My title
Home > guys > I Called Him Pop

I Called Him Pop

There was a man who raised me and my sister. We called him Pop. He and my mother were together for 11 years, from the time I was in Kindergarten up until I started high school. To say he was a huge part of our lives would be an understatement. For 11 years, he was our life. It was my mom, my sister, me, and Pop. We were a family, all living under one roof and doing the things family do.

He coached my little league teams, as my Mom prevailed over the PTA as President. My mom would help me with my papers, Pop would help me with my math. My sister worked inside the house with my mom, I worked outside with Pop. He took me on construction sites with him, made me read everything from Calvin and Hobbes to Invisible Man. He would make fun of my fictional girlfriends (“Jozen’s girlfriend is so ugly band-aids won’t stick to her.”) I would make fun of his “old girlfriend” (couldn’t make fun of his current woman, that was my mom).

This is how it was for 11 years, but by the time those 11 years were coming to a close, I wanted nothing more than for him to just leave and never come back.

This past week, Pop and his family lost their mother, their matriarch, and a woman I grew up calling Grandma. Of course, due to these dire circumstances, I have to do something I have avoided doing for probably too many years. I have to call Pop, first to offer my condolences, but second, to tell him I hated him when he left, and I loved him ever since.

I wish I could say I cried the other night when I heard the news about Pop’s mother, but I didn’t. She was close to me, and one of the fondest memories I have is when her and I one day took the bus to the local mall so she could buy me this G.I. Joe toy from Toys ‘R Us. But just last night, as my Mom was just leaving the wake of the woman I called Grandma for 11 years, she texted me Pop’s number with a short message: “You can call him.”

I froze. I sat. I cried.

I cannot punch these keys hard enough to make anyone understand what this phone call will mean. This morning everything is okay, and really, for the most part I feel fine, but I know the minute I sit, phone in hand, and get ready to make this call, I’m probably going to be shaking, much like I used to whenever I had to explain to him why I didn’t know the answer to a particular math problem.

My Pop was a beast of a man. In my head, that’s how I remember him. Just a beast. He was loud, he was agressive, he got in fights. He wasn’t a thug or anything like that. He led the straight life, no alcohol, and only an ocassional cigarette. But man, he was just hardcore. That really is the only way to describe him. I grew up half in awe, and half in fear of him.

But I loved him completely for the longest time.

Anyone who has ever heard me tell stories about him knows how much of a role he played in my upbringing, how funny he was to me, and how hard he was on me. He was old school to the soul, a man who would always say to whatever music I was listening to, “You know that’s already been done before, right?” And he was always always talking to me about manhood and being a man, to the point where I don’t even think he wanted me to be a child.

I laugh about these memories now. They are the good ones. But for so many years, they were canceled out by the bad ones I have of him, specifically the way he treated my mother. I won’t divulge any details out of respect for her privacy, but let’s just say, I have every right in the world to hate him. He could have coached a little league game for my entire life, and I would have still hated him. As a matter of fact, even today, when I think about certain things that were said and done, I hate him all over again, as though he was doing or saying those things right in front of me at that very moment.

But two things I have learned:

The first is hate should not be absolute. Sometimes we think hate is some sort of resolution, but it’s not. Hate takes up room in our heart that love can have.

The second lesson is this: A man’s relationship with the men in his life matters just as much, if not more, than the relationship he has with the women in his life. I never ever had to learn how to love my mom and my sister, such an ability was born at the same moment I was, but I have learned how to love the men who have raised me (or didn’t raise me but were supposed to).

I saw the men who raised me literally learn how to love and how to lose. People can talk to me all they want about letting go of the past, and moving on, but it’s not that easy, not when the people who caused the most pain were the same people who raised me. My biological father left me when I was too young to remember him, and sure there’s some damage done, but not like my Pop. My Pop didn’t up and leave me after a couple of months, or a couple of years. ELEVEN YEARS! And when he left, he left a mess. He hurt the women I love most, and that shit stays with me.

