Never Knew A Father's Love
Introducing the Austin Girls
“Aunt Keisha, what does it feel like to be loved by your father?” I remember one day innocently asking.
“Kobe, I wish I could tell you, but I don’t know because I’ve never experienced it myself. You’re six, I’m a little short of thirty and though you’ve never met your father either, you know more about your daddy than I could ever tell you about mine.”
“Why do you say that?”
“You know your father’s name. You know what he looks like from the pictures in your baby book, and he spent a little time with you before going away. I’m not aware of any of that. Hell, I could walk past my daddy a million times and wouldn’t know him.”
“Why didn’t you ever get to know him?”
“For the same reason you don’t know yours.”
“Did he walk out on you?”
“Kind of and so did my mother. So I really didn’t have a mother either.”
“What do you mean you didn’t have a mother? How were you born then? Don’t you and Mom have the same mother?”
“Yeah we do, but Rob only gave birth to us, she was never a mother to me, Deborah or Shelly.”
“Why don’t I know my daddy?”
“You said you don’t know your daddy for the same reason I don’t know mine. So why don’t I know him?”
“Well, we probably shouldn’t be having this conversation nor do I have time to explain it. Since you and your mother obviously haven’t talked about this subject, I’m not about to either. Shelly generally tellsApril 9, 2007’m kind of surprised y’all haven’t discussed the secrets behind her and your father’s relationship.”
“Awe, come on Aunt Danielle, Mom said you think you’re my mama anyway. You can tell me. Besides you always do what you want to do when it comes to me, so why not now?”
“Oh she did?”
“Well not this time. Boy, you sure think you’re smart. You can’t trick me into talking too much today. Besides, I got a hair appointment and a date, telling you that story would take all year, and I ain’t got that kind of time”
As intrusive as Aunt Danielle generally was, she didn’t tell me anything that day. It wasn’t until I turned seven-years-old that my mother even started to share the heart wrenching tales of her past. Her stories usually surfaced when I complained about not having certain things my friends had. Mom would start in with one of her gut wrenching tales about the neglect she endured that could easily break the most non-compassionate person’s heart. Her stories were supposed to make me aware of how good I really had it because us having heat, lights, and food was never an issue. Though I’ve heard those same stories a zillion times, I’ll never forget any of them. In many ways I believe I was fortunate enough to learn some valuable lessons about life from her pain.
Hey, leave your critical thoughts where they are, open your mind, and allow yourself to be mentally fed. What’s up? My name is Kobe Carl Webber II. My family’s story is probably like your situation in some ways. If it’s not your story, then maybe it’s someone you know. There are a few of us that just so happen to come from a perfect world. If that’s you and you don’t know anyone that fits this mold, try to relate, and learn something along the way. Now that we’ve gotten past the intro, let me try that again. What’s up? My name is Kobe Carl Webber II, and this is my family’s story, Never Knew a Father’s Love.
From conception to adulthood, most of the women in my family, from one generation to the next, never knew a thing about a father’s love. My mother, Michelle Austin, was the youngest of four girls. Their mother, Roberta, Rob, for short, grew up in the one of the most impoverished areas in Houston, Texas. By the time Rob turned thirteen, she had given birth to my Aunt Keisha by a man who was five years older than her. Two and a half years later, she had Aunt Danielle by someone else. Aunt Deborah came along a year and a half after that, and Mom was born four years later, in 1966.
By the time Rob brought Mom home, she was already burned out on motherhood. Rob was twenty-one, had four babies, four different fathers, and an income from the government ,which barely kept her afloat. With limited parental guidance, Rob struggled emotionally. After attempting to raise four girls on her own, she eventually started chasing all the wrong dreams, which resulted in her living a lifestyle that cost her everything she’d given life in the end.
Rob never bonded with anyone on the maternal side of her family. Although she had a Granduncle who expressed an interest in helping her out, she still lacked that sense of a family connection. From time to time, he would baby-sit for her, but let the story be told by Aunt Danielle, he was a perverted child molester. She said he took advantage of Rob at a very young age, which is why they believe she started having children so early. Maybe Rob’s failure to experience the precious love a father provides for his daughter caused her to repeat the cycle of rearing fatherless children. No one really knows. Nonetheless, with time, my mother and aunts would end up falling into the exact same cycle themselves.
Somewhere between the ages of nineteen and twenty-five, Rob became a chronic alcoholic and a major weed head. Most often she left Aunt Keisha, who at the time was only twelve, alone to handle things. It’s hard to believe with everything else Keisha had going on around the house, her responsibilities also included a newborn baby sister. After a while, Rob’s addiction became so intense that she found herself abusing any drug she could get her hands on, ultimately, transforming into one of Houston’s biggest heroin addicts.
