Happy Birthday, Dad, From A Grateful First Born Son….
Dad, I still remember that fateful day when you came to my hamlet of Saint Paul, Saint Kitts to rescue me from abject poverty, bringing me to the cornucopia shores of California. I must confess that I was ambivalent to leave my beloved grand-mother who had raised me up to that point of my life, but yet even more excited like my Mexican brothers and sisters -- or any immigrant -- to come to this land of opportunities. I marveled that your library, which was almost larger than the home where my grandma and I resided -- and where my brother, Louis, and I spent our spare time reading almost all of your wondrous books -- except that you were worried that I read too much about Malcolm X and was on my way to become a radical. Like any son, I took a shinning to you because like you, I wanted to go the Army and so I took my GED and embarked on the service for God and country; like you, I took the Oakland police officer’s test and did well, but was not called; and like you, I attained a Bachelors degree then went on to Law school… by now Dad, you get the gist that your eldest son wanted to walk in lock-step with your vocational choices in life.
Dad, I chose a Cactus above, which is symbolic of your toughness and fortitude. It is your seventy-second birthday and I dare say that you do not look a day over forty, yet I know that you have been working, engaging in yeoman’s type of labor, since you were a teen-ager, as is the wont in the Eastern Caribbean then. You too wanted a better life and volunteered for Vietnam, while residing in Saint Thomas, one of America’s protectorates; and after your Service, you settled in California and became a peace officer/detective. You are like most Vietnam veterans who do not speak of your Service, but I know, along with my brothers and sisters, that the reason why you are not afraid of ‘anything’ was probably due to your Service in Vietnam... your thinking being that you are living on borrowed time, in light of what happened to many of your Vietnam buddies who did not make it back home. With that challenging backdrop still no Vietnam trauma prevented you from going back to school and having the business wherewithal then to invest in Real Estate that gave you the ease to live Midasly, comfortably since -- Hallelujah to Jehovah Jireh!
I admired how you added to what my grandma had taught me by highlighting the import of getting an education… I must tell the audience about your unique way of making your children learn about their adopted home of America, notwithstanding the fact that you came into our respective lives relatively late. I recalled that we wanted a swimming pool and so you made us take a paper route of delivering over three hundred papers (Oakland Tribune), but you also made us read all of the editorials, Liberal/Conservative, from great writers like George Will and the late New York Times, opinion writer, William Sapphire. In addition, you also made us religiously watch the respective news program, Sixty Minutes and Night-Line, the latter then was hosted by Ted Koppel. This you thought would give us a well rounded education about America and the world… and it did!
Even in liberal California, racism was rampant, but you took the biased slings and arrows, even though, then, I did not understand why -- I do now because I have made you a grandpa two times over. Back then, when you dealt passively with the racists, I marveled because you were smarter than most of them and you had just as much financial means as they did. I knew too that, although you were then and still physically a skinny man -- with a heart of a lion -- you had no worries because you always had a weapon (David) to equalize any ticklish situations (Goliaths). Case in point, one Summer, you took all of us to do spring cleaning of your rented apartments, and when we were finished, we stopped off at a McDonald in Martinez, California. When we entered the restaurant, many of the White patrons, for some reason, started laughing at us. You saw that your children were uneasy and you did not panic, but you simply let your country-mile long credit cards roll out your wallet… so that those who were laughing could see; moreover, you then unbuttoned your wind-breaker to reveal the weapon you were carrying, which caused everyone summarily to stop giggling. Classic, Dad!
Dad, I still benignly resent you for teaching me to drive a stick shift down the challenging, meandering roads of San Francisco… with your constant shouting, admonishing me not to burn out your car clutch -- nonetheless, I learned to drive well because it was a parental teaching moment you were trying to convey. I loved it when you would take me with you on Sundays to ‘blow out’ your Corvette’s engine… speeding down the roads of Antioch, Concord, and Walnut Creek. A few times, you were even stopped by the cops and every time they let you go when you flashed your Detective's badge -- I thought that this Black man (Dad) was a Demigod. I thank you for adding to the life lessons my grandma taught me, especially the import of an education, having a work ethic, and being courteous to everyone, yet not treating anyone, as if he or she is Christ Jesus. Dad, my ears also thank you for exposing them to the many dulcet genres of music, and to that end, I have included a song -- Trying To Live My Life Without You -- below from one of your favorite artists, Bob Seger. Happy Birthday, Dad, from a grateful first-born son, hoping that you have many more; longevity in Christ Jesus! Once again, drill down into the video below and enjoy a live classic from Bob Seger!