I have one eighteen-month-old niece; she’s my favorite person in the entire world. I talk about her on a daily basis and am in tears whenever I go more than a day without seeing her over FaceTime. I am obsessed with her and have no idea how I will be able to love another being as much as I love the one that yells Auntie and says “Sit” or “Shit” while pointing at me and trying so hard to say “Syd.”
Majority of the pictures on my phone are of her. I will mention her to people to test how they react and use that to determine if I will be a friend to them. I talk about how smart she is, while people roll their eyes and think “ugh special snowflake child.” And I don’t even care if they judge because she really is that perfect.
Most black kids grow up without fathers. Maybe their dad’s are in jail because of drug dealing. Maybe their dad’s were never there at all.
I wasn’t like that. I have two extremely loving parents who have been there for me through every step and panic attack and all of my dramatics. I’m not trying to brag or come off as anything other than honest. My parents are awesome and I am so blessed to have them.
My father and I are extremely close. We geek out over award nominated movies and chocolate desserts. We love going out to eat at fancy foodie places. And people constantly give us free things and it drives my mother bonkers. We can hang out for hours and just laugh and be silly. When I first mentioned that I was going to New Zealand, like a total dad he quoted Lord of the Rings while I rolled my eyes and pretended that he wasn’t that funny.
My niece on the other hand will never experience that. She will never get to go to her father’s favorite restaurant and watch him freak out over just how good the food was. She will never get to watch a movie with her father and quote it with him while her mother and siblings tell them to shut up and just watch the movie. She’ll never get to annoy the crap out of her dad by going up to him and with the sweetest voice say “Daddy…” She will never get to remember his laugh and how the corners of his eyes wrinkle up when he smiles. She will never know that he was obsessed with classy world beers. She will never have him make fun of her bed head after a long nap. She will never get to ask him what he wants for Father’s Day and get annoyed when he says he has everything he could ever have because she really just needs to get him something so her mother will leave her alone about it.
No my niece will never get to experience those things because her dad is dead.
Some people will assume she is fatherless because “black men can’t stick around for the long haul.” Others will think her mother screwed around and got stuck with a baby and he never even tried. More people will think he’s in jail. And the moment she says he died, people will probably think drug or gang related before she even tells the real reason. Her dad was sick and died in his sleep at 36 years old.
My niece will grow up fatherless. And the world will look at her blackness and use that to explain why. When really her mother’s high school sweetheart died in the bed, in the house that they were supposed to raise her siblings in. Siblings that will never come because one morning, her mother woke up to find her husband dead next to her.
My sister and niece stayed with my family and I after my brother in law died. Every single day my niece would look around and yell “Dada” out of confusion, while we all tried to pretend we didn’t hear it. Because how do you explain to a ten month old that her father was dead when you can’t even say he is yourself?
So sometimes I told her to be quiet. Sometimes I prayed she would just forget him and then begged for forgiveness for asking for such an evil. And then she started looking at the ceiling or looking far away like a child never should and quietly saying “Dada.” And sometimes I couldn’t stand to look at her because she reminded me of the only brother I had and I hated her for it, as if she controlled how she looked. And sometimes I would just cuddle her and try not to cry. Because mommy couldn’t be strong, so Auntie had to.
People get annoyed with me for talking about my niece so much. I will bring her up in almost every conversation I have. I will show her pictures thousands of times even to friends who had already seen them before. I will drop everything if my sister calls just so I can see that beautiful face even though the pictures of her father on the wall break me into a thousand pieces. But I will do anything for her. Because unlike me she has to grow up without a father.
She will never experience a father/daughter dance. She will never have Donuts with Dad at school. She will never get to ask her dad what he wants to do for Father’s Day. She will never experience her father freaking out about something silly and dad like. She will never get to have her dad walk her down the aisle.
My poor sweet niece will never get to do any of those things. So I give her extra love, probably more than I will give my future nieces and nephews. So I give her extra kisses, because she doesn’t have an extra person to do it. So I take an insane amount of time out of my day just to hear her baby babble, because someone besides mommy isn’t there to listen. So I will one day listen to her complain about her mom being unreasonable, because her dad isn’t there to calm her down. So I will tell her silly dad jokes that my brother in law would roll his eyes at. So I will make jokes at her mom’s expense like her dad did, because she doesn’t have him to do it.
So yes I will be that annoying aunt who flaunts her niece. So yes I will be that annoying aunt who will show you picture after picture of her. So yes I will be that aunt that will listen to her yammer on and on like my father does with me. So yes I will be that aunt, because she doesn’t get the dad. So yes I will be that aunt because working double time is the best I can do. So yes, I am that aunt.