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Stoli Vodka Martini With Three Olives

February 16th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

The title of this post is named after my father’s favorite drink.

He, Harry Joe, died one year ago today. I didn’t know much about him, having grown up from the age of three to the age of 18 in California, and him living all those years in between New York and D.C. I saw him once when I was six, got a telephone call from him when I was 10, and then once more when I was 16. When I enrolled at Howard, he was living in D.C. at the time, so of course I initially thought it was an opportunity for us to rekindle our relationship with one another.

I was wrong.

By this point in his life, Harry Joe was completely incapable of taking care of himself, and so, our relationship would be made up mostly of me running errands for him, getting him certain things, or loaning him money. On the occasions when he did want my company, I never stayed very long because, well, frankly, the sight of roaches and mice running around his apartment wasn’t my idea of quality time.

This was the first semester of my freshman year, and by the end of it, I made up my mind, my father and I would not have a relationship. For the remainder of my four years, I stayed as far away from him as one person could and while there were brief reunions — once during the summer of my junior year and once more when he attended my college graduation with his two other sons, my two brothers — I dreaded every one of them.

When I saw my father, I saw my deepest fears come to life. He too graduated from Howard. He did me one better and went on to graduate from Yale with a Master’s in Architecture. In his younger days, he was, from what I’ve heard, the most charming man in any room. He had these light green eyes, was able to speak Spanish fluently, knew when to be a brotha, knew when to be a boricua; when to be a tough guy, when to be a lover. The mothers of his three sons, all of them, were beautiful and completely unique women because Harry Joe didn’t have a type. He just had an appetite. He loved women.

So when I say I saw my deepest fears in this man whose blood I share, I don’t mean fears of becoming a functional drug addict (drug free over here) like he once was, or fears of being broke and penniless (I’m kind of broke and penniless now, so I think by my sixties if it’s still that way, I’ll be used it), what I mean is the relationship with women and the subsequent lack thereof. Harry loved women. I love women. And I think sometimes, when I feel like Harry Joe’s son the most is when I think about the women in my life,  and that scares me because most of his life was filled with women. The end of his life wasn’t.

Harry’s death doesn’t hurt my heart, it hurts my head. There were so many questions I planned to ask him but couldn’t because the last months of his life, he couldn’t speak. I wanted to ask him about the women. I wanted to learn from his mistakes so that maybe I could avoid my own. But we never had that talk because by the time I accepted the fact that like it or not, I was his son, it was too late. So for the rest of my life, I carry these questions with me, sometimes in fear that I will learn the answers to them the hard way.

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  • EMF

    Thank you Jozen for being so candid. I too have questions that I wished I could have asked my father before he died of a drug overdose over 10 years ago, but now I believe that maybe those questions didn’t need to be answered. The beauty of life that we go through learning from our past, living in the present, and thanking God for what is to come in the future.

    Great post!

  • @strawberry15

    Wow thanks for the honesty

  • HES

    Very, very nice.

  • P.A

    “Me to my mother: My greatest fear is that I will make the same mistakes you made.
    My mother to me: Thats my greatest fear too.”

    I had the opportunity to ask those deep questions and have the heart to heart with my mom, and rather then ease my fears as I thought it would, it made me almost certain that I was going to be a two time divorcee raising my kids on my own, exactly like my mom. But then I think of a song lyric that talks about how in our youth its okay to learn from experience, but as adults we have to think about the consequences of our decisions to help us make our decisions. Its a long journey to process what we want out of relationships, but it seems like you’re well on your way. Great post.

  • WendyK

    I agree with P.A…I have those exact same fears and have not been able to speak to my mom about them. She takes so much of what I say very personal and too hard, so i am not certain of the best way to approach her and get her to open up completely with me. It’s been a struggle since high school and I just turned 32…I’m thinking a mother-daughter getaway for Mother’s Day might be a good time to “chat”.

  • Teach It

    “So for the rest of my life, I carry these questions with me, sometimes in fear that I will learn the answers to them the hard way.”

    It’s all about personal CHOICE. You see where your father’s choices landed him…choose to do better. But, it’s not something you can just simply say; you have to constantly be aware of each decision you make and make them based on the idea that you do not want to end up like your dad. This constant awareness of your choices may be as mundane as deciding what to eat or be as important as deciding who you will date or marry. Heck, you may even have to have a phrase taped to your mirror or have a personal mantra.

