The Day I Saw My Daddy’s Arms

Audio version

In my mind I was a daddy's girl
I was special and he loved me

He was tall
about 6’2
Brown skin
and they called him Moose

On the streets where he was from

They also called him Red because that’s what black folk call light skin black folk

When my friends started to call me Red
I felt like I was a little piece of him

A piece I knew but didn’t

Because you see, my daddy mostly grew up in prison.

For most of my life I spoke to my dad through letters.
I’d tell him my dreams and my troubles

He understood me

Or so I thought

When a young girl desperately craves the love and acceptance of her daddy
she creates stories and images

Stories and images that become her salvation from what’s true

And in the effort to preserve that truth,
sometimes you treat your mother as if she were the betrayer

Tiff, your daddy is not who you think he is

You’re just saying that because you aren’t with him.
But I know my daddy and he’s a good man

Get in the car, she said. I’m gonna take you to where your daddy is.
And when we get there, I want you to look at his arms

We got in a rundown rusty van
The one my mamma drove from California to Illinois
just for us to be closer to our dads

It was daytime and we drive from Crestwood to Robbins
and pull up near an abandoned lot

Men and women
sitting on crates
drinking
smoking

Then walks up my dad and says hey... baby

I remember what my mom said and I looked at his arms

They looked as if someone poked holes and then tried to sew them back up
but did a terrible job

I sat quietly in the back as we drove home

My moms message got through

That the daddy I thought I knew was not true

But if he’s not

why would she move us all this way to be around him?
Four days across the country only to find out my daddy was a heroine addict

About two months after seeing my dad he decided to move
He decided to go back to Cali

A few weeks after that, my momma said we need to go for a ride

I knew why

Anytime she’d take me for a ride it was to tell me that my dad went to prison

Again.

But this time was different

For me at least

Because it’s the first time I didn’t cry

Tiffany HintonComment