One of my girlfriends recently underwent a major surgical procedure. She lost both her parents a few years ago, first her mother and then her father. Since I have known her I have often envied the relationship she had with her father. I never met him, I only know him through her memories. When she speaks of him I can tell that she was truly her daddy’s little girl. They seemed to have sincerely adored each other. She tells me stories of the lessons he taught her about love, life and people; the wisdom of her fathers words seem to still guide her today and as she admits has saved her some from considerable pain and financial discomfort.
I did not have that kind of relationship with my father, he was a truck driver always on the road and my parents separated nut did not divorce when I was only four years old. He was an alcoholic and his addiction kept him away. I often saw him walking down Orange Blossom Trail, Church or Parramore Street in Orlando. His head was looking to the heavens and a brown bag covering Seabo Wine was held tightly by his pouted lips. I did love him very much and was jealous of the bottle taking his love. I believe that my dad loved me but the lady name alcohol was more sophisticated and alluring then my seven years.
As we celebrate Father’s Day 2011 I am reminded of the African America men in my life who stepped in to fill my father’s shoes when he could not do so. There was my uncle Clifford whom to this day is the yardstick by which I measure real men. There was Mr. Leroy Filmore and Mr. Jamie Fortson, my teachers in elementary school. There was Mr. Ossie Cannon who drove a mule-pulled wagon and was a grandfather figure to all of us children. There was Mr. Roosevelt Hughley who was brave and drank from the white water fountain instead of the fountain for colored folk at the ice house uptown.
I remember the fathers of my classmates who climbed the ladders with the canvas sacks to pick the oranges that would fill the wooden boxes and then the cans that made Minute Maid orange juice. I remember how they worked hard to pay their bills and keep up their houses and their yards. I remember the go carts they made out of lawn mowers so we could race up and down the dirt roads of my hometown. I remember how handsome they looked when they dressed up and came to church with their wives and their children. I remember how Mr. Booker Taylor spanked Bruce and Harry when they disobeyed his rules because he wanted to teach them how to be responsible, obey his rules, and the man’s laws.
The media would have the world think that all black fathers are missing in action. The images of black men portrayed by the media rarely portray the responsible, loving, supportive, and nurturing fathers in our community. Black men have always worked hard to instill, pride, honesty, work ethics, humility, manners, respect and integrity into the character of their children. Since the days they worked the fields, they have wanted an education for their sons and daughters so that they might toil with their minds and not their bodies. As would any good parent they want more for their children than they had themselves. They teach their sons how to respect and love a woman and they teach their daughters to accept nothing less from a man.
We should recognize, honor and appreciate them. We must let them know that we have learned our lessons well. Remember your father or the man that impacted your life on Father’s Day, June 19, 2011. Tell them and show them that you love them each and every day. Happy Father’s Day Uncle Clifford!