This journey through bachelorhood is about more than learning how to navigate through the obstacle course that is a woman’s heart, it’s also about learning how to navigate my own. Some men don’t need to get over a woman, they need to get over a man who raised them wrong or not at all. Sometimes a man’s pain has nothing to do with a woman, and everything to do with a man. And sometimes, when I hear a woman talk to me about a man who broke their heart, I know exactly how they feel. Men have broken my heart too, and this weekend, I have to call one of them.

Categories: guys Tags:
  • **inquiring mind**

    Is this where we give advice? Is that what you want- advice Jo?

    Well, all I can say is, we all make mistakes…

  • P A

    “…but it’s not that easy, not when the people who caused the most pain were the same people who raised you…” Some of the truest words ever written. You nailed this.

  • Chrissy

    “Some men don’t need to get over a woman, they need to get over a man who raised them wrong or not at all.”

    I never thought about it like that. Wow…

  • Obi Okere

    I can forgive, but I cannot forget, is only another way of saying, I will not forgive. Forgiveness ought to be like a canceled note – torn in two, and burned up, so that it never can be shown against one.

    Henry Bleecher

    Your post today reminded me of that quote. I can only try to imagine what your going through right now. Your right….letting go of the past isn’t easy. It doesn’t happen over night. The decision to forgive does happen in an instant. The kind of forgiveness where you give up the right to use what Pop did against him ever again. You can decide to do that. I wrote a post about forgiveness a while back. Check it out.

    Obi Okere

  • Tiffany In Houston


  • Alisha

    I hope the phone call goes well. You made some excellent points here. Especially about men having their hearts broken by other men. It happens. Sometimes I say times doesn’t heal all wounds. It just patches them up really well. Good luck and many prayers to you and your Pop.

  • Bedstychic

    What I have learned is that those of us that were blessed to have a dad in our lives is that….that Fathers are multi-dimensional human beings. Not perfect…imperfect and we love them in spite of or because of. We learn that people we love can do some f*ck’d up ish but we dont stop loving them. A lot of folks without Dads never get this lesson….appreciate it.

  • BMI

    Real shit. Good luck, player. Holler.

  • J. Hailey

    I feel like you were speaking directly to me. I’m going through a very similar situation. Good luck brother.

  • BrwnButterly

    “A man’s relationship with the men in his life matters just as much, if not more, than the relationship he has with the women in his life.” **Awesome piece*

  • Ruby Ru

    Long time lurker (if a month counts as a long time…), first time commenter, but I had to say something on this one. Your writing truly jumped straight of the screen on this one, Jozen. You painted an honest & raw picture of the complex nature of the relationships we can have with those who play fundamental roles in our growth into adulthood, but who can also cause us great pain. It really struck a chord with me, as I found out earlier this week that the woman who was briefly my stepmum (my dad died suddenly 2 months after they married, though she had lived with us for a couple of years beforehand) died 2 years ago. Obviously I’d lost contact with her, & to be frank not only had my childhood self not liked her, but the last time I saw her (about 3 years ago) my adulthood self had had to remind her of my name! So I can’t really relate on the parental love/hate issue, not in regards to her, anyway. Time left me only with feelings of apathy towards her. What really hit home for me on this post (please excuse the lack of paragraphs, I’m writing this on my mobile phone) was your frustration with people telling you to “Move on”, or, ” Let go of the past”. Every signifcant experience & encounter that we have formulates & confirms our perspective on life. These experiences & the learning we gain from them today, ultimately play a role in who we will be tomorrow. This is multiplied one hundred times in the case of children where they don’t have the capabilities to judge things in ‘the grand scheme of life’ & therefore their building blocks of thoughts & ideas are constructed by these early encounters. Telling an adult who’s had a traumatic childhood to “get over it” is IMHO, as ridicolous as telling them to get over the foot that’s attached to their body! It’s PART of who they are (notice that I said part). I’m sorry for the long comment (at least it seems long on my phone screen) but, I had to say something. A really touching post, Jozen. I am a HUGE fan of your writing. Repping for London, UK!

