The Father I Know
by Free Thinker
The father I know is not a famous athlete, movie star, nor musician. The father I know is simply Dad. Each day I peer across the landscape of my race and I am bombarded by images of Black men who fail in their inherent responsibility of caring for the children they have helped to produce. Many of society’s stereotypes would suggest that the Black man is a sexual deviant, predisposed to impregnating multiple women all the while failing to provide the financial and emotional support that is paramount to a child’s healthy development.
These negative perceptions caused me to step back for a minute and reminisce about the father I know. Or better yet, the relationship he and I share. See, to fully know my father you would have to know his past. My father grew up the son of a farmer in a small southern town. Back then Blacks were not considered African-Americans, Blacks or even American. When my father came about, Blacks were simply Niggers and Negros. And because of skin color, my father and his contemporaries were prohibited from a ttending schools conveniently located in their own communities. They were required to endure long bus rides to peripheral communities where the academic opportunities paled in comparison to their white counterparts.
After graduating high school the father I know made the decision to venture west to California in pursuit of educational and employment opportunities a young man of his time could only dream of in the south. See, back in the 1950’s a young Black man was faced with the specter of either following in the humble footsteps of his father and become a farmer or venture away from the family homestead in search of greater opportunities.
My father would eventually settle in Los Angeles, find a bride and start his family. My early memories of my father are particularly vague. See, from the time I was about two years old until about the age of six, much of my father’s time was split between work and university classrooms earning his college degree. As a young boy I often wondered why this man would leave my mother and me alone at home night in and night out. In my mind he was out gallivanting, having a good time. Many days my father would leave our home at 6:00 am and return home long after I had retired to the bed. As I grew older I would come to realize that this man was making a supreme sacrifice to improve his family’s lot in life.
As I rounded into my teenage years my father would begin assigning me household chores. My father believed that every person living in the house regardless of his/her age would shoulder a form of household responsibility. Many of my chores included mowing the lawn, emptying the trash, caring for our pets, and whatever other transient duties he could concoct. Being a kid, I complained to my father asking, “Why do I have to do all of this?” Like many people from the south, my father’s mantra’s was, “hard work never hurt anyone”…And he continually told me that the work ethic he was teaching me now would go a long way to shape my future.
My father was big on father/son outings. One outing he and I came to enjoy was fishing. Going fishing with my father was a major production. The night before a trip we would pack our cooler with all the fixings: cold cuts, sodas, chips and cookies. Our cooler helped to occupy our time as we awaited those darn fish to start biting. On one particular outing we went through our rations unusually fast. And since we were having no luck anyway, we decided to pack up shop and head home.
On our way home, I can remember looking at my father and saying, “Daddy…I’m hungry.” We would eventually pull into a dusty diner off highway 5. After sitting down and going through his pockets, my father realized he only has enough for one of us to eat. Please be reminded that this was the 1970’s, pre ATM machine…Meaning there was no other means of procuring additional cash. When the food arrived and I start to eat, I looked to my father and asked, “Daddy, aren’t you going to eat?” His reply was, “no son, I’m not hungry.” Later in life I would look back on that seminal moment in my life and think of the sacrifice made by my father. In a simple gesture of sacrifice, my father had taught me the true meaning of fatherhood…Which is a man who puts his kid’s needs above his own.
I often think back to the day my father spent in that diner on highway 5. The memory of my father forsaking his own hunger so that his young child would be able to eat cemented a lifelong admiration for the father I know. When I reflect upon that moment in my life I realized my father had armed me with the blueprint for how to be an effective and loving father. I realize that being a father is not about how many women a man can bed or the number of kids he can produce. I learned that being a father is about instilling integrity, strong work ethic, and responsibility in one’s children. In the singular moment, my father unknowingly instilled a lifetime of knowledge in his little boy.
When I think of my father and the sacrifices he has made for the betterment of his family, I find it difficult to hold back the tears. The father I know defies all negative stereotypes, generalities, and misconceptions of the Black man perpetuated by today’s news media. This piece is neither a tribute nor indictment of the father I know. What this piece is, is simply a testament to a great man who happens to be the father I know…The father I know who has distinguished himself as a giant amongst men, ensuring his offspring has been equipped with the vital tools to become a productive and contributing member of our society. Thanks Dad.