Monday, September 26, 2022

Remembering my Father on This Day

Forty six  years ago, on this day, my father passed away. I loved my father. He was always the jovial man who made me laugh and would who take me on a ride with him on a whim. "Daughter, want to take a ride?" he'd ask. "Ok Daddy" I replied, and we were off! Sometimes it was a quick trek to Yutterman's supermarket where he would come back with a bag of vegetables purchased with only a couple of dollars in his pocket.  Other times it was a drive around town where he would slow down and stop for a quick chat with folks he saw along the way. That was how I learned who the men in our community were. They were all family men, and always on a Saturday morning they were outside in the yard doing something--cutting grass, working on a vehicle or playing catch with their own children. These were the men that I knew, that I saw, and they were the ones whom I admired.

Daddy was the one who introduced Oklahoma into our lives. Usually in the summer months, we would head west over the Arkansas River into Le Flore County Oklahoma, and he would always point out the grove of pecan trees to the left, in the river bottom, that he and another close childhood friend planted when they were young boys.

Proceeding westward on highway 64, we would pass the old highway marker declaring "Entering Indian Territory." He would then share stories about our great grandmother Sallie Walton, who was from the Choctaw Nation. I would stare out as we passed the fields of Alfalfa, wondering how the sweet great grandma Nannie, whom I loved was somehow connected to Indians in Oklahoma. He would then always point out that we were all part Choctaw, too.

Most people knew my dad, as he was a barber and had a popular barber shop on North Q street for many years. It was also next door to a popular establishment, "The Blue Goose", where many locals frequented during the weekends for their weekly "brew." My one memory of the barbershop was the big red colored barber chair, the strap hanging from the side where he would sharpen his blades for the close shaves, and the different smells from the bottles of bay rum aftershave. On Saturdays when my mom would drive by the barbershop, he would always come out and give her some wads of cash so that she could run some errands. A few time if he was not busy I would actually go inside and take one or two pennies to put into the small machine and get a handful of salted peanuts for a snack.

Sundays, meant church, of course, and after weekly mass at our small Catholic parish--St. John's, the family would take a drive through town, and as we saw other churches that were ending their services, Daddy would wave a hand at those whom he knew---of course he knew just about everyone, so it seemed to me. And the men who were in work clothes the day before, were now in their suits and ties, and were with their own families in tow. The families poured out of King Solomon Baptist, 9th Street Baptist and Mallalieu Methodist. We'd pass 1st Baptist where my grandmother and great grandmother attended, and friends on the south side attended St. James. As unique as our lives and the lives of worship that different families practiced, the one thing in common was the strength of the men who were the pastors, deacons, ushers, and leaders in their own small community of worship.

In our small Catholic parish, my dad was always one of the ushers who passed the baskets for collection during the  and who later counted the offerings with the parish priest, after mass at the rectory. He was among the men of the parish who formed the membership of the Holy Name Society---Mr. Webster, Mr. Greene, Mr. Gilyard, Mr. Page, Mr. Triplett, Mr. Nichols, Mr. Metzenheimer, Mr. Longley, Mr. Hardwick, Mr. Harris and more. At the annual school bazaar every fall, and there was my dad, always, in the kitchen acting as chef preparing quick orders for hot sandwiches and dishes for the annual parish event.

My father was a friendly man, always up for a good laugh, and he was a man with a good heart. His compassion for his friends was sincere and the bond that I was able to share with him was special. He had a close fondness for Mr. John Harris a quiet man who was rasing his daughter alone, and he would always give Mr. Harris a free haircut, because he respected him as an elder at St. John's.

As I grew older and began to read more literature and autobiographies I was surprised that he would ask what I was reading and expressed an interest in the books as well.  I learned that my fun Daddy, was also a thinker and also had a strong interest in what black writers were producing. One of the books that we shared in depth was "The Man Who Cried I Am" that we actually discussed together.

 One of the sweetest memories I have was when I used to play the organ in the summers for Sunday Mass. For most of my earlier years, Daddy never took communion, because of the Catholic Church issue with divorce. Before marrying my mother, he had a previous and brief marriage that did not last very long, and ended in divorce. Being divorced put him in a strange "no-communion" status with the Church.

However, he decided to address the issue, and apparently he had quietly gone through an official annulment process of the first marriage. And on one surprising Sunday, at communion time, when I joined the line for communion, he walked to the alter alongside me. He had waited as others passed in the line ahead of me as they approached the altar. He stood close by, and waited for me, so that he could walk with me.  He chose to walk to the altar with his daughter. I always remember that moment as such a sweet moment that we both shared.

There are so many more special "daddy-daughter" moments that we shared, and my only sadness is that his grandchilren never got to know him. What a joy he would have been in their lives. So, although there is a bit of sadness that this is the day that he died, I also feel the warmth that my memories of my dear father have left me. 

May he continue to rest peacefully, and may he occasionally visit me in my dreams and make me smile. I love you, Daddy.

Because of Her, We are Here!


Harriet Tubman Statue, Dorchester Maryland

Saturday Septemer 10th 2022 was a beautiful day in Dorchester Maryland. I had the opportunity to attend teh unveling of a statue of Harriet Tubman, whose image now graces the site of courthouse in the very county where she was enslaved.