  • b

    ur a great writer. when ur book comes out i will buy 2 copies! 1 to read the other to tell my children about…..(ok that last part was a stretch. but it sounded good!)

  • Ericka

    Woww….another great post. I can understand first hand what you are going through but know time heals all wounds…(or at least mends them a little) and you’ll be a bigger man for it. I’ll keep your entire family in prayer!

  • Ava Carter

    “Hate should not be absolute…Hate takes up room in our heart that love can have.” This such a powerful concept. It hard to understand the gravity of hate unless you have actually loved. Jozen, than you for this blog. I love that some days you entertain me and other days, you entertain my thoughts. Good luck with your Pop. (I just called mine!)

  • E-Dub

    out the ball park.

  • luvtheshoes

    Wow…I’m really just kind of speechless after this post because it came across so real and truly deep. I’ve had men in my life who have also had their hearts broken by the men who did (or didn’t) raise them and saw the damage that can result. That phone call is going to be one of the hardest things you ever have to do but you never know what may come out on the other side. Maybe nothing, maybe more of the same, maybe something unexpected but maybe some peace for you simply in having had a conversation with somebody you have unfinished business with spiritually. Good luck and God bless!

  • tiffani

    agreed with E-Dub….

    out the ball park.

  • La

    I usually smirk and roll when people say this but something similar just happened with a man who isn’t my dad but whom has been like my dad. We have a complicated relationship (to say the least). But I feel a bit less alone today. Great post.

  • Obi Okere

    I can only try to imagine what your going through right now. Your right….letting go of the past isn’t easy. It doesn’t happen over night. The decision to forgive does happen in an instant. The kind of forgiveness where you give up the right to use what Pop did against him ever again. You can decide to do that. I wrote a post about forgiveness a while back. Check it out.

    Obi Okere

  • Obi Okere

    I can only try to imagine what your going through right now. Your right….letting go of the past isn’t easy. It doesn’t happen over night. The decision to forgive does happen in an instant. The kind of forgiveness where you give up the right to use what Pop did against him ever again. You can decide to do that.

    Obi Okere

  • Jasmine

    That last paragraph, for me, is by far the realest thing I’ve read on this blog. Some posts I agree with, some I don’t, several make me laugh, but few are new to me. This, however, is a different perspective and eye-opener for me, as I do not have brothers and men rarely share these deep intimacies.
    I can say this about father-child relationships: I am a true Daddy’s Girl, but growing up I had a hard time understanding some of the things he did. Until I became an adult and realized adults don’t do everything right. I look at the mistakes I’ve made or the faults of men I’ve dated and understand that my Daddy is human just like the rest of us – no matter how much I think he’s a Superhero. And because of this I may not like everything about him, but I love him unconditionally.

  • Obi Okere

    I blogged about forgiveness a while back Check it out.

    It might give you some space in your heart to have a real conversation with Pop

  • miss young

    This is my first time reading one of your posts and I really enjoyed it. I can appreciate a man that has a story and shares it with written communication.
    Don’t feel bad if you never get the dial the number. Look out for you!

  • BoomShots

    My Pop was my own biological father, a man who I still believe was the best father anyone could have had and I considered mydself blessed. But I know for a fact he was not the best husband my mother could have had and in that aspect of hiss life he was found wanting. I am able to separate those two aspects of that man because all men are wanting in some area of their life. A very good friend of mine, father just passed away a few weeks ago and I know that he was also a man who lived for his kids but his widow was probably not as impressed.

    All of us as people are gonna come up short in some area of our life because that is what being human is all about. But even though I love my parents, I would never marry a woman like my mother because one thing is obvious is that she would test even the best of men. No one can tell you how to feel about “Pops” but what I can advise is to begin to understand. things are not always as we perceive them and taking a second look from a more experienced perspective can alter our conclusions.

  • 19E20

    Nice work man, you are definitely in my prayers yo. I am confident the conversation with you Pops will go well.

  • 1508

    great read.

