Women have two problems with men. (I can almost hear a few ladies saying “only two?” with a smirk.) The two key issues are that, as men, we don’t talk and rarely listen. When we do talk it is all about us, and when we listen we have selective hearing. Well, this couldn’t be farther from truth in this next instance.
My father had to have surgery and I decided to fly up to Buffalo,New York to be with him. I won’t bore you with the details, but he made it through with flying colors. Thank goodness. On the day prior to his discharge, we were just sitting in the hospital room and all of a sudden my father starts talking to me.
It was way deeper than sports, weather, politics, or economy. Someone or something turned on a faucet inside of him and for the next three hours we had one of the most meaningful dialogues that I have ever experienced in my life. My Daddy did more than communicate, he connected with me. He looked me in the eyes and gave me an oral history of our family for the last 100 years.
Now, my Dad is a man’s man. I have never seen him break down, but he broke down twice while talking to me about leaving Jamaica to come to America at 19 years of age as a migrant worker picking oranges in Florida. Then he went to Perry,NY along with another migrant worker to pick up apples. You would think that I would know this history, but I didn’t. I’ve been working since I was 12 years old and really didn’t know my family. His talking to me filled in so many blanks in me attempting to understand why I have a free, cavalier, and often independent spirit. It’s because of him.
Some might say, perhaps you need to go and see a shrink. It’s all good. I am okay. This is one of those moments that caught this “A-type- control freak” personality of mine by surprise.
What so amazing about this is that for the last twenty-five years since leaving Buffalo,NY to carve out my own path, I have talked to my parents just about every Sunday evening, our conversations are short, sweet and non-emotional. I know for some that this might be TMI (Too Much Information), but I have been waiting for the last twenty-five years for my father to peel back the layers of his masculinity and for once be emotionally available. Is it a sign of weakness? Hardly, I believe it’s a sign of strength.
Those three hours of talking, listening, and sharing with my Pops left me speechless. I know you find that hard to believe. I just had to get up and walk around the hospital to clear my mind. In those three hours, he filled in so many blanks. He told me that when I was 7 years old I would say that I would write a book. He told me what he saw in me. He closed the loop in sharing what was in our family DNA. He told me that my Grandfather, his father, was a brilliant man with a sharp mind. I never met him. I wish I could’ve. A part of me has always sensed that there was a missing piece to my life’s puzzle.
He filled in the blanks and in an instant built a bridge from the past to the present. The most touching moment was on the ride from the hospital I sat in the back seat with my Dad. I was sitting reminiscing with arrows of emotions shooting through me wondering did my Daddy ever hold my hand when I was growing up. I am sure he did. Nevertheless this 40+ year old man reached over and grabbed my Daddy’s hand. I don’t know why I did. I could hear Luther Vandross singing in the symphony hall of my soul – Dance with my father.
For fifteen minutes on the ride home, I held my 70 year old father’s hand and I got it. It clicked. As a father of two incredible children, I realized the heavy sense of responsibility to help them uncover their purpose and identity.
When we arrived home, I made sure that my Pops was okay. He turned to me and said “Son, I am so glad that you came.” In that moment, my Dad hugged me with his words. WOW… I didn’t know that I needed to know that my visit really mattered to him. He then did what was most profound… my Daddy put his hand on my shoulder and closed his eyes and started talking to God. It was like he was a friend of God. He said “God, thank you for Simon, please watch over him and his family. Keep him in all of his ways.” My Daddy talked to God about me. As a result, I know everything is going to be just fine.
I stood frozen and leaned over this 5’7’’ 140lb giant of man and kissed him on his forehead. I said to myself, “That’s my Daddy. He doesn’t belong to anyone else. That’s my Daddy. That’s my friend.” I don’t know how much time my Dad has here on earth. But one thing is for sure, if he should depart Earth, I know beyond a shadow of doubt that he loves me. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to know, that I mattered to him and to hear his voice let me know that he loved me as well.