A reflection on fatherhood

In honor of Father’s Day, we are thrilled to share a piece recently written by Ready, Willing & Able Graduate Terrance Coffie.  Now a Doe Fund staff member, Terrance penned the following as a submission for IGNITE, a new ‘zine published by the Harlem Center for Opportunity.

Crying for Daddy 

by Terrance Coffie

“I want daddy, I want daddy!”

Were the words that struck a chord in my heart as I heard this little girl of about three years old crying out for her father. While on my way home from a long days work, all I really wanted to do was get home, sit back and relax. As the bus continued to the next stop, I happened to look out the window to see this little girl crying, now don’t get me wrong I know kids will be kids, but have you ever had one of those days when the last thing you want to hear is loud talking, the frustration of a disgruntled passenger, or the crying voice of a child (just one of those days)?

As the young mother and her daughter boarded the bus the child seemed to have heard my prayers, because by the time she got on the bus her crying had stopped. Her mother was speaking to her in a loving manner and as this little angel cute as a button passed me, I glanced over to see residual of tear left on her face. As they went to the back, I began to settle in for what I thought would be a nice quiet trip home. But as the bus began to pull off from the stop, the little girl began her crying again.

“I- want-daddy, I- want-daddy.”

My peaceful trip home was out the window. But something in her voice, whether it was her words, or her cry, took me to a place within myself that over the years I had forgotten or shut out. Her cries for her father also spoke of the broken families, where the absence of the father seems the norm, and the cries for momma (which is an important and needful component) but the family structure is made up of numerous members, that includes the father. As this little girl continued to cry for her father, the mother began to attempt to console her in that motherly way; the promises of a special treat, the toys she would play with, and like all mothers the threat of no treats or toys, and the one threat that made me smile.

 “I’m going to tell your daddy.”

That threat quieted her for a while, but didn’t last long, and again, I smiled. I wasn’t smiling because of the little girls’ distress; I was smiling because her cries were a reminder of the goodness of life, that some of us missed in life, a dad. Her cries were foreign, yet familiar, it seems we hear I want mommy so much, that when we hear the word daddy, we are caught off guard, as I was, and although all I wanted at the time was some rest and relaxation, her cries for her dad were not only soothing to my ears, but also my heart.

There was this song written by Luther Vandross, “Dance With my Father Again,” and in that moment I thought of that song and could do nothing but think of the emptiness that I felt inside, but also the longing for that relationship, the wishful thoughts of shared moments of standing on his shoes dancing around, or having a fishing pole with my ball cap to the side looking up at him or sitting on a porch with him, as he teaches me the lessons of life. I wish I could say these are fond memories that I carry with me, and that I have passed on to my kids. But I, like many others never had those special moments with our fathers, and outwardly we beat our chest as the Kings of Kings, but it’s always that one commercial, or T.V. Show, or even that one moment that you see a father holding his child’s hand that you are reminded of that missing love, and for that brief moment in time you reflect and in that moment you become that child, looking up your dad, smiling. Then it’s gone, and you keep on walking, and we start back talking that talk, and beating our chest.

“Next stop, 128th Street,” the driver said.

The little girl was still crying, the mother was still trying to quiet her, and me I was smiling. As I started getting off the bus I wanted to ask the mother to let the little girl cry; let her cry for the brokenness that her tears were healing, let her cry for those who had no daddy to cry for, but inwardly, I guess I wanted to ask her, to let her cry for me.

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About Author: The Doe Fund

Founded in 1985, The Doe Fund provides life-transforming services for the homeless, the formerly incarcerated, disenfranchised youth, and people living with AIDS. The organization's flagship Ready, Willing & Able program has helped tens of thousands of individuals achieve permanent self sufficiency through paid work, transitional housing, and employment training.