Forgiving My Father Took Years — Loving Him Takes a Lifetime

Repairing strained relationships takes work, but the rewards repay that work many times over

Keith Reid-Cleveland
LEVEL
Published in
9 min readDec 18, 2019

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Photos: Courtesy of the author

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TThe first time I saw my father’s face was when my mom showed me his picture in an issue of Jet. She turned to a section that featured wedding announcements, pointed to a beautiful, happy couple, and told me that the man in the photo was my father and the woman was his wife.

I was young—only about seven at the time—and confused. I didn’t understand that the couple had likely submitted the photo themselves. As far as I knew, this man was rich, famous, and living a fabulous life that I didn’t fit into.

Before this moment, I don’t remember spending much time even aware of the fact that I didn’t have an active father in my life. Love was never something I had to look far for. The trio of strong, devoted women who raised me — my mom, grandmother, and aunt — surrounded me with it, as did our extended family and friends.

But I didn’t know how deeply I craved the presence of a father figure until I got the chance to have one — five years later, when I would meet my father for the first…

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Keith Reid-Cleveland
LEVEL
Writer for

Keith is a Chicago-based writer who’s covered tech, politics and nerd culture. Bylines: Built In, Daily Dot, Black Youth Project, Black Nerd Problems and more