My dad passed on April 21st of this year after a four month illness following a stroke that happened days after a triple bypass operation a few days after Christmas.
To say the last year was challenging would be an understatement but I’ve learned so much, gotten so much stronger, smarter and ready for the world.
I’ve passed the initial grief and trust me, I still have sad moments and think of “The Old Man” daily but more than anything I’m grateful he and I had 38 years together and during this week of thanks, I’m just humbled to have had such a strong, streetwise and smart black man to prepare me for life.
Yes I miss him terribly in the physical sense, though we lived 300 miles apart for the last 15 years, we spoke on the phone weekly, visited quarterly and even mailed each other car and BBQ related material.
I thank him for teaching me the art of friendship. There were no better friend than my dad, from his friendships with so many people, I learned how to be a friend and every relationship starts with friendship.
I thank him for the example of being independent, to be your own man (sometimes so challenging for us men of color), make your own decisions (especially when its not popular), and striking out on your own into the unknown.
I thank him for a duty to service, he was a proud Navy man and though I didn’t follow him into the military, he supported me in scouting (he was a scout himself), and was a big reason how I achieved the top rank of Eagle. I did a Christmas clothing drive (as my Eagle project), though I did the collecting and planning alone, he assisted with storing the clothes in the garage and helping transporting them when I made the next step of getting the clothes to Catholic Charities.
I thank him for challenging me to do my best, no matter the task, challenge or obstacle. He stressed not to let anything get in my way of a job well done, not color, size, nothing. He pushed me hard at times but to this day I’m still trying to make the old man proud.
I thank him for a love of motorsports, I was never able to take him to a NASCAR or NHRA drag racing event but he shared his drag racing past (the old US 30 in Hobart, Indiana and we spent countless hours watching racing on TV and at the old Raceway Park in Calumet Park. I was at Chicagoland Speedway in the pits this past September and with the sun shining down on me, could not stop thinking him.
I thank him for a love of the outdoors, though that rickety camper on the back of his 1979 GMC pickup was at times the tin can from hell, he made me embrace being outside and enjoying nature. Man we fished up until the end and my brother and I still fish and have plenty of equipment to this day. And I have the old man’s tackle box in my garage, I can’t wait to pass this love on to my forthcoming child.
I thank him for a respect of women, especially my mother and my wife. I know how hard he worked for my mother and in our conversations he would always ask about my wife. I will never forget that.
I thank for him for a love of BBQ, grilling and smoking. Our conversations in good weather always started with what we cooking outside, I use so many of his techniques and I have his prized 50 year old Weber grill and it still cooks like it did when I was a kid.
I thank him for accepting me, I know I frustrated him sometimes that I didn’t follow in his footsteps in many ways but he supported what I was doing anyway.
And I thank him for his time, man those 38 years went fast but I will squeeze every drop out of them to preserve his legacy and continue to make him proud.
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