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Is that my dad?

"Is that my dad?" My daughter, Amelia, asked. This was my first time speaking to her since January and haven't seen her in over a year.

If it were up to me, I would have Amelia for haf the month. With her living in Charleston, SC, I would meet her mother halfway and be an influence in my daughter's life. Unfortunately, being blocked has made conversation seemingly impossible along with the negative tension between our families. Amelia was born October 3, 2016, and these past four years have been testing my character forcing me to become a better man.

After graduating from The Citadel Military College of South Carolina, I thought I had conquered mental toughness. Withstanding strenuous torment as a knob, acting in accordance with the honor code, curfews, balancing basketball academics and the military aspect of the school, I learned a lot. I believe the knowledge will take me further than I can imagine.

What I couldn't fathom, was not being allowed to be an adequate father. Even before her birth I was denied the ability to attend the baby shower, but not even Hell Week at The Citadel can compare to what I endured next.

Consistently lying about where Amelia was, not picking up my calls, not allowing me to see her, I honestly could write an essay with cited sources of text messages and missed calls. Two years of me mishandling my stress lead to Alopecia Areata, smooth circular patches riddled my hair.

The physical signs of stress changed the way I thought about the situation, it took time. In this year that I couldn't see Amelia, I truly grew as a person and that's why I believe I was able to handle our conversations better than I have before. The pain of not seeing my daughter caused me to lash out, say a lot of things that I regret, act out in spite and hate chewing on my problems like gum that didn't lose flavor.

While turning in circles I spun out losing passion for basketball and life itself, wondering why I'm here if I can't be a father to my child. It's my duty, my job, a position I pride myself in and take accountability for Amelia's upbringing. Raised in a two parent home I'm faced with my faults in creating a broken household, an experience no child should have to undergo. I can't blame anybody but myself for that, and I did it twice.

At my lowest point, I seeked God and started to form a relationship which started to change my outlook on my situation. When you focused on God, everything else seems minimal and it's easy to believe he will forgive my past and ensure my happiness in the future.

Even though I could do better in my walk, my faith rendered a response from Amelia's mom finally letting me speak to her my daughter. I couldn't believe how well she spoke, she can say her whole name! It was awesome to hear her pretty little voice vibrantly saying "Dad," it's funny, I thought she would be calling me daddy.

She says things like, "Yes, dad," "That's my dad," "Hey dad." I tear up every time, I was ecstatic to know she recognized my voice and reciprocated the energy. There was a time when I was talking to her mother and she was saying that I was her dad implying that she should be talking to me. One of my biggest fears is that she will forget or hate me because of my involuntary absence.

On the authority of her mother, it's all my fault on why I haven't been in Amelia's life, convinced that me and her relationship coincides with me being a parent. There has been times where we have been together and things were smoother, but she still held an air of dominance over Amelia threatening to take her from under me. She is a master manipulator, and starting to realize how I found myself four years deep into a relationship with someone who results to these behaviors.

I think part of the reason I hit ground was because I truly loved her, and to grasp her true intentions of turning me into a human ATM broke me. As a reverberation, halted basketball dreams, fizzled friendships, disappointed parents, and a loss of hope. Diving into the world and it's perverted treasures trying to escape a pain known by far too many good men.

One time stooping to a level paying to continue to spend time with Amelia, which they made very uncomfortable. I was in a state of desperation, and was almost willing to marry her just to be in my daughter's life. No man should ever have to feel like he is in a chess match with the mother of his child.

On the phone the last two days, just like before, she would try to poke at me and make me upset to try and prevent me from seeing Amelia. Without fail, when I would drive to Charleston from Raleigh, she would try her best the entire 30-45 minute transaction to get a retort out of me so she could feel justified in sending me home alone. She would often say something to the effect of "Say something, you know I will take her inside and you can go home."

The look in her eyes tells me she is power hungry and another indication that this was the plan from the beginning. With Amelia's grandma in on the plot, one time telling me to drive four hours to Charleston spend two hours then go home because other people wanted to see her. It's true, the lack of respect didn't start with the baby, but in the relationship where it was begged but never given. Seemingly, upon advice from the aforementioned.

This time we were talking about me getting Amelia for the weekend, right now her mother's stipulations is that I can't take her back to Raleigh with me and insisted on taking baby steps. First she was trying to only give me Saturday morning before she went out of town but I voiced my need to spend time with her offering the next weekend keeping her overnight.

Since I'm keeping calm at her smart remarks she feels the need to try and throw a wrench and claim I'm trying to demand things when I haven't done anything for my daughter. Instead of following her play I kept cool forcing her to make a decision on whether she wanted to continue to be angry or calm down and talk. Choosing the latter we came to a tentative agreement that I will come get her for Saturday and Sunday next weekend.

I strictly use the word "tentative" because there has been countless times where we have agreed on a time and a place and something always comes up where she cancels or creates a scenario to make herself angry. Sometimes if I didn't entertain her, she made sure that I wouldn't get the chance to see her.

I remember, when Amelia turned three, her exact words were, "I bet you thought you were going to see Amelia." Sitting back, it's hard to imagine that we used to find comfort in each others arms.

At the end of our conversation, Amelia started saying "Leave me alone daddy," which was odd because she hadn't called me daddy all day. Also, she has only shown excitement and love when talking to me and to hear her say that ending in daddy and not dad. It hurt to hear after months of silence but I truly believe someone told her to say that influencing her thinking at a young age. I asked her mom if she told her to say that and her response was that she is a smart little girl.

I have proof that my daughter loves me by the way she answered the phone when hearing my voice. It's disheartening as a father to know that I put my daughter in an emotionally harmful situation with the potential to damage her future, mindset, and how she views the world. Unable to rectify the past, I turned to my creativity to curb depressing feelings and manifest the pain into art.

That's why I created, For Fathers Podcast, to give men a voice to exert their emotions positively by conversing and uplifting one another. I've had so many fathers thank me for presenting the platform because a lot of men want to share their story. It's also very therapeutic for me to connect with other fathers and talk about our kids, how they act when they see us and the genuine love they share. It's a beautiful thing.

This blog, poetry, short stories, and books are all tailored to my life experiences in some capacity. Attaching my problems to a character telling my story vicariously through a fictional atmosphere. At least, there can always be a happy ending.

Amelia and Amara, daddy loves you.

-eloQuint

Amelia and I last memory together

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