As Rob’s habit intensified, she went days without coming home, ignored paying bills, and severely neglected her daughters. Mom often told me stories about them not having heat, lights or even food to eat on a regular basis. At times she cried when telling stories of them being so hungry as kids that they sometimes ate hard, molded bread and drank sugar water to feel satisfied. Her in-depth details always allowed me to gather a vivid picture of how they suffered. Especially tales of how they sat around the house during the day draped in layers of blankets trying to keep warm during the winter. Mom’s examples of how they all slept huddled together, to survive the cold of night, brought the degree of neglect they truly endured home for me.
Based on the family history, one thing that was certain for the Austin girls is the fact that in time each of them would continue Rob’s legacy. Every last one of her daughters repeated portions of the dysfunctional cycle forced upon them as children. Like Rob, they all became single parents, then started the next generational cycle of fatherless children.
Aunt Keisha had her children back to back. She had her first when she was sixteen and her second at seventeen. Sometimes she would jokingly say that she became a teenage mother as a result of taking on Rob’s role at such a young age. “Hell, I had to act like a mother, so I thought I might as well become a real one,” she frequently verbalized when Mom and my aunts teased her about them all becoming teenage mothers as a result of trying to be like her.
Aunt Danielle was most like Rob. She had her first baby at thirteen, her second at fourteen and her last at sixteen. She dropped out of school and developed a drug addiction for marijuana in her early twenties. She dated drug dealers, thugs, and brothers who were prison bound. Danielle received state assistance for years, but when President Regan took office, her gravy train came to a screeching halt. To better herself, she enrolled in an adult education program, got her GED, and found a job with a credit reference call center in South Houston. That was the first time in her life that she made decent money, but because she couldn’t shake her marijuana habit, after taking a mandatory drug test, she lost her job.
Aunt Deborah had her only child at the age of seventeen. Somehow she turned out to be the only one who understood after having repeated problems with her daughter’s father that a bunch of baby daddy drama wasn’t for her. She filed child support on Treasure’s dad and moved into a Section 8 home. Once she was settled in, she secured employment as a Medical Assistant to ensure they didn’t have to go without.
As for Mom, well she had it the hardest. Mom didn’t really get to grow up with my aunts because she was placed in foster care at the age of six. Rob, was a full fledge addict on a serious drug binge by the time Mom turned five. Finally, at the age of six, the state got involved. They remove my mom from Rob’s house and placed her in foster care. Rob was so far gone by the time the Department of Human Services intervened, she didn’t even bother to show up for the first few court hearings to fight for custody of the girls.
Aunt Keisha was eighteen when everything transpired. She was never processed into the system and lived with one of her friends for a year. Danielle went to a placement for nine months, but things didn’t work out. After raising much hell, the state finally agreed to allow her to live with Keisha. Deborah got to live with her father’s mother, but that was going to happen anyway. The same year the courts got involved, Deborah’s grandmother was already in the process of trying to get custody of her. Mom said her main motivation behind getting Deborah was only because her father had been murdered and Deborah gave their family a sense of connection to him. Let Deborah tell the story, she was nothing more than a way for her grandmother to get her father’s social security check every month.
Mom was fortunate enough to live with Rob’s neighbor, Ms. Johnson’s for four years. However, for some reason, by the time my mom turned ten, she was still having issues with the transition. Mom experienced continuous behavioral problems, and was eventually moved to a different foster home. Between the ages of ten and sixteen, she’d been moved five times. A few months after her sixteenth birthday, Mom had all she could take of the state and their so called safe homes, so she packed up and ran away from her last placement.
She moved in with Danielle, got her life somewhat on track, and finished school. The bond the two of them established over that period of time is what aided in them becoming the closest out of the four of them. Shortly after Mom’s eighteenth birthday, she, too, finally fell victim of the family legacy. That’s right. I was born right after her nineteenth birthday.
The story between my mother and father is common. Like most females, Mom felt like she’d been done wrong. She cut off all lines of communication between her, my father, and his parents. She completely ignored the fact that her poor decisions, which were based strictly out of anger, could one day cause me countless encounters with pain, and endless disappointments, disappointments, which in time, would emotionally affect my life
From the age of four through my high school graduation, Mom always told me that she had high hopes and endless dreams for me life. Yet, she attempted to prevent me from bonding with the one person I spent half a lifetime yearning to know, “My father.” I could never prove this to be factual, but I believe most of her actions regarding my dad stemmed from her personal issues. It was evident from some of Mom’s behavior that not knowing her father had already taken a toll on her. Due to living such a painful childhood, the majority of Mom’s anger simply came from the pain she harbored from being abandoned by both of her parents. What she lacked from not being able to develop that father daughter relationship prevented her from accurately understanding the true value a good man brings to his child’s existence. When I consider that she was forced to primarily know the gloomy side of growing up in states custody, I realize that her experiences during that time didn’t aid in building her self-esteem or shaping her moral foundation. I say that because had she been able to experience an unreserved love as a child, she might’ve exhibited more patience when it seemed as though she was about to lose my dad. Since all she identified with was hardship, Mom used my father’s desire to better himself as her way out.
