It was the last week of July 2002 and I was working late in a recording studio in Hollywood. As I was leaving, I saw that I had several missed calls from my Mother. My stomach dropped and a voice in my head said, “Dad.” I called my Mother back and buried in tears she told me that my Father had taken his life. That was a long drive home.
My earliest memories of Dad are of him working hard at his and my Motherʻs fruit and vegetable shops, his shorts and knee-high socks, mowing the lawn on his ride on tractor, his big laugh, his stammer, his playfulness, his stress, telling jokes, playing loud music and dancing, dancing, dancing. Technically he was not a “good” dancer but it didnʻt matter because when he was dancing he was so alive; he loved it.
At five years old, my dance life began to take off and being that my Mother was also my chaperone, manager, and driver, most of my time was spent with her. Dad seemed to be slowly moving into the background of my life. I was absolutely obsessed with Michael Jackson and when I was five years old, I won a dance contest and the prize was to meet him. This encounter only exacerbated my idolization. When I was seven years old, I met Michael Jackson again. This meeting was the beginning of a 19 year “friendship” commencing with 7 years of Michael sexually abusing me. Early on, I remember Michael telling me that I could call him Dad. My heart jumped at the chance, I began to and in return he would call me, “Son.” This made me feel incredibly special.
Within a year my Father was diagnosed with Bi-Polar disorder. My memories of this are abstract; Dad seemingly floating further and further into the background of my life. I was so focused on Michael that I noticed Dad less and less. My Mother and I decided that we wanted to move to Los Angeles, California for the sake of my career in the entertainment business and to be closer to Michael. Just before we left, Dad pulled me aside in the kitchen and said to me several times in repetition, “There is nothing you have to do.” I had no idea what he was talking about. Mom, my sister and I packed up six suitcases and moved halfway across the world.
Dadʻs mental and emotional health continuously declined. Weʻd talk on the phone every now and then; Mostly, I remember just trying to get it over with. Dad and I would see each other about every two years; some of the experiences were okay, some were challenging, depending upon his mental and emotional state. Often, I felt embarrassed of him. I couldnʻt understand his mental and emotional challenges; They confused me, scared me and I regretfully didnʻt want to deal with them or him.
From about 10 to 20 years old, I had a string of friendships with older men, some more positive influences than others. I understand now that I was constantly looking for Father figures.
When I was about 20 years old, I had a phone conversation with my Dad where he told me a few stories about some of the mentally ill people he supported and had friendships with in the community he lived. The stories were heartbreaking and beautiful and I was intrigued to learn more about Dadʻs life. All of a sudden, I felt as though I now had the capacity to begin to develop an adult relationship with him. About six months later, Dad took his life.
I cried a lot that first night after receiving the news. I cried a lot at his funeral. After that, I didnʻt cry much more about him for the next 10 years. I came up with a tidy resolution for his death that satisfied my intellect and enabled me to stay numb.
This was until, my son was born in 2010 and my two nervous breakdowns came in 2011 and 2012. The second of which led to me disclosing for the first time in my life the sexual abuse I suffered at the hands of Michael Jackson. This opened up the flood gates of healing in every aspect of my life and Dad came rushing back in full color. I was faced with guilt, shame and sadness due to how I pulled away from him over the years, how I called Michael “Dad,” how I was too busy to talk so many times, and how I couldnʻt seem to bring myself to care enough to try and understand him while he was alive. Now that I was a Father myself, I wept numerous times, as I could now imagine how he felt as his little boy, little girl and the woman he loved walked out the door and moved to the other side of the world. From one of Dadʻs sisters, I found out that the idea that I may have been sexually abused by Michael Jackson caused Dad a lot of anxiety, guilt and depression over the years. I also found out that he too was sexually abused as a child by a family member. From what I understand, he told very few people about it and never engaged in any notable healing from that trauma.
Dadʻs spiritual guidance has deeply permeated the last 5 1/2 years and I feel closer to him now than ever before. That phrase that he said to me before we left for America came floating back to me in therapy, “There is nothing you have to do.” These words became a mantra and played an instrumental role in my having the courage to redesign my life.
As a Father figure, Michael Jackson taught me about dance, music, film, hard work, visualization, study, busyness, external giving, external achievement and validation, lying, numbing, not trusting people, child sexual abuse, and conditional love intertwined with abuse.
As a Father, my Dad is still teaching me about play, pain, unconditional love, forgiveness, dedication, laughter, life eternal and dancing (literally and figuratively) with abandon, and joy.
As a Father, by example, I strive to teach my son about unconditional love, play, surrender, passion, frictionless effort, kindness to oneself and others, patience, discipline, relaxation, spontaneity, friendship, and listening.
I know that at least my Mother (because she told me) and I didnʻt appreciate Dad while he was here with us on earth. We missed out on the opportunity to truly show him how beautiful, special and kind we thought he was and how much we loved him. If possible, donʻt make the same mistake with the people you love. If you feel it, tell and show them why and how much you love them, now. Donʻt wait for an opportunity that may never come.
Love, Wade Robson.