Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day Tribute

There was a man I loved more than the stars in the sky and the waves in the ocean.

He was the greatest example to me of what being a man could ever be.  He was triumphant in the face of trials too numerous to count and put his heart's desire aside to do what he thought was best for his two youngest children, babies when our mother died.  He risked a lot, worked hard, faced down oppressors, and provided not only for those of his loins, but double and triple that amount of another, right down to the grandchildren of another, he was a tower of strength in the village and his expansive soul reached greater than the breadth of his 6"4" frame.

My daddy was the best man a girl could ever have to be her first love and true heart.  He is the one who named me Taye and the one who gave me my first writing encouragement.  He is long gone from this earth now, but his deep baritone and twinkling eyes, his head full of curly hair and near-white skin he had to keep covered in the summer, his big hands and knitted eyebrows, his bushy mustache, his bear hugs all continue to live on in my memory and in the memory of my sons who had the pleasure of being "Grandpa's boys."

To say that I miss him is a deep understatement.  I miss him even more in this day of my life, my midpoint, when I crave his wisdom and can finally enjoy that Brent cup of coffee.

My daddy gave me himself and towers of men like my uncles and big cousins who all showed us what caring provision looks like, what honorable husbands look like, what brothers look like.  Each of them purchased homes for their wives and children and worked hard to provide for them, never demanding that they go out and work, understanding their role as head of the  household, provider, protector.  They each were men I wish my daughters could know, all of them, those magnificent men of my Michigan growing up, are all in that great tower of witnesses, they were mighty, gentle giants.

Time took my father away from me too soon, before I understood what was happening to him, cancer had ravaged him in one year.  He still was my protector and his last proclamation to me was that "you are still Daddy's baby girl and you came from love child, you came from love."  My eyes well up in tears now to have him weak frame let me cuddle with him, the man who would become my daughter's father keeping away anyone who would try to take away this moment, one protector to another protector.

My father set a standard that I hold high and expect of my sons and my husband.  He was the best daddy a girl could ever have and everything I am today was because of his encouragement, his love, and his support, even if, even when, he still loved me.

Daddy was not a perfect man, no one is.  I understand the choices he felt he had to make, I have made some too, for the good of the children, he was a man, simply, a gentle heart and a loving soul, but a man nonetheless.  I wish he was here for me to talk to the way my adult sons are able to talk to me now that they are men.  Daddy would be proud of them, his boys.  I have those cherished last photos and the thought of my now 24 year old insisting to remain with his Grandpa all the way to his last breath.  Towers of men passed down to another generation.

Father's Day was special to him, he taught us how to honor him, his birthday would be in another ten days.  It is from  him that I learned not to lump the two together and make that same insistence in May.  It is from him that I learned to celebrate birthdays and special days and watched him honor my Stepmother on her birthday, Mother's Day, and Christmas.  This man taught me so much that I am still learning the lessons.

He was the one who surrounded us with books.  He and my stepmother cultivated an environment where education was held to the highest standard and college was not optional.  They created a love of the library in us and listened to our reports about school. They found things that interested us and supported our endeavors. I  remember my father, his frame disabled due to the Korean War, a permanent neck injury that prevented him from turning it or doing those father-son athletic things.  This did not prevent him from supporting my brothers, though.  He went to basketball games and swim meets and signed them up for whatever athletic endeavor they were interested in.  I grew to be my best self with him at the helm.

I can't even say how much I miss him and how much I love him for giving me my Pops, the second best father a girl could ever have.

When I was sixteen and my stepmother went crazy, threatening my life, my father and brother stepped in as protectors and whisked me away to Michigan.  I was embraced and enveloped with a community of family that loved and protected me.  My pops and his new wife opened up their home to take me and make me their "first child" even though they were only about fifteen-sixteen years older than me.  They nurtured me and loved me and made me feel as if the sun rose and set on my clock.  They held my shaking frame through ravaging asthma attacks and supported my attempts to run track and go out for the volleyball team.  They walked me through the sorrows of first love and disappointing dates.  Pops remained my second tower until he passed away, all too suddenly, I would give him my other kidney, if I could still live with none, he was worth it and gave me his heart.

After my Daddy and My Pops, the next best daddy I now is my husband.

He dances with his daughters and has life talks with his sons.  He provides and hustles for them, shouldering sorrows and disappointment on his linebacker frame,.  He makes sure the lights are always on and the food is always on the table, cooking when he has to, and listening to their diatribes of tween girl angst.  He has combed hair and went shopping for bathing suits, smiling at the fashionista and attending every basketball game of the little one.

My husband and I married later in our lives, each of us having lived life, me bring sons from my previous marriage into our family, him embracing them as his own, leaving important meetings to go handle something for one of the older ones, advising, correcting, counseling, and yes, making mistakes that all fathers make.  Like my father, he loves his family and is just a man, not perfect, but striving to make his family all they could ever hope to be.

I watched this man take his daughters future into mind when the doctor proclaimed to him that his health was going to compromise his life if he didn't do anything about it.  Over the course of two years, he transformed it even more than the simple walking on the treadmill he used to do.  Dropping a person in weight, he runs 10Ks, rides his bike, eats healthy, and models perseverance.  Despite not growing up with his father there all the time, he has taken the time to try to learn all he can and be better than his example.  The girls have their best daddy at their beck and call, they know he is simply a man and not perfect, but they also know that he will literally give them the shirt off his back to make sure they are fed and clothed and educated.

My husband comes from a family of men who are great fathers.  Every last one of his uncles and cousins never cease to amaze me, at every reunion, it is the men playing games with the kids, handing out money and advice, being available, showing them men as caring, loving protectors.  Every last one of them, I have yet to meet any of them not doing their job as men.  His late grandfather set the standard and as the patriarch of his family, they all tend to follow that model.  In that, my kids have a wonderful legacy.

Fatherhood is a noble and honorable state of being.  Every real man that has joined that exclusive fraternity should recognize they carry the world on their shoulders.  It is that understanding that my oldest sons carry with them, the reason that I am still not a grandmother, they understand the importance of the role of a father and are waiting to join those ranks until they are solidly ready to sacrifice their lives if need be.

Generations of men, my message to the ones now and the ones in the future is that we honor you today, on Father's Day, and we also remind you to look around you, take charge, and be the towers of strength, the protectors, the providers, the fruit we need you to be.  Honor the women in your lives - mothers who through the sacrifice of their body and their dreams, made you fathers.  Do not dishonor your legacy by dishonoring her.  So what if you never married!  Be there, be there for your children and provide whatever she needs to nurture your seed, your future.  Turn it around, it is possible for you to do that.  Humble yourself and apologize to her for making her a mother if you never made her a wife, or for making her have more children when you knew she was tired, or for whatever wrong you did to her to make her not want you to be there, humble yourself and make it right.  She is reflecting back to you what you put out there, and your sons and daughters are watching.  To the men who are doing the right thing, married or not, and holding it down for their sons and daughters, I stand and salute you, you make me smile.  To the ones who will one day wear those letters D-A-D, learn the man you are and become the better one for your future seed.  Be your best for them.

I had the best, my children have the best, my future grandchildren will have the best.

Happy Father's Day!

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