Though I felt sorrow for her suffering, it never changed the fact that I always secretly believed that she, too, inflicted a different kind of pain and mental anguish on me. I felt like as her offspring, she should have wanted something far better for me than she experienced regarding a father’s love. Nonetheless, she allowed her hang-ups to get in the way of what was best for my life. As a result of her past, I had to suffer in the end. To justify her actions, Mom made it quite clear that though her behavior was sometimes selfish, she was protecting me, and one day I’d appreciate her efforts.
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Sirens from the ambulance rang out across the city of Norman, Oklahoma, as paramedics transported Kyra Murrell’s pale body to Norman Regional Hospital. As she lay on the emergency room table, rays from a bright light beaming down from the heavens, blinded her. “Lord, are you ready for me?” Kyra asked as she lifted her arms to be greeted by angels.
“Almost,” Kyra heard God reply with a voice that roared like the ocean.
Kyra had been rushed to the hospital for overdosing on psychotropic medication and sleeping pills, and was slipping in and out of consciousness. As her spirit was about to venture into the afterlife, her soul hovered over her body. Just as her spirit was about to depart, her husband, Bruce, ran into the emergency trauma room, clutching their two-year-old daughter, Taylor, tightly.
“My God, Kyra. How could you do this to us? How could you do this?” he screamed, weeping like a baby. “Whatever we were going through, Ky, it wasn’t worth all of this. We need you, we love you, and we can’t make it without you. How am I gon’ raise this baby by myself? What am I suppose to tell her when she wakes up in the middle of the night screaming for her mommy? What the hell were you thinking when you did this to yourself? Damn it, Kyra! What have you done to our family?”
“We’re losing her. We’re losing her,” a physician yelled as doctors worked on Kyra’s lifeless body.
“Mr. Murrell, we’re going to have to ask you to wait outside,” a nurse suggested.
As Bruce backed away from the table with little Taylor looking on, he glanced one last time at Kyra and angrily whispered, “Fight baby, fight.” Taylor became frightened as she noticed all the commotion related to Kyra and whined, “Mommy, please wake up and hold me. Mommy, Mommy! I’m talking to you,” After Taylor cried out, monitors started beeping, and physicians worked frantically once Kyra flat lined.
Clutching nothing but air, Kyra awoke, breathing heavily. She reached for Taylor and continued to grab nothing but air as she screamed out in desperation, “Mommy’s trying, Taylor! Mommy’s trying.”
Kyra jumped up, sweating profusely, soaking wet and completely distressed from her continuous nightmares. She crawled out of bed, wiped sweat from her face, and walked into the bathroom. Holding the back of her neck, she stared at herself in the mirror for a few seconds, then turned on the shower. “These damn nightmares are getting the best of me. Shooo! I don’t know how much more of this I can take,” she whispered to herself.
Besides suffering from a severe case of depression, Kyra had so many other personal issues she stressed about. She was dealing with the emptiness of not growing up with her father, the lack of trust and respect she had for males, and the issues she dealt with due to being deceived. Kyra was scheduled to attend group therapy for marital misconduct that morning, and after months of denial, she was finally going to share with the members in her divorce and marital misconduct group the details of her affair. She was completely puzzled by the nightmares she’d been having for the past year, so after Kyra showered and was completely dressed, she sat in her living room daydreaming.
After staring into space for more than twenty minutes, she was startled by the sudden buzzing of her cell phone. She had automatically programmed it to ring bimonthly, which served as a reminder for her Friday morning therapy session.
Kyra slowly pulled herself up from the couch, grabbing her purse and keys. As she shut the door behind her, she listened for the house alarm to ensure that the system was set correctly. She pushed the garage opener and watched as the door slowly rose.
“Damn, I should just stay home today,” she stated, walking to her car.
But then you’d never move on with your life and forgive Bruce or yourself, her conscience quickly replied.
“You’re right,” Kyra uttered as she put her car into reverse, backed out of the driveway, and drove to her group therapy session.
Kyra arrived at the counseling center a little early. She poured herself a glass of orange juice and sat in a chair near the back. She looked around the empty room, envisioning it full of people, and her heart began to pound. She had finally convinced herself that she would share her story with the group, and the anxiety of telling her dark secret overwhelmed her. She had always been quite reserved about divulging her personal business, but for the sake of saving her family and ridding herself of the dreams that tormented her, she was going to open up, release the guilt she carried daily, and attempt to get on with her life.
