For four years, I held up the right side of the riser as a member of the Boston College choir, Voices of Imani. Yet, somehow, when I turned over my robe after all that time I still wasn’t a great singer; that didn’t stop me falling in love with the music. Over the years, certain songs became the soundtrack of my relationships, including the one with my father.
I’m not a daddy’s girl even though I am my father’s only daughter. I suspect that’s because I’m too much like him; intelligent but verbose, charming but aloof about personal matters, independent but unwilling to ask for help when needed, pleasant but with a red hot temper. We’re complicated people and that’s, at least partially, why I suppose my father and I have butted heads. The other reason is he didn’t want me to grow up.
But in 1986, I became a teenager; one with her first real crush on a boy. At that time, I was living in New Hampshire at boarding school, five hours from my father’s grasp. Lonely, I needed someone to help me navigate my transition to my new life away from home. I found myself asking the same question Bonnie Tyler did in her song released that same year: “Where have all good men gone?” I too was in need of a hero to save me and for the first time I couldn’t just wander into the kitchen to find my daddy. Luckily, though I found a one in a charismatic senior. He’d would walk with me, talk to me and was there every day.
Of course, my father didn’t like my relationship. So, when the boy asked me to the prom, my dad drove five hours just to meet the young man and tell him the parameters for dating his daughter. I learned then, no matter near or far, I was from my father he’d always protect me.
Like many starter relationships, my romance soon came to an end. My father immediately stepped up and gave me advice, “focus on school and not boys.” So, that’s what I did, at least at first. Then, I ran into the man with whom I’d spend my college years. In 1993, when I walked across the stage after shaking hands with Father Barth on graduation day, my father stood proudly and silently beside my boyfriend. Months later when Salt ‘N ‘Pepa released the song, “Whatta a Man,” I found myself singing along in my car thinking about my good fortune. The lyrics, except for the romantic part, applied to my boyfriend and my father:
“What a mighty good man
I wanna take a minute or two, and give much respect due
To the man that’s made a difference in my world”
I had two men that had my back, or so I thought. A few years later, my boyfriend decided I wasn’t the right woman for him after all. Devastated, I called my parents crying hysterically. I described how inadequate I felt and how lost I felt about my future. In the midst of my rambling, I revealed I had a miscarriage a couple of years earlier; a fact my parents didn’t know. For a few moments the line went silent, then my father spoke and told me simply, “I’m sorry. You could’ve told us. Just come home.” In that instant I had a new focus, wrapping up my life in Boston so I could move back to New York. I also learned that no secret would prevent my daddy from loving or supporting me.
Six months later in 1997, singer Paula Cole wondered, “where have all the cowboys gone?” I was asking the same question myself. The dating pool in the city was shallow. It would take nearly three years before ran into a man someone would ride into my life and show me he could care for me as well as my dad. By then, my autoimmune condition was raging. It was causing hemorrhaging which threatened my life without much warning; this fact didn’t scare off the man who’d become my boyfriend for the next decade.
Sure, during all those years there were songs that resonated with me, like Joyride by Mariah Carey; it’s the song my boyfriend at the time and I said we’d dance to if we got married. But, I spent most of my time reading about how to save my life.
One day, I found my father was once again the last man standing. My boyfriend was gone and I cried on my daddy’s shoulder. I realized then my father has never left me, betrayed me or stopped loving me. He cares for when I can’t take myself. He taught me to build and fix this, how to read, how to ride a bike, how to challenge myself, how to seek adventure, how to respect myself and demand it, how to give back to my community and how to never give up.
I dried my tears after the shock of losing someone else I loved wore off and I wished I had the talent to sing a portion of one song to my father, Patti Labelle’s 1987 song, “If Only You Knew:”
“If only you knew how much I do, do love you.
If only you knew, how much I do, I do need you.”
About the author:
Nika C. Beamon is a journalist working in New York. She is the author of Misdiagnosed: The Search for Dr. House, about her quest yogic the correct medical diagnosis. In 2009, Chicago Review Press published her non-fiction book, I Didn’t Work This Hard Just to Get Married. She is also the author of two mystery novels.