Black Fatherhood

The idea for this post has been in the back of my mind since Father’s Day when my Dad left me a short sweet message. ” Hey, its the Ole Man, I got your message, thank-you. I hope I have been a decent father over the years, I made a lot of mistakes but I did the best I could.”

My Pops is not a man prone to being emotional, even when my Mom passed way suddenly leaving him alone after 33 years, this was not a man who broke down. This was a man who in delivering the message by phone to both my brother and I, that Mom had passed literally told us both “Mama passed. Well have a good cry tonight and we will talk in the morning.”. Yes, that is what he said verbatim and at the time both my brother thought damn can he get any colder.

Pops aka the Rev (yep, Pops is a preacher though retired these days) is a cold blooded man but in recent months after looking at all the pictures of Obama in the news with his family and the marveling over how wonderful it is to see a Black father and family, I feel the need to share about my own Pops. Especially in a time when the media would have us believe that all Black men are shit when it comes to their kids.

My Pops always left the rearing of us kids, all two of us to my Moms, in our family Moms was the main dish and Pops, well he was the sides. Yet this is a man who pretty much gave up his own dreams for his family. Pops was one of 16 kids born to a Arkansas sharecropper, growing up he dreamed of being a pilot but was told that was not possible, niggers don’t become pilots. So like many folks down south, when he graduated from HS at 18, 3 days later he was on a bus headed to Chicago where several of his older brothers had already landed and found good jobs.

It wasn’t even a year after landing in Chicago that he met my Mom and was smitten, except there was the issue of class, see my Moms folks were a mixed breed of Black and Mexican, who also had a little money. My Mom was an only child who was doted on and everyone assumed one day she would marry into a nice middle class Negro family. Yeah, the son of a sharecropper did not rate high on the list of possible suitors for Mom.

Long story short, my folks got married and  I arrived not long after, their first apartment was on the Westside of Chicago, in the area known these days as K-town. I was born at the former free hospital. By today’s standards this union one might assume of course this could not last but it did, it lasted for 33 years literally until death did they part. I won’t romanticize it and say it was peaches and cream but my Dad is a man and as a man despite being a terribly flawed human I can say that for the most part he did right by his family.

However my Dad in all my life always worked and was always there, emotionally he needed and still needs work, then again I suspect growing up the way he did, did not allow for great emotional development. I struggle with 2 kids, how my Grandma handled 16 of em, I will never know. That said, Pops worked every and any kind of job from teamster, dry cleaner, you name it, Pops did it. He handled his business.

Now Pops could be heavy handed on the punishment, when I was 16 I came home drunk as a skunk at 4 am, trying to talk greasy and Pops smacked my ass sober. At the time, I was mad and even though I know longer beleive in corporal punishment, fact is Dad stayed on both me and my brother and turned out 2 decent kids. I look at my brother, he is 27 college educated, a professional, no baby mama’s, no prison record and think guess all them years of Dad staying on his ass kept my little brother on the right path. To this day I joke, I have never stolen anything because at 5 I decided to steal some bubble gum and lets just say my Dad gave me a lesson that at 35 I will never forget. Even in high school when friends would shoplift, I knew better.

I share all this to say that as I get older and read the news talking about Black men this, Black men that, I know there is a breed of Black men that will do right by their wives and kids. I look at the pictures of Michelle and Barack and while I love to see how visible their love is, I think its important for every day Black folks to let the world know hey, there are some good Black men out there.

The average brotha may not be a presidential candidate but there are a lot of cats who will and do, do right by their kids; so on a sleepy Sunday afternoon I salute them and my own Pops.  And yes Dad despite the Ike Turner style ass whippings you doled out when we were kids, you have been a decent Dad.