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Here we go….

To those that have been wondering where I’ve been THIS time, I’ve been away focusing on finishing my book, “Daddy’s Doing Hair?!?!?”.  I have a difficult time focusing on more than one project at once, so I decided to restrict my writing efforts solely to edit and proofread the book.  I have to tell ya, trying to proofread my own work has been VERY difficult. Every day, I always seemed to find a better way to say something that I had already said…a less wordy way to relay a thought. So, needless to say, there’s been a LOT of time spent doing rewrites.  I’m sure that there are more hiccups to be found, but at least I can breathe a little bit now that the first pass has been done.  (The things you do when you don’t have the cash to pay a professional editor, huh?)

Anyway, the goal is to start a Kickstarter page to help fund the printing of the book in the next few weeks.    I’ll keep you all posted on when that happens.  But in the meantime, I thought I’d share with you the “Thank you” section from the prelude.  There are so many people that I want to thank, and I’m sure that there are some names that I probably forgot to mention…but those of you that know me personally, know that I have the attention span of a tsetse fly and any omissions are purely due to lack of concentration.

Thank You’s

I’d like to thank several people for making this book possible.

God… There are so many reasons why I HAVE to thank you first. You blessed me with the girls. You blessed me with the ability to put my thoughts into words. You blessed me with all of the experiences that I needed to have in order for me to grow. For these things and countless others, I thank you beyond the words that my limited mind can muster. Nothing that I could say would be great enough to thank you for all that you have blessed me with. You bless me even when I don’t deserve it. I don’t have the words that can convey my thanks enough.

Josephine Sutton. ( Mama)  Wow, I owe you so much.   If it were not for you, I wouldn’t have had the belief in myself to think that I could EVER write this. You were the first queen in my life. You taught me what it was to be a man when I had no example of what a man was. You kept me away from all of the negative influences that could have taken me, and you kept the darkness of the world at bay with the light from your strong spirit.

I may have been hungry…but I was never starving. I might not have liked all the free vegetables you got from all over Wallace, but they kept me alive. Now that I am an adult with my own kids, I see that you were doing everything within your power to keep us going. Your efforts did not go unnoticed.  Your sacrifices did not go unappreciated. Your story will ALWAYS be told and it will always be told with fondness, and entwined with exultation of your determination, character, and all surrounding love. Words of you will draw breath even after we all have long moved on from this world.

Sharon…… I would never have finished this without you pushing me. I would never have SURVIVED raising the girls if it had not been for your calming presence. I would not be the man/ Daddy that I am today without your guidance. Thank you for being the love of my life and my absolute best friend.

Tee and Kee a.k.a. The Girls… I thank you for allowing me a place in your lives. Please know that I never took it lightly. I know that in some places I fell short, but my plan was to ALWAYS end the day with you guys being a bit stronger and my goal has always been to enable you two to live WELL and fearlessly after your mom and I are long gone. You guys have become strong, beautiful, intelligent, lil ladies, and I’m glad that we got to take this ride of parenthood/childhood together.

My brothers, Nathaniel, Bobby, Dale and Sidney … Each of you contributed to the man that I have become.

Nathan – You taught me the necessity of having to simply slow down sometimes, and to keep working on a problem until I got a solution. I still remember the ONE time that I went fishing with you. I got my line all tangled up and you let (made) me work on it until I got frustrated, and then you pitched in and helped me untangle it. It would have been much easier to just cut it and start over, but because you wouldn’t allow me to take the easy route, I began to learn the value of patience, persistence, and perseverance. Since then, there have been many days that I received a sense of accomplishment from fixing a problem instead of abandoning it when it became difficult. That small lesson was my first step in the marathon of my believing that I am stronger than any situation that I am confronted with. Thank you.

Bobby – You’re my superhero, man. Like I always tell you, NO superhero ALWAYS wins. Superman gets beat up. Spiderman gets taken to the brink of death. Batman ends up in bandages. What makes them superheroes is that they never QUIT until they win. That’s how I see you, big brother. You might not always win, but you always get up swinging. You ALWAYS believe that your win is on its way and you never give up. You NEVER give up. I thank you because I get my fighter’s attitude from YOU. I coined a phrase because of you. I’m sharing it here for the first time. “The only fight that you are guaranteed not to win, is the one that you don’t fight.” You helped me learn how to always fight. Thank you.

Dale – Dude, you have GOT to be the hardest worker I have EVER seen and probably one of the best all-around MEN that I have ever been blessed to know. I know that you thought that people weren’t watching as you were picking up cans to pay for your daughter’s band instruments, but I was. And your toiling away even to this day isn’t in vain. We see you. Thank you for my work ethic.

And the late, Great Sidney D. Sutton – I miss you bruh. Man, your love of your family was OBVIOUS to anybody with eyes. I remember talking to you about how our family may have our issues, but our how we were all good people with good hearts. Man, you personified that. You may have had your faults, and we may have had our moments, but I could never question whether or not you would be right there for any of us if things hit the fan. As you would tell me, “Man…I’ll fight for you…just let me get a hit of this inhaler so I can catch my breath first.”

