My Father’s Eyes

Seeing Life Differently Now

By Lashawn Hudson Summer Intern (The Atlanta Voice) | 6/14/2013, 9:32 a.m.
Leonardo Simpkins (father) & Lashawn Hudson (daughter).

When I was a little girl, I use to enjoy drawing pictures of my imaginary family. Maybe “imaginary” isn’t the best choice of words. “Incomplete” is more accurate.

My sister, brother, mother and I were truly a family unit. However, the man I drew as my father was a figment of my imagination.

I would sketch a beautiful portrait of the five of us. We’d all be standing in front of our beautiful brick house, surrounded by our white picket fence. The sun would be shining and our faces would beam bright smiles.

I’d position my siblings standing between my mother. And my brother next to my father and myself on the opposite side of him.

I put a lot emphasis on facial features in my drawings. I tried to draw everyone as close as I could to their real-life descriptions. But, when I drew my father figure, I would have to guess.

I would close my eyes and envision how I thought he’d look and then draw the man I’d never actually seen. I pictured him with a big afro, caramel brown skin, medium sized muscles and small, brown, oval-shaped eyes. And I’d draw myself as a reflection of him— having two big afro puffs and small oval-shaped eyes. With paper and crayons, I created one big happy family.

Up until two years ago, my father was merely an apparition. At the age of twenty-three -- just days after moving to Atlanta -- my life changed forever. My uncle, (my mom’s brother) showed me a picture of a man with a big afro, caramel brown skin, medium sized muscles and the small, oval-shaped eyes.

Instantly, I was paralyzed, hypnotized, filled with emotions and questions. I stared and stared at his picture. I studied his countenance. I carefully examined his nose, ears and teeth and then compared them to mine. I remember crying myself to sleep that night. I had never seen anyone with eyes like mine.

My father looked exactly how I had drawn him in my family portraits as a child.

Due to complicated circumstances beyond his control or mine, my father never knew of my existence, nor I of his. We lived in two different states and had different last names. A few days after the photo discovery, we talked over the phone for the very first time. I’ll never forget what he told me, as we concluded the conversation. He told me that if I was his daughter, he’d love God so much more.

All I could do was sob in disbelief that all my life he’d been just one photo and one phone call away.

Shortly after, I made a surprise visit to Florida to meet him. The moment we spotted each other, we both knew that we were father and daughter. Our small, oval-shaped eyes confirmed that we were a family. We were overwhelmed with emotion. We stayed up all night, asking each other questions. We discussed our likes, dislikes, fears and passions. We decided at that moment that we wouldn’t allow any more time to escape us. But most of all, we were thankful that God had brought us together.