I’ve been blessed. I had both Grandfathers, my Dad and my Uncle Al growing up. Now I get to watch my son interact with his father and so today my focus is on honoring the amazing men in my life.
He was old so he didn’t talk to me much, but he filled his medicine bottles with change (and nice coins) to make sure I had something when I left from visiting him and Granny. I remember he was ALL ABOUT some Mellow Yellow and he had his own room. I learned from him that love isn’t always mushy, sometimes it’s just making sure somebody’s ok in the way that you can. I never saw him and Granny share anything more than a nap at the dining room table after she made something to eat for the house. It counteracted every fairytale, but gave me some perspective on getting old. Have somebody that can call 911 when you fall. He lived until I was 5, but his consistency forever etched the memories on my heart.
He was a WWII Vet as I’ve shared in other posts. He taught me all about reading, the bank and the library and Stewardship. He and my Grandma would kiss on the cheek all the time. He did stuff like blend up beans to go in the chili so Grandma wouldn’t taste the texture but still get her fiber. He was also a Deacon at the Historical Zion Baptist and in charge of the benevolence outreach. He literally had the keys to the church. When I was young, he’d take me with him to go unlock the church for different meetings and Bible studies. Usually while there he’d hear a story about how someone needed something and you could see him thinking of how to best help. He was my Manny as I’m sure I’ve shared several times, and he basically brought Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers to life for me. He was also a big PBS/NPR donor, so for years I really thought I had some connections. I learned that you have to participate if you want your neighborhood to be great. I also learned that love is doing good for someone even when they don’t like exactly how it’s delivered. Give your best.
He sacrificed every third day of my entire life up until two years ago to be On Duty as a member of the country’s first professional firefighters. His work schedule along with my Mom’s is how I ended up spending so much time with grandparents but he taught me how to fight. Between putting me in karate, running sparring drills around the house at random, or watching him join a revolution in African-American firefighting and hold leadership positions when it was his time. Give up was just crazy talk around my house. Even now, he gets in my ear about going for what I want and being unapologetic when I know I’m right. Him and my Mom didn’t stay married, and that was probably the best thing I could’ve ever seen happen. He taught me that it’s ok to let go even when it looks better to hang on.
He’s the only Uncle I had for a while and he lived far away (still does). He taught me to bust a move and make change happen. While I traveled often, I don’t know that I would’ve had the courage to pick up roots the way I have in my life had I not known him. He had a carpet installation business in Atlanta that turned into him working with people that flip houses. No matter when I found myself around him, there was always work to do. He showed me that entrepreneurship isn’t some far fetched idea. He sustained life with his own hands in spite of the record he had that may have precluded him from employment. We still talk strategy whenever we get on the phone. Though I was probably around him the least, those couple of summers and 2 years of high school mean everything.
My son is really lucky. His Dad makes all his baby food concoctions, keeps his room secure with all the latest technology, holds it down while I rip and run and make moves. He keeps balance and gives our baby so much confidence to break through developmental milestones. He’s been such a patient teacher and he reads all the stories just the way that Camden likes them.
Here’s my point. Men, we need you. We aren’t going to get everything single thing we need for life out of you, but what you bring to the table means something and has value. Whether it’s the examples you set, or a roll of change, thank you to all of the men that pour into the generation behind them. Whether you’re a coach, Uncle, community mentor or just a good father to your own child… There may not always be a bunch of fanfare around this day, and the gifts aren’t all that fancy but you are appreciated.