  • afro

    Touching post…shed a new light on peoples situations…thanks for sharing.

  • Brittany

    Now THIS- this was excellent.

  • Trisha

    *Take a bow* Man! Your words resonates so deep within me. I applaud you for letting us into your world and allowing us to be with you at your most vulnerable moments. The mere fact that you are thinking about making the call and taking the first step says alot about you and your character. I will keep you in my prayers. Forgiving is the hardest part but it is a necessary step for emotional freedom. Remember in your words my dear: “Hate takes up room in our heart that love can have.”

  • Dililah

    Always greatful when you share your most personally stories. It really reaches to the masses. Thank you

  • jmatt

    Jozen, what a peek into your soul. The second lesson and goal expressed for your journey through bachelorhood happens too many times in the lives of our men. I appreciate you verbalizing these sentiments as they are perspectives I have never processed. I always enjoy your words. Please know that you are in my prayers for God to continue to enlarge your territory and keep his hand of protection upon you.

  • Jen

    By far, this is the best post that I have read of yours.

    While I was blessed with the best father in the world, I had a mother who walked out when I was very young.

    I’ll pray for you and your family.

    God bless.

  • Es

    I absolutely loved this post. I am new to your blog and have quickly become a fanatic. There are many aspects of our lives that can haunt us and lurk in the background. Some of them we will eventually tackle and some will remain as a stubborn wound that refuses to heal.

    I’ve been trying this new thing where I look at the positive side to a situation… The brighter side in this story is that you are fortunate enough to be able to deal with your dilemma. Sometimes life doesn’t afford us a chance to deal with our issues. I would never advocate “getting over it” but I’m happy that you two are alive and this conversation may begin to give you some closure.

  • KiaSpeaks

    I’ve never heard a man open up about having his heart broken by another man. I love it! More guys need to read this and deal with their heart break. I’m sharing this with some of the men in my life!

  • Maiysha

    Your honesty left me momentarily speechless, and subsequently, moved beyond words. Incredible post…I admire and applaud your willingness to explore this so openly.

  • Anonymous

    I wish I could hear how that conversation goes. I have no idea what your Pop did to your family but while reading that, I felt like we shared the same story. It hurt me to know that someone who wasn’t blood could do my family so much harm. I’ve only learned to hate that man as I’ve become an adult but if I ever HAD to talk to him (as in, was forced by circumstance) I’m not sure I could get anything out other than tears.

    Good luck.

  • Nicole

    Thank you for sharing Jozen. I appreciate your thoughtful words.

  • Sublime October

    This (for me) may be your most profound self testimony in this catolog. This has ignited such a revelation of understanding of emotional intelligence and love language of genders. You’ve given me more to think about professionally (in the work I do with children) and in my reflection of personal interactions. Thank you, Jozen.

  • Kris

    I understand you…I have issues with the men that raised me. I have forgiven them but somethings I can never forget. There are somethings that I have mentally blocked out and it has been times where I am dating a man and he does something and it comes up. So I just make sure I don’t make an innocent man pay for what someone else has done. Time heals all wounds

  • rhythm

    you didn’t have to share any of this. yet you did. thank you.

  • Pingback: The Call Was Made « Until I Get Married()

  • shellie


  • Mel

    I really loed this! So true and so very real. Ladies deal with this too. I always have to remember that our parents are people too. I think that when we are little we make them to be some ort of superhero and when they mess up – it messes us up. I’m so happy that you are dealing with this. God is gonna bless your future. Thanks for sharing.

  • Miss Jenkins

    This is a brilliantly written post. Thank you for sharing this.

  • asipproc

    I really really appreciated this post. I am going through something very similar…and though I am a woman it was powerful to read that your feelings resemble(d) my own.

  • Terron

    again, i’m someone who’s had the exact same experience, not with one, but two men who i’ve once called dad and neither of which are actively in my life now. i don’t know if i would have your courage in this situation at all. best of luck to you man.

  • Pingback: Until I Get Married » 15 Years Later, He’s Still ‘Pop’()