All of you cats hold a piece of the formula that made me, and I appreciate it.

Now, to my sisters….Joann, Wanda and Charmaine.

Joann, what more can I say besides, “Who loves ya, baby?” Joann, your laughter was always the most infectious thing in my life. To this day, there are very few things that I enjoy more than making you laugh. To you, I owe my ability to see the joy in the situation, no matter how dire it may look on the surface. You have taught me how to see the light at the end of any tunnel. You never lose your smile. You never stop laughing.   Just being near you makes people feel better.

Wanda “GAL”, in MY mind, you’re one of the toughest women in the world. A wise person once said, “It wouldn’t be called “going through” if you weren’t expected to come out the other side. It would be called ‘going in’.” Whenever I think of that saying, I think of you, and I keep going.

Now….Charmaine. Girl, you need to know that you are my heart. Ever since you were small, you were always my partner in crime, knowingly or not. Lil sis, you will always have a very special place that no one else in the world can even hope to get close to. I know how tough things are for you sometimes, so a lot of what I do every day is in the hopes that I can eventually bring a bit more joy into your life. My work is just as much for you as anybody. Know that. Now, here’s something that I never shared with you. The basic format of this book came from you. Here’s the story…

One time, when I was in the Air Force, and I was visiting home on leave, I found a notebook in Mama’s room. The notebook itself was nothing special; just a ratty old spiral notebook with handwriting all over the cover. I still don’t know why I even opened it, other than it was part of God’s plan all along, but when I did, a transformation began in me. What I read were some of the most beautiful, most honest, most poignant, most inspiring words that I have ever read. On those pages, a young, pregnant girl had written letters to her unborn baby. She had written about how scared she was and about how she didn’t know how she could raise a child; still being a child herself. She wrote about her dreams of moving away from small town Wallace, NC, and doing big things that would take her far beyond the limits of Kenan Loop Road.

The soul of those few pages stayed with me. They sparked in me a decision that once I had kids,that I would be the best that I could be for them. That I would approach my days with them with honesty, that nothing would make them feel like a burden to me…and that my heart would be their heart.

Something that has come to me since that day, however, is the realization that dreams don’t have expiration dates. I have learned that the crossroads in life don’t have to lead to dead ends, unless we let them. Life is ALWAYS going to happen, but the key is to not let the living of life get in the way of living life. Charmaine, we can still do big things, lil sis. The things on the pages of that ratty old notebook are about to send us on an amazing journey of learning and discovery.

This all comes from you.

And lastly… Thank you to Rueben Richardson. (I bet you didn’t know you were involved in this, did you?) You revived and gave focus to the idea of “Dadddy’s Doing Hair?!?!?!” with one simple question one day. You walked up to me and asked, “Man…what did you do to have such a strong relationship with your girls?” Right then, I realized that maybe there was something that I had to offer other men raising daughters. Your question made me realize that the rumor of the demise of Black Daddyhood is GREATLY exaggerated and that I need to share my story.

Welcome to Daddyhood!

 

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We’ve all been lied to….

When the date started getting close, I decided that I wasn’t going to post anything about it…I swear I wasn’t.  However, the closer it got, the more my resolve waned.  Thus….I’m writing this.

I submit to you all, members of the jury, that we’ve been lied to…

Run amok.

Led Astray.

Hoodwinked.

Bamboozled.

I submit that Time does NOT, in fact, heal all wounds.  It just makes the scab tougher.

I present  article number one into evidence.  It was a year ago on the 24th of March that my brother died.  And I swear that things haven’t gotten much easier.  I mean, a few weeks ago, I found myself searching thru my old cell phone voice mails PRAYING that I could find some from him…just to hear his voice one more time. I found a few.  Now the question in my mind is:  “Am I supposed to delete them?”.

Don’t get me wrong.  Me and Sid weren’t the CLOSEST of brothers, and he, like all of us, had his faults.   We had our differences (Boy oh boy DID we EVER have our differences), but at the end of the day, that dude was my BROTHER…and the end all be all of it is that I can NEVER question his love for me as such.   I remember how just a  few months before he died, my car was being worked on by a family friend.  It had been sitting in their yard for MONTHS with no progress, and it was putting me in a bind.  My brother called me and was like “Man…I can’t let him do that to my little brother.  I’m gonna take me a hit of my inhaler, get on my scooter and go tell him that he better fix my brother’s car right now!”  and that’s exactly what he did.  The mechanic used to tell me how my brother  (and his oxygen tank) would come down there almost EVERY day til I got my car back.  LOL

So in thinking about all of that, it occurred to me, a lot of times, there are little stories like that that really give people a good insight into the quality of a person’s soul.  If you allow me just a moment to wave my nerd card, I think the Bard said it best when he said,   “The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones.”  (HA…You didnt know that I could come off the cuff quoting Shakespeare, huh?  BAM!)  Anyway, my goal is that I let people know of the good that my brother did….and that he was appreciated, so consider this post my selfish attempt at just that.