    Example: I will learn from my father’s mistakes. I will know that my path is not determined by his life. I have the power to change my life through the CHOICES I make. I will CHOOSE to do better and have a POSITIVE impact on my (future) wife and (future) children.”

  • AFRO


  • Sunkissed404

    Wow..This was very very touching. Based on your blogs alone and what you write, it is obvious that you are of good character. The fact that you are as conscious as you are of your decisions in life speaks volumes of your moral aptitude. Put it this way, if you are as concerned as you are about your decisions is confirmation enough that you will be just fine. I agree with “Teach It”. It’s about choices.

  • Tunde

    good post. i also have fears of becoming like my father. unlike most men that i know, i did grow up with my father in house. he taught me things that have shaped me into the man that i am today. he showed me the value of family and doing everything you have to do as a man to make sure your family is taken care of. he taught me how to change a tire. he taught me how to tie a necktie.

    on the other hand my father showed me a lot of things that makes me have a lot of contempt for him to this day. my dad was a womanizer and like your father i think that’s where i get my love of woman from. i vowed to myself to be nothing like my father though. my parents always had domestic abuse situations (that went both ways). to this day i could never see myself putting my hands on a woman under ANY circumstances. it just brings me much pain to even imagine myself in that type of situation. any woman that i have dealt with in life knows that that is my deal breaker. i have actually ended relationships based on that.

    i think its pretty sad when you want to grow up to be nothing like your dad, which is why when i have children i will make sure that i will be someone that they can look up and want to emulate. family is very important to me and i really want to right the ship that my dad wronged.

  • E-Dub

    I knew my Dad well, but he was one of those men uncomfortable in the presence of any female that didn’t give birth to him, or that he wasn’t trying to get pregnant. So as his daughter, I felt an absence. The best gift I ever gave myself was in recognizing that I had not been “fathered” properly as a child, and so had no reference for recognizing the importance of that masculine space as an adult. The feminine nurtures and holds the well being, the masculine provides for and protects the well being. My dad did none of that for me, or himself. How did this experience show up for me? Well, with no direct example (I had great uncles, but they lived far) or habits of a healthy father providing for(though props to Mom for working it out!)and protecting me as a kid, and I somehow carried it on, and turned into an adult with the habit of not providing for myself adequately, or protecting my value, property and self as a priority. Not to get all new -agey, but since that realization, I have healed my relationship with my father from the inside out by doing everything I can to provide for myself all the perceived lack that he and so many fathers couldn’t do–financially, stability-wise, good boundaries, etc. I know the relationship between men and fathers is different, and he and I have been able to actually get answers about our journey from him. But I don’t believe him being alive or me being female is the point, but the intention to be whole is.

  • BlueGreen

    When you think too much of what you don’t want to be, that is exactly what you will become. Instead of thinking about how you don’t want to end up like your dad, reflect on how you want you life to be. Keep you eye on that instead.

  • BoomShots

    Whether we want to acknowwledge or not, parents are role models. Role models in the sense that based on their present circumstances we may choose to live our lives along the same principles they did, oppositional or a combiation of both. When we don’t have that parental relationship we hve a sense that we have missed out on a connection, not because he or she may have been a great positive influence but because they would have provided us a roadmap on how to best navigate life. That I believe is an important aspect of the parental relationship that plague so many of us, men or women who have difficulty comfortably navigating certain aspects of our lives because we never learned how to.

    I know a few of the folks who read this are gonna pump up their chest and say, I did not need that mofo or that btch and my life was better for it. I don’t know you and so you may very well be right. But being a role model does not mean they will be able to direct us to making all the right moves in life, they are also a good source of all the moves not to make.

    I have found one of the easiest ways to understand others is to understand their relationships with their parent(s). Those relationship more than any other are a better determinant of that individual’s state than most other aspects of their lives.

  • Ingrid

    As you recognize the wonderful accomplishments and human faults of your birth father, remember to consider and acknowledge the everlasting faithfulness of your heavenly father….He will lead and guide you throughout your life to be the man that you are destined to be….”In all thy ways, acknokwledge Him and He will direct thy path.” Proverbs 3:6

  • kev

    I applaud you for having the courage to share so candidly about your pops. You should let go of those unanswered questions tho!

  • Efia

    As I’m sure you remember, I had the opportunity to meet your father when I was working at the VA Hospital in D.C. Even though he was in and out of the hospital then, he was still one of the biggest (and possibly oldest at the time) flirts I had ever met. I can see why so many women chose to love him.

