come and pick me up, we never spoke much, he would ask “how was it” I replied “good a little easy but its decent” that was it really, we both fell silent and enjoyed the radio, the roads were dark and you could hardly see anything outside, so we had no choice but to tune into the radio or take notice of the sound the tires were making as the road surface would come from smooth to rough and back to smooth, you know just doing what roads do.
I also spent some time with my dad’s wife, I followed her to work, as she did her rounds checking in on her clients. Whilst in the car she would tell me how great it is that I’m here and how my dads really and she’s happy me and my dad are reunited.
We went to taco bell, I had my first ever taco, wasn’t all that, to be honest, and we sat and spoke, I asked her if my dad was happy having me here? Because we haven’t spoken much since the first day, she said he was very happy that I was here, he just doesn’t know what to say or ask, and he feels like he would hurt my feelings, if he forced me to talk about my past” I replied “oh…right, but he wont know unless he asked” she explained to me that it would take some time for the both of us to be comfortable around each other but we will get there she said.
*I really liked her, she was very understanding a little excitable at times, but she was funny and before coming back to the UK she took me shopping and we filled up a whole suit case with loads of American candy and cereals*
So before I knew it, it was Christmas and we all woke up and headed to the front room and sat on the sofa, my dad and his wife started handing out presents, now I just sat there not expecting anything. I did have a card for everyone and I handed them out and just after handing my dad his card, he handed me a box wrapped up in the Christmas spirit, I was a little excited but played it cool but really, I just wanted to rip the wrapping paper off to see what was inside, I played it cool, took my time unwrapping. When I eventually finished unwrapping like an idiot, I saw that they had bought me an iPad, I was happy, I did the whole hugging thing again and we all went back to our rooms to get ready for Christmas lunch/dinner
We had lunch/dinner in the dining room, my dad’s wife said grace and then we all tucked in – I think they must have thought, this was my first family like Christmas dinner because they kept offering to fix my plate for me, telling me I shouldn’t be shy, if I wanted more, but it wasn’t, I’ve had all types of Christmas dinners with the various ethnic families, I was placed with in the past.
*and little did they know when it came to food, I’m in no way shy, after all, a man’s got to eat right?*
After Dinner we all sat and watched tv for a bit and then we were told to go get ready, we were going to the race track, slightly confused I got ready and got in the car and yes indeed we were actually off to a race track, what they neglected to tell me was that every Christmas the race track gets transformed and decorated with loads and loads of Christmas lights and decorations, it was actually amazing and one of the coolest things I’ve seen to date. So really it wasn’t a bad Christmas after all. I enjoyed it.
Maybe many would’ve expected more to happen on Christmas? I don’t know, nor do I care, It was simple and I really enjoyed it. Plus, I don’t think I could’ve dealt with anything over the top, not on my behalf especially.
So Christmas was over and things went back to being normal. Only now it felt like time had slowed right down and it was almost as if the days were never-ending. I started to miss home, everything I was now doing here, I could be doing back at home, homesick? Maybe.