Community Spotlight with Darryl K. Johnson
Being A Parent
The courage and strength to do what’s right!
By Darryl K. Johnson
I have never been much of a writer but I do feel that somewhere, somehow and someway that someone may be able to appreciate my story. I have always been a stickler for details and I love for things to be decent and in order – as much as possible. I came from a very ordinary family – with roots deep in the South. Texas to be exact. I was a middle child and witnessed everything growing up from love everlasting, mental illness, poverty, child abuse and domestic violence. I was a child stricken with fear but I remember being very, very happy. My parents did the best they could with what they had – but it was a fact that my “being born” did not sit well with my father. He made that known on several occasions – even telling me that “If I could take back that seed – I would!” Words that I will never forget – I was around 19 years old then. I am now 45 and can hear those words clearly even now. I made a vow to myself that if I were ever blessed with children that I would love them unconditionally and I would try my best to not repeat patterns of abuse – verbal or physical.
I did not have a lot of support when it came time for me to apply for college. The support I got came from my loving grandparents that constantly told me that I was smart and had a lot to offer the world. My grandmother told me that before she died, more than anything she wanted to see me walk across that stage at the university where I self enrolled and get my degree. I wanted more than anything for her, my grandfather and MOSTLY my parents to be proud of me. I longed to hear, “I am proud of you!” Twelve years later – after an on and off enrollment in Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas I finally graduated with honors in the new Aviation program with a Bachelor of Science degree. When I looked up after receiving my diploma and exited the stage I spotted my grandmother in the stands of the arena standing and waving at me proudly. This was her day!!! The very next week I married my college sweetheart, moved to Miami and the next year my daughter was born. I was extremely happy and I was living the American dream.
I was now in my early 30s and I was working full time as a flight attendant. I didn’t know then that I chose this career because it allowed freedom and I could soar like an uncaged bird. I didn’t see that I was subconsciously starting a pattern that was not good. I loved my daughter an awful lot but I was gone due to my job for days at a time. This left my wife home seemingly as a single mother. I grew to be very unhappy and found myself searching for answers. My spirit was hurting. I then lost my grandmother to cancer. My hurt spirit was now dying. I felt like a huge part of me died with her and I couldn’t find my way – nor did I want to. I was determined to find love, acceptance and approval. I separated from my wife and we filed for divorce. I did not want to be away from my daughter or be a “disappearing acts” or deadbeat dad. But I had to find my way. I always provided for my child and her well being was of the utmost importance to me as a father. Especially a Black father from the hood – determined not to be another negative statistic! However, the world got the best of me for 5 years. I moved away – taking a leave from my flight attendant job. I mourned the loss of my dear, dear cherished grandmother and couldn’t shake it. I began using drugs in an attempt to medicate the pain. I even had to deal with my sexuality as a Black Man, a father, a son, a brother and a homeboy to my posse. I was simply a grown man – with an inner child that was hurting and still looking for love and approval. The physical body being that of a strong man but the mentality of a damaged little boy. I spiraled downward and ended up living from place to place on couches and roach infested apartments. I didn’t talk to my daughter for a few years. She was about 4 years old. I thought about her everyday – all day. I prayed for her more than I prayed for myself. I just couldn’t figure out what to tell my precious child. Why had daddy disappeared? But I knew every day when I talked to God that I would reunite with her when I was ready to love her the way she deserved to be loved. I got answers, I studied, I went to therapy, I got to know my dad and I nurtured that little boy inside me – that broken spirit. I knew one day soon I would “get it together again”. During these years I lost everything that was dear to me. I lost my dream job, a comfortable salary, a nice crib and friends and family that could not understand. But I NEVER lost my dignity, my relationship with God or my strong desire to be a EXCELLENT FATHER.
I made the call after these long painful years to my ex wife – who lived out of state. I told her that I was ready to see my beautiful daughter. It was a process of trust. I was drug free, I was employed again with an airline as a flight attendant once again, I was attending church, I made peace with my sexuality and I made peace with my family. My parents are very supportive and accept my decisions and have been present in my life. My ex wife is and was always my BIGGEST SUPPORTER during my life. She wants me to be happy and comfortable with myself so that I can be there for our daughter – unconditionally. With that love, I re-entered my daughter’s life again and it’s been the best 6 years of our lives! We are extremely close. We talk often and we have had heart to heart in depth conversations about my life and what transpired. I have picked up where we left off and I am her biggest fan! We shop together, read together, laugh together, cry together, eat together and pray together. She is now in high school and a straight A student with a winning personality to match. She is pretty cool and she thinks that I have “swag”. I love her just as much today as I did when she was born 15 years ago – sometimes I think we are even closer with all that we have been through. I share in her victories, her sorrows and just growing up in today’s society. I am not going anywhere and neither is she!
I am happy and I have learned to embrace life on life’s terms and know that you can’t run from your problems. But you can get answers, fix your life, right your wrongs and YES you can break cycles of family dysfunction and do things differently. We all are products of our environment but we can grow from that and take those valuable lessons of struggle from ‘da hood and that is what makes us STRONG…we are SURVIVORS and more than CONQUERORS! I came from the housing projects – and I was just that child with big ole dreams. I am now a successful aviator, living comfortably, travel the world from A – Z, have met celebs and rappers and YES I go back to the hood from time to time to see my peeps. But most importantly and above all – I AM A FULL TIME DADDY!!!! And that is the honor and title that I am most proud of! Our kids need us as much as we need them. Be about that life!