A father and his son in Chicago by photographer William Camargo.
Saturday, June 17, 2017 || By Darrick Campbell || OPINION || @maywoodnews
Yesterday was a very important day for me. When I woke up, I was overwhelmed with excitement and joy as my oldest child was preparing to graduate from high school. I hopped out of bed, made sure my black suit was pressed and ate some oatmeal for that much-needed energy to survive the long ceremony.
I kissed my wife goodbye and headed out for the hour’s drive to DeKalb, Illinois. My joy and excitement grew over the first few miles, but as I got closer and closer, I started to reminisce about the journey that fatherhood has taken me to get to this wonderful day.
I thought about where I was in life when I found out I was to become a dad. I was 18 years old and a few months from graduating from high school. I thought about how I felt when my daughter was born and I had no money to buy diapers. I drove on.
As I pulled up to the convention center, I was quickly spotted by my daughter’s mom. We exchanged smiles as I waited for her family and my son to exit the car. I gave my son dap and kissed him on his cheek as I always do when I see him.
But as we walked toward the convention center, I found myself a couple of yards behind everyone as my ex-wife held hands with her husband and my son. They laughed and smiled together as we entered the convention center.
My daughter walked in and the ceremony started. Oswego High School was putting on the biggest graduation in school history and I was sitting on a plastic stadium seat with my knees on the back of someone’s head. As my daughter’s name was called, we all went crazy, yelling her name and throwing out a Ric Flair whoooooo.
When the ceremony was over, we all gathered in the lobby waiting for my daughter to come out. As dinner plans were being hatched out, I tried blending in with the walls. I wanted to hurry and get out of there as I didn’t feel like I belonged. There was a new man taking charge of the plans.
When I met up with my daughter, I gave her a hug and told her how proud I was of her. She asked if I would join them for dinner but she already knew what my answer would be. I told her I would see her soon and I kissed her goodbye, smiled at my ex-wife and shook her husband’s hand.
When I got back to my car, I took a deep breath and sat there for a minute trying to understand why I felt emasculated, angry, forgotten, replaced. Why did he get to reap what I had sown? I’d given 18 years of sacrifice and broken dreams to provide my children with the very best opportunity I could and now I was reduced to assistant father. It’s not fair, it’s not right, but who will understand?
Later on that evening, I got a text message from my ex-wife’s husband. He stated how proud he was to share that moment with me and that he thought I did a good job raising my children.
As I read that text message, I quickly felt the feelings of inadequacy leaving my body. Along with my ex-wife, I had raised great children and no matter what had happened between us, I’d never left them. My influence over them had never wavered and my opinion still mattered.
In that text message, I was reminded of all this and from the unlikeliest person. Maybe he knew what I was feeling and possibly endured it himself. Instead of ignoring it, he decided to throw out a lifeline to another father, and for that I’m truly grateful. VFP
Darrick Campbell is a writer, father, husband, Proviso East graduate and Maywood native.