I was playing outside in the Pork ‘n Beans projects at my great grandmother’s house and they called me inside saying, “Somebody wants to meet you!”
I walked into the living room; I saw my great grandmother, older sister and Uncle Pee Wee and standing there is a very tall, lean man. He was very well dressed wearing cowboy boots and a hat. He had a muddy complexion and was super charming. He smiled real big, grabbed me for a hug I didn’t want and with my face squished into his chest, all I could think was, “He’s musty.”
And that began a very tumultuous relationship with my father. When I found out that his birthday was a day before mine, that even enraged me more knowing his birthday was so close to mine and yet he never wanted to see his kid for the first nine years of their life. I remember cursing my father out on the phone -- Yes, I was a nine-year-old potty mouthwash.
It wasn't until later I realized that my father was a rolling stone and a hustler. He’d go back and forth from Mississippi to Miami for various nefarious reasons, probably earning him all his nicknames from Bunga Bunga, “C-O” to Connie, when his name was Harry James. I also found out that he loved to gamble and go to the racetracks. Shortly after we were introduced, I traveled with him in his cream-colored Pontiac Bonneville from Miami to Mississippi. It was just us two.
I fell asleep and remember waking up in the back seat of the car. Connie was nowhere around. He left me on the side of the road while he went to gamble at the tracks. I got out that car, walked into Wendy's and called my mom collect. She told me to get back into the car and lock the doors. I did and I waited. It was daytime when he left, the sun was way down when he came back. But, when he did finally come back, he was in a good mood ‘cause he'd won. I wanted to curse him out, but I didn't. I was only bold enough to do that over the phone. We got burgers and a Frosty and jumped back on the road.
That was life with my dad.
Connie pictured with his children.
When I first moved to LA, Connie and I would talk on the phone. I felt like he was always searching for something, but his addictions found him instead and they ultimately led him to losing everything. The cars, houses, clothes, businesses. Everything. He died in a hospital alone. I know he was a pained soul looking for love, never really getting it from his father’s side -- strangely enough, repeating the pattern.
Through the hurt and the pain, I still find peace in loving and honoring my father no matter who he was a person.