Jun 19, 2011

My Never Ending Search for Lloyd

For some reason, more than ever before, this Father's Day I'm consumed with thoughts of my father, Ryland Alfonso Stephens Sr.. He passed away in October 1979 when I was seven, my sister was three and my brother was a year old. Neither myself, my mother or my siblings have ever gotten over it and that's because you never get over the death of someone. You just learn to continue living. To all that knew him, my father was truly more than a acquaintance or a friend you hung out with. He was a force, a strong and blessed spirit that touched everyone. Being so young when he died, I have memories but they are vague snippets of the time we spent together. Although I don't have many stories to tell about him, over the years family and his friends have done their best to paint a vivid picture of the man he was to be sure all his kids knew him. I've learned that our father, Lloyd as he was called, was loved and respected by many.
We were in the midst of moving out of our two bedroom apartment in East New York to our current converted 2-family home in Brownsville when he succumbed to complications arising from the injuries he sustained from a hit and run car accident. He had just been released from the hospital after spending what seemed like forever there. I have very intense memories of the arts & crafts projects my 2nd grade class did at the time to give to him in the hospital. There were lots of get well cards and other nick-nacks we made and sent to him. I also remember that I couldn't see him for most of his stay in the hospital because he was in intensive care. My last memories of him are from a Polaroid someone took when he was a few days from being transferred out of ICU. Since then, I've always wondered why people take pictures of anyone when they're in the hospital, the only exception being pictures taken after the birth of a child. Why would anyone want to have a lasting memory of someone hooked up to machines and literally looking their worst? Anyway....
We were all at a friend's house visiting after his release from the hospital when he collapsed in their bathroom. He never regained consciousness, and in a sense neither did my family. For most of my childhood, we didn't hear any stories about him or share any, had hardly any pictures of him to refer to and it seemed to me that we were attempting to go on living life as if it had never happened. It was as if we were acting like he'd never existed or was a figment of all our imaginations and I truly resented it. I would wake up at night and talk to the shadows on the wall in my room telling him that I remembered him, would never forget him and loved him dearly. I didn't understand it until I was in high school, but trying to remove him from our daily life was the only way my mother was able to continue living. She was barely hanging on back then, but she did her best under the circumstances.
Like I said, my mother removed all but a few pictures of my father around the house and then systematically removed his clothing and other belongings. But no matter how much she'd taken down and hidden away, it was still obvious to me that it was hard for her to move on. His razor and shaving cream stayed in the bathroom cabinet well into my teen years. And time didn't make it easier. I was around 19 or 20 and the first resurgence of bell bottoms was upon us. I found one of his old dress shirts and decided to complete my throwback look by wearing it. My mother was visibly taken aback when I emerged from my bedroom with it on. She calmly asked me where I'd found the shirt and I told her it was with several others in a basement closet. She then revealed to me through glazed over eyes that it was my father's shirt. It was the only time I wore it.
So depsite her best efforts, there were many instances of Lloyd sightings at 570 Bristol Street over the years. As my brother grew older, his resemblance to my father was uncanny, even unnerving at times. I once stopped mid-sentence while talking to him because of how much he looked like our Dad. It made me wonder how often my mother had done the same thing. Playing records from my father's collection gave us kids a music education and insight into his taste in music. It also made my mother smile, perhaps because she was reliving a moment they had together. Finding his newspaper press badge in my early twenties gave me the confidence I needed to continue on my path to becoming a writer. Lloyd was always with us.
As I've grown older, I've come to respect how strong my mother was back then. After all, my father had convinced her to leave the island of Jamaica and move to the United States just 10 years earlier, away from all her family and start a life here in New York City. Now she was alone with a new house and three kids to raise. Honestly, I don't tell her thank you often enough.
During my teens, watching my mother's grief as she moved through its different stages was, ironically, my first experience in seeing what love was and all that it could be. She'd loved and trusted my father enough to move to another country, and now that he wasn't here anymore, a part of her soul was missing. I realized through my mother's grief that their love was deep and true. After learning how my father had prepared for our lives after his death I realized how much he loved us. Their love was the real thing and I knew that's what I wanted for myself. My search for Lloyd started for me then, 25 years ago.
When I'm ready to settle down I can only hope that I have the type of relationship my parents had. One full of respect, admiration, loyalty and of course love. I hope to have a true partner, one that I can evolve with. I hope to have a Lloyd in my life.
So this blog post is dedicated to my father and all the other Lloyds out there. If you're a Dad who takes care of his kids both emotionally and financially you're a Lloyd. If you love and respect your life partner you're a Lloyd. If you raise your kids together with their mother, even if you both are not together anymore you're a Lloyd. On behalf of your kids I thank you for being a Lloyd. Take it from me, it makes a difference and pays off in the long run.
Happy Father's Day Daddy, I miss you terribly. And Happy Father's Day to all the Lloyds out there.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

1 comment:

  1. I remember. I remember very well when we were told your dad had passed. I remember thinking how horrible it must have been for you and I remember hugging my dad extra tight that night when he came home from work. I can't imagine how much your life must have changed. I remember being terrified the day of the funeral but I remember being there. We were there to show our respect but I remember just wanting to be there for you. My heart broke a little that day even though he wasn't my dad but because he was yours. It was the first time I could remember someone I knew dying.
    I never had a relationship with your dad but I think because of what you went through I held my dad a little closer, told him more often how much I appreciated how hard he worked, and I tried to be even a little quieter playing downstairs when he slept upstairs after working the night shift. So in that respect I can say thank you to Lloyd as well. And thank You Dyan
    God bless you and yours