My Father and I (So I Run)

We were more like motherless children, my father and I. At least, you wouldn’t know that he was my father by the way we spoke. Of course, he had all of the makings of a good black father: the stink eye and the fish fry, the black leather belt and the late night trips for ice cream and fresh donuts. But the growing struggle for power between my father and I would have had someone look twice at our lives. Indeed, I would often times feel and freely express to my pops that I had no father (a response influenced by all of the angsty white boys I hung out with). We would fight about that a lot.

I once evaded a whooping that I most rightly deserved; I was lucky to have done it right before Sunday nap time, a strategy that was irreplicable. I took off on down the dirt roads of Phelan on my electric Schwinn, dodging the hot air from my barking father and the dips in the desert sand, all of it fading into the background of my pastoral neighborhood at about 10 mph. When I returned, the doors were locked. I found an open window to sneak back into, but I never found a way back into the relationship we once had. I still romanticize the days before the incident in my head.

The song “So I Run” came from remembering this story and also finding myself in similar graces with the Christian G-d. I don’t know if I’d made him angry, but found myself quickly disengaging with him; I had tried with all my might to “earn my crown” with my actions and thoughts and found uncertainty that left me frozen in place until I began to run.

One lesson that I learned and accepted from both relationships is that I will never be able to return to “what it was”. My relationship with my father has not been the same since I’ve moved from adolescence to adulthood. This is for the better, I think. I began to abandon my old self, and my understanding of the only world I had seen until then. Now that I have challenged my understanding of this G-d and this father, I can’t go back. And so, the struggle of power transformed into the struggle of place. I still long to have a relationship with my father(s), but now deeply yearn to understand what it means to foster those relationships. And so I cling to my fathers’ families. I’m not so good at practicing the sacraments but feel finally at peace when I do.

So if you’ve ever taken a leap of faith, and challenged all that you know to be true; if you’ve ever tickled the sides of G-d or man until they or it crumbles at your fingertips, leaving you with more questions than answers, know that you’re not alone. The pain that you feel in choosing to find the truth will only debilitate you if you look back, like Rachel in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. May you be blessed in your rejection of the “truth” in status quo, the “truth” found only in conformity. May it lead you to an open window.

Below are the lyrics to my song. My hope is that these words will serve you like my father served me fish fry and that you will be filled.

So I Run

Unabashedly, this bastard backs away
And bends beneath the backs
Of hands his father swings at him
For the millionth time,
he signs those papers of divorce
Inside his head
There’s no remorse for what he’s done.

There’s no denying all the demons
That lay beside him with the children
He’s never wanted to respect

And yet their tongues of fire,
They keep brushing up against his sides
And they keep tickling til he’s blistering red
“Is it heavy?”, someone asked.

“Well, only if I look back
And if I scratch at, will there be blood
And only if I turn round,
Will I be found out by the flood
And so, I run.”

Consequentially, and much to his dismay,
He finds his father’s footsteps
Fettered to the outside door
With a silent cry,
he walks around the desert sand
To find an entrance
He is desperate to get in

He’s well endowed with all the facts
It’s made him proud, but now he’s stuck
With an ambivalence inside

Cause who knew all the crowns in this world
Were bejeweled with doubt,
And all the robes were red with foolish pride?
“We’re all dying, and so am I”

And So I Run
Into the arms of family
Like a sacrament, I’m reverent to their open hands
I’ve let their arms become my hiding place
And father is an ugly word I’ve used in exclusivity
I seek to find escape from it
And solace in his wife and children

Well, only if I look back
And if I scratch at, will there be blood
And only if I turn round,
Will I be found out by the flood
And so, I run