Minutes later, other group members started arriving. As the facilitator entered the room, he closed the door behind him. “Good morning, everyone. Wasn’t that some kind of session we had two weeks ago? I hope you all thought about some of the issues we addressed and are ready to get down to business again this morning,” he stated, looking around the room at everyone. Kyra could hear her heart pounding as he made eye contact with her and asked, “Is there anyone who would like to share anything before we get started?”
She began to perspire as she envisioned the walls caving in on her.
Is he talking to me? she thought as she glanced around the room.
Carla, another group member who had been attending therapy for eleven months, raised her hand. “I would like to share that my husband and I have reconciled, and we’re getting back together.”
Most of the women started clapping, but Kyra just sat with her arms crossed and looked around the room. Anita, another member, noticed her behavior and quickly confronted her.
“What’s wrong, Kyra? Did you hear Carla’s news?”
“Yes, Anita. I sure did.”
“Well aren’t you happy for her?”
“Sure, I’m happy for her. I guess I just didn’t feel much like clapping.”
“Well don’t you think her news is worth celebrating since she thought enough of the group to share it with us?”
“Anita, you’ve been focusing on me for the past few sessions. I feel as though you’re trying to intentionally make me look bad to the other group members, and I don’t appreciate it. I don’t know why you feel like you’re my counselor or like you can question me about my actions. I don’t owe you or anyone else an explanation for my behavior.”
“As long as you’re a part of this group, you owe each and every one of us an explanation when you’re confronted.”
“That may be the general rule, but I don’t feel like you can confront me. You focus on me like I owe you something, and I don’t,” Kyra stated, folding her arms.
“Well you owe the group one, and we’re still waiting.”
After Kyra thought about Anita questioning her, she became irritated.
“Anita, I didn’t feel like celebrating Carla’s news because right now I’m extremely bitter toward men, poor-ass marriages, and making things work. I’m happy for her, but I don’t necessarily know if her news is a jovial occasion for me. I feel disappointed about my failed marriage, and I’m sorry that my demeanor is not acceptable in your eyes, but it’s me, and that’s that. If you don’t like it, don’t deal with me. Trust me, we’ll both get over it.”
“Kyra, you’ve been coming to therapy for six months, listening to everyone’s story and missing out on your real opportunity to release what you’re feeling inside. All you do is nod in agreement, and when you speak, you never interject any real input. Most often what you contribute to the discussion is very superficial. If you ask me, you’re really defeating the purpose of therapy and wasting your money and our time. So, why are you here, Kyra, and what are you so bitter about?” Anita asked.
The group facilitator attempted to interrupt the conversation, but as he tried to regain control of the session, Kyra cut him off.
“I’m bitter because my husband cheated on me and fucked up our marriage. I’m angry because I allowed myself to be suckered into having an affair with a man who forced me to see what I lost in my husband, and, I’m bitter because every day I think about Everett Barnett, it reminds me of the dark secret I carry. The guilt from my actions tortures me so much that I’ve been having nightmares about killing myself for more than a year now. I must admit I thought once I started actively participating in group, I would feel a little better about getting on with my life, but I’m mad as hell about my situation. I’m struggling emotionally, and I’m unable to move on because of the agony I experience daily. You don’t know the heartaches I’ve faced because of my failed marriage. You don’t know how often I lay awake in bed at night wondering why my husband found companionship and comfort in another woman. You don’t know the pain I encounter when I look into my two-year-old daughter’s eyes and try to explain to her why her mommy and daddy live in separate homes. And, you don’t know the countless number of pillowcases I have soiled with tears since I told my husband, Bruce, more than a year ago that we needed to go our separate ways. You ask why I’m so bitter, Anita. Well, why shouldn’t I be?”
“Kyra, you haven’t said anything that other women in this group aren’t going through. We’re genuinely trying to help ourselves in order to move on with our lives. And, for the record, you haven’t been actively participating. You’re harboring ill feelings, concealing your pain, and trying to protect your rich-girl image, which is exactly why you’re not going to have any closure. What you need to do is stop listening to everyone else’s story while hiding behind your lavish lifestyle, and start talking about your own issues. That is, if you really want to help yourself, Kyra.”
“Anita, my concern is not the other women in this group. My concern is me, my pain, and what I can do to get through this.”
“You get through the difficult times by talking about what’s causing you so much pain,” Anita rudely suggested.
“That may be the case, but I don’t know if I’m ready to talk about my problems and expose my skeletons.
“Kyra, that’s what your holding back has really been about, but until you realize that you’re no better than the other women in this room, you’ll continue to deal with your skeletons and the pain they’ve caused all by yourself,” Anita stated, turning her back to Kyra.
As Kyra looked around the room, tears fell. She wiped her face with the palms of her hands, took a deep breath, glanced at the group facilitator for reassurance, and hesitantly began telling her story.
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