    Yes, you do love women but you will never be like Harry Joe. You have your mother to thank for that.

  • Jen

    I suspect that if you are honest with yourself, you can already answer many of the questions. It’s fear that keeps us from being honest with ourselves.

    Do you see similarities but want to be assured that the outcome will be different?

    Teach It is right. It’s all about choices.

  • Happyleoness

    That was deep! I thought about my father and the lost communication before his death. We don’t always have to follow the path our parents have taken. Make your own path.

  • Love Is Dope

    Thank you for sharing this. Really. My father (who raised me as a single dad from 13 until I left for college) had a very complicated relationship with his now deceased father. From what I know, my grandfather was a horrible father and an even worse husband. My father ended up being a horrible husband and a great dad (as great as you can be as a horrible husband). At almost 60 years old, he still holds on to the bitterness of hating–truly hating–his father. I hope you carry only questions and not bitterness about your dad. Bitterness eats away at the person who carries it. As far as questions, some things you will never know the answer to, but others you can find out. My father’s complicated relationship with his deceased parents and their relatives, caused me to inherit dysfunctional relationships with those folks. I have recently chosen to be the family historian, which means asking a lot of questions and contacting people I never knew existed. I find out new information everyday and I have a much more well-rounded view of people who only existed to me before in one-sided flimsy family myths. Maybe, just maybe, there may be some questions about your dad that can be answered by others…

  • Shavier

    Great post Jozen!

    I’ve been reading w/o comment since your Essence debut and finally decided to write.

    I grew up in a household with my mom & dad (they’ve been married 41 years). In all those years they never separated, but he left so many times (emotionally). He stayed for the things she could do for him as though he had the upper hand, when all the while it was she.

    When I was young my dad would take me out with him everywhere he went, until i started to tell everything – My dad liked the women too!!(Hanging out with dad stopped).

    I could go on, and on. So, although I could not relate to many of my friends who were growing up in single parent households – the grass was not greener on my side.

    I realized that my dad is just a man and is not perfect. Neither am I. He was not the example of who Mr. Right would be for me. I would not be one of those women who says, “I’m going to marry a man just like my father”. He needed direction himself on how to be a man, father, husband…. He could not teach me what he did not know or want to accept.

    I love my dad to this day, but do not love who he is. I accepted the good and the bad about him and I’ve grown from it with the help of Jesus.


  • J. Edouard

    I feel you on this one, I felt the same way when my father passed away. Alot of questions unanswered…

  • **inquiring mind**

    Jo- it’s over, just let that isht go…

  • ebonifire

    I’m sorry, I know my name isn’t “Jo” and you weren’t talking to me, but what exactly do you expect him to let go? I’d really like to hear this…

  • **inquiring mind**

    Before I even get started just know I’ve never been the type to sugar-coat so any offense taken I apologize in advance but it is what it is…

    Well there’s always the “easier said than done” adage… but I’m just saying to dwell on those things you can’t change is a waste of time and energy(possibly positive at that). You could be spending that time on something that will produce fruit(results). Many of us don’t have great relationships with our parents-myself included, and all the time that I thought about how unfortunate my situation is and what I could HAVE DONE to make it better only left me depressed, unfulfilled and empty- the moment I “shook myself out of it” and decided ENOUGH- “it is what it is” and placed my thoughts on more positive things I felt better, I thought clearer and I treated the people I love and love me the way I should. By holding on to those emotions(anger, confusion, etc) I was unawarely keeping opportunities to love others at bay- why would I laugh when I’m sad? how can I be happy for others when I’m unhappy? how can I love you when I’m hollow?- the people in your life don’t deserve to deal with that- you don’t deserve to deal with that!

    It’s sad and I’m not saying forget when I say “let that isht go”… I’m saying while you holding on to a dead relationship, which as harsh as that may be to say- that relationship is over and now all that’s left is you- so what are going to do with you?- keep holding on or let go so you can grab onto the other opportunities out there waiting for you?-Choices (shout to Teach It)

  • Christine

    This blog was so good. I love when you write about personal subjects even though I’m sure it must be difficult….I saw so much of my relationship with my parents in this blog.

  • Alisha

    Written so well, it almost doesn’t even seem real. hat was very honest. RIP to Harry Joe.

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