Daddy, Don't You Walk So Fast

I am one of those people who does not know their father.

My mother and father were married. When Dot found out she was pregnant, she decided to leave Kenny. Her side of the story was, “he wouldn’t hold a job, I was always supporting him. I’d rather support two people than three.” So, as I’ve always been told, she left him at 2 months pregnant, the divorce was final when I was 18 months old.

I am my mother’s only child. I am my father’s second of six. It’s so weird to know that you have brothers and sisters, probably all living right there in Memphis, and I have never met them. Two boys and two girls, with wife 3. Another brother, son of wife 1, is Hispanic. I have never been bothered by White/Hispanic relationships because I knew my older brother was the product of one and though I’ve never met him, I feel a loyalty to him. It’s subliminal. He grew up not knowing his father, too. Back in the late 50’s/early 60s, there was generally no joint custody or visitation or anything like that. I can’t speak for Larry (that’s his name) but my mother chose to remove herself from Kenny’s life and she was very successful in that. Dot tells me Kenny was abusive to Larry’s mother. Kenny was not abusive to Dot, but that’s another story for another time.

I did connect with my father eventually, sort of. I met him formally when I was 9. I was visiting Mama Lou ( Dot’s Ma) in Memphis, summer 1970. I convinced her Dot said I could meet my dad if I wanted to. Dot says she never said this, but somehow I got that idea and I went with it. Kenny came over to my grandmother’s house and I got the shyness and Mama Lou was stuck talking to him for two hours while I cracked pecans at the table and cut up with a neighbor girl. I never heard the end of that one, lemme tell ya.

When I was 19 or 20, I was working at Answering Service of Lafayette, and during an idle time at the old western electric switchboard, I got Kenny’s number from directory assistance and rung him up. His mother-in-law answered the phone and he was not there, so I said “Tell him his daughter from Louisiana called” and hung up. Now I try to imagine the shock I gave that old lady and it must have caused quite a fracas in the Kenny household.

The next attempt occurred when I was 22. X1 and I came through the Midsouth on our way out west so he could meet my aunt and her family. I tried calling him then, on a payphone in Southaven, but I didn’t get an answer.

It was when I was 30 that we finally met and I heard his side of the story. All those years Dot was insistent that I have nothing to do with him. Auntie Virg convinced her that it was only right that he should know he had a grandchild. So I finally had the official okey dokey to proceed.

Kenny was thrilled to hear from me. He came down to the motel in Hernando, where I was a desk clerk and we visited, then after I got off, we went for cokes to talk. He still had feelings for Dot, she had broken his heart. He didn’t know where I was. In this internet age, it’s easy to find someone, back then it wasn’t easy. His wife had been jealous of my mother and she kept him from searching too seriously, so that’s how it goes.

The story does not have a Waltonesque ending, sadly. He was willing to start some sort of relationship, but I believe his wife discouraged it. If I could tell he still cared for Dot, certainly his wife had been harboring ill feelings their entire marriage. He came out to the house, (he and Dot got along fabulously, Dot was flattered that he still cared, it was quite a boost to her ego.) took me and Chris to movies, invited me to a family reunion which I slunk out of, and Chris and I went to dinner at his house one night and his wife was less than charmed. She was rather cold to me and I can understand why. I had given Kenny photos of me and Chris, which he had proudly displayed on his home mantle. His wife and Daughters were outraged and demanded we be taken down. It was a nice try, but it didn’t work out.

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