I have six kids I’m proud to call my own and this past Father’s Day, my 54th as a dad, I spent a few moments just thinking about them when I was alone.
Our journey as father and offspring began when I was but 18. My own life, in the scheme of things, seemed to have just begun as I welcomed Debbie, my very first one, into the world. What a darling little girl. She took that frightened teenager who was me and, ever so innately, and ever so gently, guided me with a demeanor of “Hey, I don’t know what I’m doing either – so let’s just go with whatever feels right.”
I went with that and as I look back I see that regardless of all the ups and downs and good and bad times my children and I have had, they’ve accepted me for who I am so I’m guessing I took the right path as I sought what felt right.
I went into our relationship as a basketball playing fiend who loved to read and write and dance and I jumped at every chance to try to change the Jim Crow world in which I found myself ensconced and then all of a sudden I was thrust into a state of being wherein, over time, many times, I was diapering tiny behinds and warming milk bottles at 3 AM, double time; then those descendants of mine were rising to their feet like little drunk sailors and stamping and falling all over the place, entertaining that heart of mine; and then I heard the most stirring words that had ever been directed at me, “Da-Da,” and other beautiful words and sounds like “Please read ‘Goodnight Moon’ one more time;” then I’m answering more questions than I ever thought possible to be asked in a short period of time; then kindergarten comes along followed in rapid succession with skits and school plays and squeaky sounding elementary and junior high band concerts and piano lessons and I’m listening for signs of future members of the Tonight Show Band while at the same time wondering if there was an Air Jordan (before there was such a thing) facsimile in anyone of them as they competed in a range of sports activities; then there were braces that practically caused me to hock the house; then there was an extremely unpleasant divorce and a little single parenting and the sight of watching my older three drift away; then I’m taking three years off from running schools to hangout with my twins in another relationship that lasted until death did us part on an extremely gloomy and mournful day. Oh, life goes in so many ways.
Ahh, this marvelous adventure we’ve been on together features so many layers and dimensions: we’ve slept under the stars and hiked the trails and soaked up Mother Nature’s endless wonders in Green Valley Falls, Paso Picacho, Borrego Springs, Big Sur, Yosemite…; we’ve been in each others faces over boyfriends and girlfriends and grades and attitudes and clothing apparel and curfews and a “Because I told you so” or two when nothing else would do; we’ve hugged and high fived and celebrated graduations and college degrees; we’ve done the “Hallelujah” dance out of each other’s eyesight as the nest emptied; we’ve marveled at all the grandchildren and great grandchildren who now occupy branches on the Family Tree. We’ve lost step dads, husbands and wives and struggled together to get on with our lives.
Mix it together and I realize that it’s all gone by, seemingly, as fast as the speed of light but I’ve been blessed to the highest degree in that throughout the many events in our lives, my progenies have stuck with me, unconditionally. We’ve emerged as friends – with my original self intact. Yeah, I might be a bit more refined and wiser, perhaps, than when I began fatherhood but I’m basically the same tall big footed guy. Still moving my bones at a pretty good pace. Still can’t put a book down or be found without a thought to write down. Growing up if you put some music on I couldn’t help but jump up and get down and that hasn’t changed because I will break into a dance at the very mention of James Brown. Still, Black and Proud, trying to change the world for all its boys and girls.
I view these thoughts on this past Father’s Day as the best gifts that have ever come my way on such a day. And my children are the most precious gifts I’ve ever received on any day.