So often, we measure a person’s  value in material stuff; cars, homes, income, etc.  When in reality, that stuff is meaningless.  My brother left this plane of existence without much STUFF to his name, but that didn’t mean that his moment in time with us was a waste.  It just means that if we were investing in the company that is the memory of  Sidney Sutton, we’d need to base our valuation on things other than assets gained…..maybe we’d need to look at some intangibles; souls touched, moments shared, and lives affected.

ANYWAY……..(wiping away tears again….dang…)

I decided to repost something that I wrote earlier.  When I first did it, one of my other siblings read it, printed it out and gave it to my mother.  I think that she still carries it with her to this day.  She shared it with some of the people at her church that were going through similar situations…and they even asked for copies.  I’m saying this not to brag…(I’ve never been the braggadocios type) but to share…If you feel like my story below can help you or ANYBODY going through something like that…feel free to print it off.  I really dont mind.  So, below is one of my posts regarding my brother’s death and how it hit us…….

Foot

Sometimes, the Words Ring Hollow (For My Brother)

(This post is therapy for me)

Even though it was many, many years ago, I still remember the words as clearly as if I had just heard them yesterday.

“God heals you in one of two ways, he takes the pain away from you, or he takes you away from the pain.  Either way it goes, he makes the pain stop.” , he said.

Deacon Harris’  words drifted up to me from the small makeshift bed in the back of the van as I drove.   You could feel the pain that mated  with his speech as each word, slowly, purposefully tumbled over his teeth; eventually breaking the forced, awkward “non monotony”  of the sounds of Sade songs wafting from the cd player.  The music was ill placed, but it helped me to ignore the obvious fact that here was a dying man lying behind me.

His words refused to let me wallow in the self imposed sanctuary of my  denial.    He said it again, but this time he used my name to get my attention.

“Ty, did you hear me?  I believe that God heals you in one of two ways, he takes the pain away from you, or he takes you away from the pain but you know, either  way it goes, he makes the pain stop.”

I nodded my head, and said, “yeah” over my shoulder; too scared to look back at him.  I didn’t want the question to go into the territory of what I believed  because at the time, his words rung a bit hollow to me.   I couldn’t see past his impending death, and I questioned how a man  that had been in that much pain for so long, could be talking about healing.  Nothing had worked so far….Death was just……death.  No HEALING.

“Good.” he said.  “That’s important.”

So, with that, we plodded on.  I took great care to avoid as many bumps as possible, lest the sound of moans and grunts from behind me remind me of the frailness of my cargo.  Sade continued to be our riding partner.

Across the years since, I would often wonder  why he decided to say this to me twice on that ride.   Maybe he knew that he wasn’t going to be around much longer and wanted to make sure that I understood that he thought he’d be in a better place.  Maybe he just said it to make himself feel better, or maybe he felt that I would need to be equipped with this knowledge to help me down the road.

Fast forward to Sunday, March 24, 2013, 7:35 a.m.

My cell phone rings.  I answer.   The voice was  Dale’s.

Within it, I felt something that I had  never felt in that voice before.  There was a  seriousness that leaped over miles and miles of cell phone signal to grab me by the shoulders and shake the remnants of the night’s sleep away.

“Tyrone…What are you doing?” This strange/familiar/strong/weak/ brave/scared  voice said.

“Nothing much, man.  Just watching some t.v.  Everything cool?”  I knew things weren’t.  It was too early for  things to be “cool”

“Mama just called me.” He said.   “She said that Foot is might not make it.”

There was that shaking coming across the lines again.

Foot is my brother.  Well, his name is actually Sidney, but  for some reason, the name Foot was given to him and I guess he never disputed it enough,  so it stuck.  Foot had been battling some serious diseases for the last few years.  Over a year ago, the doctor had given him 6 months to live.  On Sunday, we were at over 14 months since that proclamation.  It hasn’t been all smooth sailing since though.  Between then and now, there had been many  ambulance pickups, e.r. visits,  long hospital stays and even doctors telling us that we needed to go ahead and call all of the family to town.  Each time, Foot would bounce back, like some kind of bad penny that just kept turning up.  I remember, the last time the doctors told us he might not make it back home, we were all gathered in his hospital room.  He was talking with us; joking like he always did, when he looks around in sudden realization and says,  ” Hey….All of ya’ll are here???  Is something’  happenin’  that ya’ll ain’t tellin’ me ’bout?!?!”  He went home a few days later;  Foot, the bad penny.

The voice on the other end continued to talk.  “I’m on my way down there now.  The rescue squad people are  there working on him, but Mama says it don’t look good.”

(Come on bad penny!…….come on bad penny!)

