I remember the letter, handwritten on loose-leaf paper, and the $5 bill inside a crisp white envelope.

My sisters, gleeful and frenzied, read the note aloud, a missive from their father who lived elsewhere. I never knew exactly where he kept his home. But he did not live there, with us, near us. He was never close enough for them to touch.

My parents adopted my two cousins after my aunt succumbed to breast cancer at an early age. They moved into our home and joined the crew. Today, when I mention my sisters, I am talking about them, too.

My perspective on parenting is shaped by my own father's presence in my life. But I was also affected by the void I witnessed my sisters navigate when we were all young. And I vowed to never leave any child of mine with the same gaps.

On this Father's Day, I only have questions for the absentee fathers: Where did you go? Why did you leave? And when did you decide you would be better off if you never came back?

I do not write from the perch of perfection in this incomplete journey of fatherhood. But I am present and active, while striving to grow every day.

The Black fathers I know embrace the same pursuit. Despite the negative stereotypes about Black fathers, our presence in the lives of our children is undeniable. According to the CDC's National Health Statistics report in 2013, African American fathers — both those who lived with their children and those who did not share a permanent residence with their kids — were more present and active than other groups, including white fathers. "[Coresidential] Black fathers (70%) were most likely to have bathed, dressed, diapered, or helped their children use the toilet every day compared with white (60%) and Hispanic fathers (45%)," the report found.

And yet whenever I write a column, a stream of messages often come from white men who point to absentee fathers in the Black community as its greatest challenge.

But they are not exempt. I know their community has been affected by emotionally unavailable fathers too. I also know white folks who never knew their fathers at all. Their luxury is that the narrative about absentee fathers is not their community's shadow. They live in a world that assumes those men were always there, so they do not encounter the stereotypes Black people — even the many of us with devoted fathers — endure. But, trust me, their pain is the same.

On this Father's Day, I commend every intentional and committed father across all races, classes and cultures. But perhaps today can be a reset for the ghosts.

To the absentee father, I don't believe your excuses. Let me explain. I understand that I write from a place of privilege because resources — a car, house, job, etc. — are beneficial to my experience as a father. But those things — or the lack thereof — do not determine effort.

Plus, I know a multitude of single mothers in this city. They are beautiful people with their own individual experiences. While I will never understand their challenges, they share a similar trait: They have all opened the door for the fathers in their children's lives to stay involved. The idea that women have banded together en masse to prevent access to those kids is both unfair and untrue. But it's an easy out for the fathers who quit.

To the absentee father, maybe today can be a fresh start. Perhaps you could reach out and connect with the children you left behind, but only if you can be supportive and safe for them. Maybe they'll reject you because you haven't been there. That is their right. But it has no bearing on your actions, assuming you are willing to validate their emotions.

I don't like these preachy columns, honestly, because I'm nobody's evangelist. But I know too many people my age who are still piecing together their lives from the residue of a father who did not try harder. And I witnessed that reality firsthand when I was a child.

One day, my three daughters will decide who and what I was to them. I'm sure they'll highlight the strengths and the traits that fostered their growth. They will also process and digest, however, my shortcomings and missteps. And I will have to admit to them when I could have done more — better — in those areas.

They only understand those layers of my humanity because of our experiences together. They get to see all of me.

The absentee father is a mysterious figure to his children. It does not have to be that way, though.

You could start by sending your son or daughter a letter with a $5 bill in a white envelope.

At least then, they would know you care.