I just wanted to take a few moments to pay tribute to my father Ivan Nathaniel Glenn III, born November 12, 1956. You might be expecting me to go into some long, warm accolades about my fond memories of times my father and I shared together. That will not happen, as we did not spend much time with one another. I cannot tell you about that special holiday or birthday gift my dad got me because that never happened either. What I can tell you is that no matter what issues my father had, I still loved him unconditionally.
You see, my father served in the United States Marine Corp and fought in the Vietnam War so that each and every one of you can spend this day with your fathers. The helicopter my dad rode in was gunned down and exploded during his tour in Vietnam. Out of all his fellow comrades, he was the only survivor. What became a tragedy of M.I.A’s to other families became a tale of conquest as my dad survived the “Bush” for two weeks. My father eventually came back to the U.S with a leg full of shrapnel, a Purple Heart medal of honor, and a drug addiction that he picked up while in Vietnam. This very addiction would take my dad from me 19 years later after being declared a war hero.
I did not really understand his addiction too much except that it involved using needles and he tried many times to kick the habit but it ended up consuming him. Not having my mother consistently in my life nor my father at all was the norm for me. My grandmother and step grandfather were my parents for many years. I remember running into my father over the years and sharing only a short amount of time together. Long enough for him to ask how I was doing, tell me he loved me, give me a hug, and run off to go get high. So much disappointment filled my emotions as we parted each time. No matter what, I still loved him.
Throughout the years, I spoke with him on the phone and asked if he was off drugs. Of course, his answer was always “yes” and not to worry about him because he was going to be just fine. I laughed when he reminded me that he never forgot that my birthday was July 17th and my real name should have been Jashalyn Glenn instead of Jocelyn L. The hospital gave me my mother’s last name back in 1971 because she was not married to my dad. They also misspelled my first name on my birth certificate, which is why it reads “Jocelyn” and not “Jashalyn.” Ivan would boast, “I even remember that you were born at 10:33am on a Saturday morning Jashalyn.” Wow, he remembered and this is why I still loved him.
One time my father reached out to my mother so he could spend time with me. It just so happen that I was not living with my grandmother during this time. I was ecstatic that my daddy wanted to actually pick me up and take me somewhere! He picked me up but by foot and we ended up walking for what seems like hours in the dry Las Vegas heat. I was tired, thirsty, but happy as ever that I was with my dad. Well, my dad ran into some of his jick-head junky friends and next thing you know we were on our way back to my mother. He dropped me off, apologized, and said he had to go. He promised, of course, that he would make it up to me. I cried because I knew he was going to do drugs, but no matter what I still loved him.
The only thing my dad gave me what $10 when I was 16 years-old when my aunt took my cousins and I to Disneyland. Hmmph! I took it, said thank you and gave him a hug goodbye. I laughed at the $10 when I got in the car with my aunt but in the back of my mind, I appreciated the simplicity of it. Fast forward to my 18th birthday and the phone call that every child gives his/her absent parent eventually. I reamed my dad for not being in my life. For not nursing me well when I got sick, not buying a pair of shoes for my feet, no kisses on the forehead at night before bed, unattended birthday parties, no threatening last words to my dates before the proms, missing my graduation, and above all, the empty, unfulfilled, broken promises for the last 18 years. I hung up on him and vowed that I never wanted to hear from him again.
I eventually spoke with my father a couple of years later and confessed to me something I’d longed to hear. My father apologized for missing every major and minor event in my life. He apologized for many years of constant let downs, heartaches and above all, not being a good father and role model to his beloved daughter. He said something to me that I will never forget. Ivan asked me what kind of man he would be if he went around his daughter incessantly high on heroin. What kind of man would go around his beautiful daughter with the biggest brown eyes he had ever witnessed and allow her to see him with needle tracks and scars up and down his arms? Scars of a war that he had no business fighting along with scars of his life and what it had become. What kind of man would he be if he allowed his daughter to see the type of man, he turned out to be? He made me promise that I would never allow a man to break his promise to me like he did so many years without consequences. He told me to never let another man lie to me repeatedly and intentionally while offering my trust since that was far too precious of a reward for dishonesty. I cried, forgave him and of course told my dad that I loved him no matter what.
My father’s luck ran out as he contracted the HIV virus from my second cousin’s husband by sharing intravenous needles. My dad often reported his T-Cell count to me and was so proud of himself for turning his life around. He was going to church and “taking things one day at a time.” AIDS finally took my father from me, not even two years after learning he had contracted the HIV virus. I was never able to say goodbye or prepare for his death since it was all too sudden. Yeah, my dad and I had not shared very much time together in my 23 years and that is fine with me. The last time we shared a few precious moments together was when I bent over his casket, kissed him on the forehead, and told him “I love you, no matter what daddy.” I was handed his flag from fellow Marines and I whispered “Semper Fi” as they closed my dad’s casket for good.
I cried and looked down at my 3-year-old son whose birthday was November 12, 1991. I realized my dad may have passed away but his spirit was alive in my son. I smiled.
There are tons of jokes on twitter about the unfortunate “fatherless” that run amuck in our society whose life should be reported as spam because of their existence. I am one of the many that grew up without my father but my dad paid the ultimate price so that you all are able to celebrate with your dads year after year. I am not angry or bitter that my father is no longer here and we did not take one picture together during his time here on this Earth. That is not what my story is about. It is about the fact that I do not share traditional Father’s Day memories when thinking of my dad but they are special to me nonetheless. I am very proud of my dad who gave me his last $10 to go to Disneyland, instead of using it for drugs. I am proud of my dad for his bravery as he served in the United States Marine Corp and came back from the Vietnam War a hero with a Purple Heart. Not every girl can say that she shared her father with the world. I shared a father who defended an entire country to protect many of your fathers, so that you could be with your dads today. I would like to invite you to share my dad with me one more time by reblogging my tribute to Private First Class Ivan Nathaniel Glenn III on Father’s Day. I will always love you dad.