“Call Daphne and let her know, but don’t call the house, Mama is pretty tore up.  If you have to call, call Bobby.  He’s over there.” he said.  Daphne is Foot’s daughter.

“Ok, Dale.  I’ll make a few calls and I’m on my way down.  Don’t worry, dude…Everything will be cool.  I’m on my way in a few minutes.”

I hung up the phone. Sharon was the first call.  She had literally just pulled out of the driveway on her way to church, so she was back in the house in no time.  I told her about the conversation and she said that she would call Daphne for me so that I could get ready to get on the road.   So, I went upstairs to get ready.

I called Bobby.  He said that he got there about the same time as the paramedics did.  Despite my hopes that his interpretation of events would be different from Dale’s, they weren’t.  Things were not good.

He said that they had been working on Foot for over 30 minutes.  Nothing was working.  They had tried everything and they continued to try.  Then he said something that really brought things home to me.

“I want to tell them to stop trying; that it’s not going to work…..but I can’t tell them that.”

Bobby, the strongest one of ALL of us in my opinion, said it wasn’t going to work…..The shaking that came across the lines was worse this time.  It shook me with the force of a full fledged gorilla.

(COME ON…BAD PENNY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  COME ON BAD PENNY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  JUST FREAKIN’ COME ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

I got dressed, packed up the car, and Sharon and I started on our way.  The plan was to pick up Daphne and the girls and head down.

8:21 a.m

Bobby calls again..  “Man…..they just pronounced him dead…..”

It felt like the hand of God reached down and pulled every bone from my body,  squeezed my lungs until I couldn’t breathe and forced tears out until they  burned in my eyes.  I forced myself to finish the drive to Daphne’s house….all the while steeling myself up for the next phase.

I got out of the car, and walked to Daphne’s door. I knocked.  Out poured her and my two little nieces; bags of books and toys in hand.  We got the little ones settled into their spots in the back seat and put Daph’s bags in the trunk.

It’s kind of a blur, and I can’t remember who  told Daphne, but I do remember looking into the back seat and seeing her shoulders heave up and down.  I suppose, that God used his other hand to do the same things to Daph that he did to me.  Her pain spread across the back seat like wildfire and soon the little ones were crying too.  I decided it would be best to go inside and talk, so we got out of the car and went inside.

The four of them all sat, huddled together on the couch, with their shoulders rising and lowering with their sobs and  with their tears watering their shirts.  Our family had never been so closely touched by death before, so I let them deal with it on their own terms for a while.  Then, I knelt in front of them. with my mind overflowing with thoughts and stories and analogies and various witticisms and none of them seemed like they would work.  I decided to just start talking and let whatever would come out…just come out….And that’s EXACTLY what happened.

“Girls…..you know, God heals people  in one of two ways, Sometimes, he takes the pain away from them, sometimes he takes them  away from the pain.  Either way it goes, he makes the pain stop.” .

I smiled a bit on the inside. There was my answer as to why I was told that so many years ago!     God used Deacon Harris to plant something in me that I would use to console my family during my own brothers death.  Oh God, my God…..infinite in all your wisdom.

I used that analogy and others over the last few days each time bringing a small piece of understanding to those I share them with.  Heads would nod in approval.  Eyes would be wiped with understanding.  Now, I I wish I could say that I’m so strong that I don’t need them for myself, but that’s not the case.  Each time I get the chance to say it, I draw a little bit of strength for myself and I’m able to hold on just a bit longer.  I realize that I (and my whole family) will be tested over the next few days, but I take strength in knowing that God set some wheels into motion oh so many years ago….We’ll be just fine.

Rest in peace, Sidney (Foot) Davis  Sutton.  I miss you, Big brother.

 

 

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Filling up the Holes

Tees Bday Post largeTHIS POST WAS TEE APPROVED…(but without her approval)
(Oh…and she MEANT that I Was 29…not that SHE was 29.  That would be strange.)  

 Over the years since I had my daughters, I’ve often thought about life, death, legacy,  what’s really important and deep stuff like that.  (Hey…I’m a deep kinda guy.)…but, it would always leave me with a BANGIN’ headache and no answers,  so I would kind of just place it on the back burner until another situation came up that would put me in one of my Prince listening, dark room sitting, meaning of life pondering moods. 

One of those times came when my brother died almost a year ago and it left me with one big question that I’ve been internally debating ever since.

What exactly is legacy?

     It ain’t as simple as one would think. Well, it kinda IS, but  there’s a lot of stuff that muddies the subject for us.  It took me a LONG time to sort through it, but I think I can bring some clarity.  Through it all, I hope that  I can help some of you benefit from my ignorance so that you don’t have to go through it.  So hang with me, and I’ll try to shed some light on it or, more colorfully,   like one of my friends from my Air Force days used to say, “…throw some dirt in that hole”.  

