My father and I saw each other only three times before he died. The first was when I was about ten, the second was in my early twenties, and the last doesn’t matter right now. I want to tell you about the second time, when I went up to Syracuse to visit and he tried to make me join the GOP.
Let me back up a little and explain that my mother is a black woman from Uganda and my dad was a white man from Syracuse, New York. He and my mother met in New York City in the late sixties, got married, had me, and promptly divorced. My mother and I stayed in Queens while my dad returned to Syracuse. He remarried quickly and had another son with my stepmother. Paul.
When I finished college I enrolled in graduate school for writing. I’d paid for undergrad with loans and grants, and debt already loomed over me. I showed up at my dad’s place hoping he’d cosign for my grad-school loans. I felt he owed me since he hadn’t been in my life at all. Also, I felt like I’d been on an epic quest just to reach this point. I got into Cornell University, but boy did I hate being there. Long winters, far from New York City, and the kind of dog-eat-dog atmosphere that would make a Wall Street trader sweat. But I’d graduated. And now I wanted to go back to school. More than that, I wanted to become a writer. Couldn’t my dad see me as a marvel? Couldn’t he support me just this once?
At the time I felt incensed. In hindsight, I see he was a married man with a wife and a teenager to support; he worked as a parole officer, made a decent salary, but the man had never been well-off even once in his life. He wasn’t cruel about it, but he would not help. Read More