Jun 19, 2011 Ken Jackson Uncategorized
I lost my father 10 years ago, on June 8. It was close to Father’s Day, so for me Father’s Day is a reminder of how blessed I was to have a man as a father, since my biological dad died when I was 2 years old. While it’s been 10 years since his death, memories of his guidance and parenting, combined with my mother’s, are building blocks that I still stand on today at 54.
For some, Father’s Day has become “Baby Daddy” Day, which is Father’s Day without the commitment. I learned how to work at shoveling snow, taking out trash, doing odd jobs for elderly neighbors – all of this with the guidance of a man who got up and went to work at Crouse-Hinds every day for more than 38 years. He was my father.
I never realized how blessed I was, and how many boys never had that person to teach them about life and how to navigate around this nation, especially as a black man, until he was gone.
He told me about the Old South and how even looking at a white woman could get you lynched and how they weren’t free to go sit where they wanted at the movies. Economic opportunities were scarce and an education beyond the lower grades was difficult since many kids quit school to work.
When I was summarily dismissed years ago from a government job due to politics, he told me, “I didn’t have the chance to get an education, you got one don’t ever let anybody tell you how to use it.” Following his advice has gotten me in trouble but I learned “not to bow, don’t know how.”
So when I’m up against a situation that seems insurmountable I reflect on his life, the sacrifices he made for children that weren’t his, the lessons he left for me that rule my life to this day.
As children, he took us to the store and said, “buy your momma something nice.” It was our introduction to Mother’s Day.
If you were told do a task such as shovel the snow or take out the weekly trash, you knew you were in trouble since that was your responsibility every week. We learned how to be responsible, sometimes with the assistance of a firm hand.
As children, when we’d go with our mother to the doctor’s office, we’d quietly play. Once, an observing stranger asked how she kept us so well-behaved and my mother replied, “that’s what I expect of them.”
I was blessed to have two fathers, a biological one who made me possible and a second who taught me how to survive. To all of those men who sacrifice for children and family: happy Father’s Day.
To the others: happy Baby Daddy Day. There is a difference.
Ken Jackson is the editor of Urban CNY and a weekly columnist for The Eagle. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.