     What I discovered is that as men, we often place such a huge value on providing for our families financially and materially, that we leave  ourselves with almost no energy to provide for them mentally and spiritually.   We sometimes worry so much about getting that hot, new toy,  or the latest Jordans, or the newest video game system (Okay…maybe that one was more for ME than the kids…but you get the picture.  DON’T JUDGE ME!)  when in fact, our time and attention is the MOST important thing that we can do for our daughters.  I now look at it like this…”If I can buy it, it will  eventually be useless…buy if I can INSTILL it, it will last forever…..You can’t run out of character.”

So in a nutshell, be careful not to fall into the trappings of giving your daughters STUFF.  YOUR time is one of the few things that no one else can give her and that can never be replaced.  Simply put, once it’s gone, there’s no getting it back.  That makes it valuable beyond measure.

When I first adopted the girls, we would sometimes go to a coffee shop together just to hang out.  I would get some kind of foo foo latte or something, and the girls would get what we affectionately called a “moo- moo steamer” or, plainly put, a steamed milk with flavoring in it.  We would sit there and I would read a newspaper and they would  pretend to read as they sat across from me.  One of my biggest regrets in regards to them, is not doing it more often.  I can remember looking across the table at them as they “read” but gosh…it sure would be nice to have a LOT more memories of it, but, as I said…you cant get time back.

So, the keys?  Share your time, and make good use of the time you share with them.  Here are a few ideas that I think would be great to do with your daughters.

1) Leave work  sometimes and pick her up from school “just cause”.  Go see a cartoon at the movies or maybe just go for a nice long walk and talk about life.

2)  Deliver flowers to her school for no reason.

3) Have lunch with her at school.  (That is IF you can still fit in those little tables….Let me tell ya, years of eating like the government would be making it illegal tomorrow made sitting in them chairs one  hecukva experience for yours truly.)

4) TELL her how important she is to you as often as you can.

5) Take her fishing.  (I wish I had pictures of when I first took my girls fishing on the pier.  It was HIGH-LARRY-US  and they absolutely LOVED it.  They STILL love to go.) Yes, I DO know how to spell hilarious…but EVERYTHING is better when spelled phonetically.

6) Take funny faced pictures with them.

7) Two words:  Pillow Fights.

8) Take her  kite flying. My daughters STILL talk about how I took them kite flying.  To them , it was the most amazing thing in the world, but  if I describe it, I’d call it “Daddy running around a field with a kite in his hand while they held the string.”

9) Hold her hand as often as you can.  There will be a time when you wont be able to anymore.

10) Listen to her.  Even though she may be little…she still wants to know that she’s important enough to get your attention.

In my mind, the litmus test is this:  “When I’m no longer here…and my girls are describing me to their children….what words will they use?”    I think of that…and then act accordingly.

BAM!  That’s some high quality dirt that I  just threw in that hole!

 

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My knowledge for the day.

The rule is that I’m going to keep this one short n sweet.  Well, actually, it’s more like a suggestion…’cause, well… you know how I am.

ANYWAY, my mother once told me “You can learn from a fool….you just need to know what to throw away and what to keep.” , So I always try to learn something from everybody that I interact with.  Some make it easier than others.

So,  yesterday I was having a conversation about love and acceptance and the like…and my friend broke it down to me as simply as I have ever heard it.  She simply said :

“I love you should  never have “buts”…it should  only have “ands”.”

Think about it.

See?  Short n sweet.

 

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St. John vs The Bootlegger

I know that the majority of my writing is about fatherhood, but I’m going to devote this post to motherhood….more specifically, my mother.

Now before we get into this, let me explain (again) the geography  of my upbringing.  On one side of my house was a church.  It wasn’t just ANY Church.  It was St. John Missionary Baptist Chuhch.  (Yeah…I know I misspelled “chuhch”, but that’s how we say it in the country.  Say it slow…you’ll get it.)   If I sit quietly, my mind will still let me hear the sound  of all of the heels tapping against that old wooden floor when the choir sang.  Even though I’ve moved on in life, have lived in MANY places and have been a member of many churches, I still call that place my home church. (See? Even without thinking about it….u said it like “chuhch, didn’t you?  Just admit it!)

Now, on the OTHER side of my house was a bootlegger.  (For those that are unfamiliar with the term, a bootlegger is one that either  a) makes homemade liquor or b) sells homemade liquor that they buy from someone else .  I’m sure, that in some places, there may have been an option “c) Buys liquor from the stores and resells it”, but hey, we were in a poor area and selling the fancy, schmancy, high highfalutin’  rust free, store bought stuff with its FDA safety regulations and quality inspections and things like that took MONEY.  Besides….iron is good for ya, right?  So the rust made it healthy.  ( I have a similar philosophy about how you can eat as much as you want and as long as you eat it fast, the calories cant stick. too….sue me.)

So, on any given day, I could either see a bunch of staggering drunks drowning their hopelessness in  mason jars filled with homemade liquor; tinted red with flakes of rust from some back woods still or I could see people  filtering into the church to look for hope when they were otherwise surrounded by bleakness.

