Forgiving Him On Father’s Day

Dad, I am forgiving you because I now realize that you could not be there—not because you didn’t want to, but because you didn’t know how to.

He’s not dead, but since his presence was consistently minimal, I usually pretended he was. It made days and nights much easier. Instead of asking “Where’s daddy?” I knew exactly where he was: Heaven. Or hell. At that point, I just knew he was a figment of my imagination.

My mother never spoke negatively of my father. But her silence sent a clear message.

My father left when I turned 3. I remember sitting on the couch with my older sister as he began to scream at my mother, then the door slammed. What followed was a 10-year-long disappearing act.

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the black family narrative. The same narrative that presumes if you are black father, you are not around to raise your children. Simultaneously, the same narrative assumes all single mothers are the problem and fathers will be the answer.

As a child, I was exhausted with the “you really are hurting, admit it” rhetoric. But that’s also because I was tired of hearing the truth. I may be at peace now, but for a long time, I was angry at my father for not being around. And because of that, I took it out on myself.

I was hurt.

However, I finally realized that the person who was really hurting was him.

My father was a good man tried to be a good man. But no matter how much he tried, drugs, women, and protecting his masculinity always got in the way. Whenever my father would decide to visit, he always found a way to mention “being a man,” except our versions of manhood and masculinity, even at a younger age, varied greatly. He cared about money, cars, and liquor. I cared about books, writing, and history. To him, this was because I was hanging around my mother too much.

Despite my disdain for Tyler Perry and his patriarchal and one-dimensional movies, Cicely Tyson said something in Diary of a Mad Black Woman that still reverberates: “When somebody hurts you, they take power over you. If you don’t forgive them, then they keep the power. Forgive him baby, and after you forgive him, forgive yourself.”


This Father’s Day, Dad, my gift to you is forgiveness.

I am letting go of this hurt you have caused me for more than 20 years. Holding onto it has brought me nothing positive, and quite frankly, not letting it go presumes that you being around would have been a good thing. Sadly, I think the opposite would have been true.

Dad, I am forgiving you because I now realize that you could not be there—not because you didn’t want to, but because you didn’t know how to.

Dad, I am forgiving you because I can’t pretend that you didn’t teach me anything. From you, I learned who I didn’t want to be. I learned about unhealthy masculinity, patriarchy, misogyny, and a host of social ills. I don’t want to replicate that, so I am forgiving you.

And hopefully in this process, you can forgive yourself.


Preston Mitchum is a regular contributor to Role Reboot. He is a civil rights advocate and legal writing professor in Washington, DC. Preston has written for The Atlantic, theGrio, Huffington Post,, and Think Progress. Follow him on Twitter here.

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