It all painted a pretty curious picture of the world for a kid like me.

But to my mother, it was pretty cut and dry.  If I wasn’t suffering from Ebola, scurvy or rickets ( And you thought I wasn’t paying attention in Health class, DIDN’T YOU, Mr Ramseur???) ………..I would be going to church.  It wasn’t  JUST Sunday morning church either.  There was Sunday School, Sunday Service,  prayer meetings, revivals, Vacation Bible School, Youth Choir practice, usher board meetings (She was also the president of the Usher Board at one time, so guess who also had to usher?) ,and so on and so forth.   So, church attendance was pretty much the rule of the house.  And try as I might, I never figured out how to fake ricketts, so I found myself in the pews…….a lot.  Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t always pay attention….and sometimes, being that we lived DIRECTLY next door, I could sneak out and go home for extended periods of time and sneak back in without her knowing

But the fact of the matter was, Mama, in the only way that she knew how, ( and in a wisdom that she didn’t even know she had) was exposing me to hope when there was nothing but sheer hopelessness just on the other side of the house.

Mama was fighting for us…and we didn’t even know it.

All those cumulative weeks, and weeks, and WEEKS, and W-E-E-K-S of church that I was FORCED into gave me a belief that even though my CIRCUMSTANCES said that  I was poor, that they didn’t control who or what I could become.  It helped me to understand that even though many of those near us had given up, that I could still have hope for a brighter tomorrow, and when tomorrow came, if it wasn’t brighter, that I could continue to make THAT today’s tomorrow brighter.  She taught me pride that even if I didn’t have the best clothes,  (remind me to tell you about pants with rings around the ankles), that I could keep what I had nice, clean and pressed and be proud just the same.    It taught me that even though there was a den of despair just a ditch jump away one side of the house, that as long as I had faith, and if I put my time in,  that I could strive to be something greater than that; that I didn’t have to subscribe to the hopelessness there.

Faith can  trump common sense, and sometimes…you should LET it.

I have to say that I’m grateful for where I’m from.  I’m grateful that I had a mother that forced me to see a better way; not BECAUSE of me or because of what I could do,  but DESPITE me and irregardless to what I did.

Now,  I’ll admit…I do find myself drinking out of a mason jar from time to time, and I’ll even “pour a sip out for the brothers that ain’t here”,  and let me tell ya…………it’s some of the BEST iced tea I’ve ever tasted.

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2014 in children, fatherhood, parenting, Uncategorized

 

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The Wind Whisperer

This post is Fat Ethan approved!

This post is Fat Ethan approved!

By now, you guys know that I have a tendency to go way back just to bring you up to speed with the present.  So if you can just hold on with me for a little bit, I double dog promise to bring you back to what thisblog is all about.  Let’s go back to the summer of 1981.   I was about 10 years old.  I was a borderline barbarian,  so I could only play in the house for so long before I was  banished to the outdoors to continue my exploits.  But that was cool, because I loved to be outside anyway.  Outside, I could rip and run all I wanted.

I loved to imitate the superheroes that I would see on T.V., and that I saw in comic books. In my mind, I had the strength of the Hulk and the speed of the Flash…I could fly like Superman, and fight like Batman. I would run for what felt like hours in the North Carolina sun.  Whenever I got tired, I could lie in the yard and I’d regain super strength from the sun’s  rays like Superman.  And I used the plums that fell from the plum tree in my mama’s yard as “power pellets” for when my super speed started to wane.

I called myself The Agility Ability (Don’t laugh.  I was like ten, and rhyming was cool to me!) and I had an uncanny power to escape any trap. I would leap from ditch bank to ditch bank, dodging the gaping jaws of the piranhas that I KNEW lurked just beneath the murky depths of the ditchwater. I could run and jump and roll like nobody’s business.

My greatest pleasure in all that was much more obscure than one would think, though.   It wasn’t the actual jumping or running or rolling on the ground that gave me the most joy. No, it wasn’t any of those.   It was the sound of the wind as it rushed past me. It was my own private magic. The sound of the wind WHOOOSHING past my ears as I ran made me feel free…freer than anything ever.   When the wind whispered in my ears, I could be anywhere; doing anything.   I was an Olympic runner.  I was a Muhammed Ali training to fight.  I was a race car driver.  My adventures were as big as all outdoors, as grand as any movie and bigger than any comic book.  I wasn’t just another Black kid in the deep woods of North Carolina,  I was more than that.  I was much more.   I can’t even begin to tell you how important that magic was to me…how it helped me to survive the ugliness that the world would inevitably and tirelessly show me.

The wind could be explained away simply enough, sure.   I mean simple Science 101 explains wind and any Health and PE teacher worth his or her salt could explain the mechanics of hearing.   However, the simple, great gift of imagination made it so much more for me.

Then, one day, the wind stopped whispering in my ear.  I can’t really pinpoint exactly when it happened, but it just lost its magic.   It just simply stopped. It became wind and nothing more.  And suddenly, there was one less weapon of defense at my disposal.

Now, let’s fast forward to today.

You ever sit back and think about what it is you thought you would become when you grew up? I do. I look at where I am in life, and where I THOUGHT I would be when I turned this age, and I realize that there are miles between the two extremes. When there was still magic in the wind that swept past my ears, I knew I was destined for something great. I KNEW that I had the spark to accomplish anything that I wanted to….but that was when there was magic and before the wind became….well, wind.

Now that I’m older, I know the culprit that killed off the magic in the wind. I was allowed to stop believing in a lot of things, and I was permitted to settle for what was right in front of me as the end all, be all.  I can’t pinpoint the actual date on which the evildoer actually came and snatched away my ability to dream, but rest assured, he did it.   One day the ditches became just  dirty, stinking, filth filled ditches…no piranhas to bravely vault…just stagnant water with the occasional turtle or crawdaddy.  Suddenly, I was no longer a super hero, sucking power out of plum flavored power pellets, I was just a poor Black kid in the woods of NC, with a plum tree in his yard.   I stopped running, and jumping and flipping towards anything greater than what I saw. I said all of that, to say this:

Fathers, it’s important that you keep your daughters’ imaginations alive.

To this day, there are three questions that I guarantee that my daughters will answer a certain way:

Question one:  How do you call lightning bugs?
Answer: Biddi…Biddi…Biddi.

Question two:  When you were younger, where  did you think that cotton candy came from?
Answer: The dryer

Question three:  But if cotton candy came from the dryer, why wasn’t it sweet?
Answer :  Because it wasn’t processed yet.

Now, I know that they don’t still actually believe these things, but for a few moments in time, they did.  When they did, there was a great, awesome wonder in the belief that they had a magic in their voices that could call lightning bugs.  There was amazement in the “fact” that somehow, the dryer could magically manufacture cotton candy from old tee shirts and jeans (I tried to steer them away from thinking about cotton candy from UNDERWEAR, BTW.   DEEESCUSTING!)   I tried to keep the magic and mystery of the world fresh for them for as long as I could.   I knew what it was like to lose the magic, and I wanted them to savor its sweetness for as long as possible.  So, when we talked, there were little men in traffic lights that changed their color…and the sun was really the size of a quarter.  And everybody knew that helmets weren’t for riding  bikes, but for protecting your head when you jumped on the bed….you know….for when you jumped SOOOO high that you hit the ceiling…..MAGIC!

The wind stopped whispering to me long ago, but I will never forget the importance that it played for me.  Years later, God showed me that the magic never really LEFT me, but that my role within it had changed.   As I grew older, I went from being a wielder of it, to being a guardian of it….a bestower of it.   I was tasked with keeping it alive for my daughters;  to use it to keep  their starry eyed wonder in full bloom until one day, they would become the guardians of the “secrets” of the magic, and pass it on to their kids.

So there you have it…all in just a few pages, the importance of caring for your daughter’s imagination.  If it takes having a tea party with them…do it.  If it means  telling them that they are the best shoe tie-er upper in the entire world…do it. If it means that you have to spend your summer nights running around in the SC  heat with a  mason jar with holes poked in the lid and  filled with leaves screaming   “Biddi…Biddi…Biddi.” at the  top of your lungs…don’t think twice…just do it.

All that said, I have to admit, that sometimes, if the weather is juuuuusst right, and the road is empty enough, if I drive with the window down….I still imagine that I’m a race car driver…………

 

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Sometimes, The Words Work (pt. 1 of 2)

This emotions are still pretty raw for me, so I probably won’t get any “style points” for this post…but I think this may help someone one day, so I’m going to share it all with you…

It was march 24th, 2013 when the world smacked my family in the  face….and I was presented with some choices.

My brother Sidney died that day, and for a moment…well, quite a few moments, I started to doubt the meaning of everything….and for me, the world seemed just a bit  darker.

… leave it to my daughters to help me back to the light.

Now, first, I have to bring you up to speed on something.  Most of my writing here is about things that took place between me and my daughters years ago.  Some of the stuff  are things that they did when they were really young…Sometimes, like this one, they’ll be more recent.

I have always said that I might be a tad overprotective (okay, okay, so I’m a LOT overprotective) of my daughters, and so when Kiara (now 20) presented me with her request to attend the wake, I didn’t know how to respond.   o put it bluntly, I didn’t think she could handle it, so I was hesitant to let her go.  This was her very favorite uncle and he  had been her favorite from the first moment that they met.  Kiara is brash, excitable, WAAAAYYY melodramatic, and wears her heart on her sleeves just like him.  The two were kindred spirits, and it was obvious every time that they got together.  Thus, their nicknames for each other, “Old Man” and “Old Woman”.

So,  I told her that she shouldn’t go, that it would be too much for her, and that she should stay with my mother who couldn’t bear the thought of going through the pain of seeing her son in a casket twice.  I could hear in Kiara’s voice that that wasn’t what she wanted, but  she didn’t argue it much.

“Okay, Dad.”

Later, when I took a moment to think, I realized that she might NEED that time to release some of her pain.  I decided that it was wrong of me to deny her the opportunity to say goodbye to this man that played such a special role in her life.

I picked her up and we were on our way back to the funeral home.  When we pulled into the parking lot, I looked at her and said, “Kee, you don’t have to do this.  This is going to be one of the toughest things we’ve ever had to do.  I understand if you can’t do it.  If you want to change your mind now, that’s cool.  You can stay out here in the car for a while.  I can get someone to take you home in a little while, but I need to stay until it’s done.”

“I’m okay, Dad.  I want to go in.”  We did.  I took a seat at the back next to one of my aunts and let Kee find her own place in the room.

She  went in and took a seat near the middle of the room with some of her cousins.  Eventually, they worked their way to the casket.  I stood watch, guarding her silently from the back of the room; waiting for the slightest trigger that would send me running up to her to throw my arms around her and protect her from the pain of the moment.  It never came.  She surprised me.  She was  stronger than I ever hoped she would be.  I remember thinking at that moment, “She’s gonna be a strong lil’ woman one day.”,  and with that thought..I got a glimpse of that old light again.

An hour or so later, as things at the wake began to wind down, she looked at me and said, “Dad, if you speak at the funeral, make sure to make people laugh.  Don’t say anything to make them cry.”    Right then and there, I knew what I had to do….even if I didn’t know exactly HOW I would do it.

I’m not really a plan ahead sort of guy so, the next day, during the service, I started to scribble my thoughts on my copy of the program….

Photo 1

When the time came, I rose from my seat, and began to walk to the front of the church, where my big brother’s body rested.  As I walked, I  simply let the words start to climb out on their own.

“Praise the Lord Church.” I said; silently asking Him to give me the strength just to keep my voice steady.     I continued.  ” Now, I could lie to y’all and say that there was no snotting up of shirts, no tears, no bawling and no questioning of things…but I’d be lying to ya…I COULD lie, but I’m not going to.  The truth is that there was a lot of all of that going on over the last few days..but last night at EXACTLY 8:02,  God spoke to me and said “You are a warrior and a man of God, now act like you know what’s up….”  (God speaks to me simply, ‘cuz I’m a simple guy.)  So right then and there, I decided that I was going to stop honoring the death of my brother with my tears and start to honor  his life..”  I reached up to grab the pair of shades that I had on to hide my red eyes, and pulled  them off my face…”So, I don’t think I’ll need these anymore”,  I said…throwing them over at the feet of one of the musicians.

I went on to talk about how my brother’s three favorite things were family, friends and fishing.  I tied his love of family into a story about how he loved to play Scrabble EVERY single time we came to the house.  Even though he KNEW he had no chance against my superior arsenal (LOL) , he would always ask me to play.  For him, it wasn’t about the actual playing though…it was about the time SPENT playing.  All that was cool, but I had stopped playing with him about a year ago.  I felt I needed to share that with everyone, so  I called forth every bit of the eloquence  and grace of speech for which I am well known and delivered my explanation as to why I stopped.

“You know…I stopped playing Scrabble with him about a year ago.  You know WHY I stopped playing with him? ”  I paused to look around to see if I had their attention, cause it was time to try to get some laughs.  Raising my voice a bit, I continued.  ” Because he CHEATED!  That dude made up more words than Jesse Jackson at a political rally!”

(I heard some laughs….a lot of them…….Got ’em!!!!!)

I ranted and raved a bit more about everything about our heated discussions about which was the better branch of the military, the Air Force, or the Army, (The AIR FORCE,  of COURSE) to how I was better than him at fishing ( I wasn’t, btw  but that was another discussion that we always had.)

As I was speaking, I looked out across all the faces that had gathered in memory of my brother.  I actually saw more  smiles, than tears.  I looked over to my mother.  A couple of times, I saw a small smile on her face…not huge smiles, but there were smiles.   I had done exactly what I had set out to do.  I made people laugh and not cry.  Kiara showed me the importance of that.

I ended my talk with a salute to my brother.  I turned to his casket, popped a firm Air Force quality salute and said one last thing to him :  “At ease soldier…at ease.”  My  voice cracked just a little at the last word, but it had lasted just long enough.

Now, I COULD lie to ya’ll and say that I haven’t snotted up a few shirt sleeves, bawled til my eyes got red and wondered about God’s plans since the funeral, but I ain’t gonna lie to ya…I COULD…but I’m not going to.”  But at least now, I know what’s up.  

Thanks for allowing me to share this  with you guys.

(I’ll tell you about the strength I got from Tee in part 2)

 

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