It used to bother me that my Dad wasn't like other Dads. When I would meet my friends fathers, there Dads were playful, fun and charasmatic, but my Dad (the preacher) was stoic and walked around with a bible, even at work his coworkers called him "Rev". He refused to let us date, have company, listen to music, go to parties or anything "secular" and oft times I hated the way he treated us. I would pray and ask God to change him, make him like other fathers and to make me proud to talk about him. As I began to get older, my inquisitive side began to take over and I started asking him direct questions I knew he couldn't back out of. Surely there had to be a reason he was like this and I wanted to know, I needed to know. The more I probed, the more I found out things about him that shaped my opinion.
My Father and his two siblings were given up to foster care as children. My dad was the oldest and aged out of foster homes much earlier than he had hoped for. He had to find his way, often times in what felt like a constant state of darkness. He met my mother at a young age and became a father much sooner than he wanted. He screwed up. A lot and often. And most of the time, those screw ups involved US. Most of those mistakes haunt him and all of his children to this very day.
Recently I spoke to my dad about raising seven (7) children with an iron fist and the choices he and my mother made and what changes (if any) he would make if he could. He took a deep breath before he replied and said...
"At times I feel like I failed every one of you, including your mother. I didn't always make the best decisions. Sometimes I let my anger, my baggage, lead me and I never felt you, as my children, deserved an explanation for my actions and reactions. I didn't begin to let God lead my relationship with you all until you were grown and by that time it was too late for explanations and excuses. I should have eased up a little, I should have made better choices but I was young and I was lost at times myself. It became the blind leading the blind and I should have let God lead me, so I could better lead my family. I wasn't the father I could have been to you when you were a child but now I am a better man and can be a better father now."
His words sat with me. Everything he said filtered through me and I interpreted what he was saying and have begun to apply it to my relationships with my children, my siblings, my family and people I meet. You have ONE life. You will most definitely make mistakes in your life and you won't always make the best decisions for your children but if you step away from the guilt of your past and design your present and future to be inclusive of your own personal struggles, you can learn to be apologetic and work on a better relationship with the people you love today.
I am proud of my Dad today. His story is a lesson of hope for me. I govern my home and my relationship with my children very differently and I am not afraid to admit when I am wrong and sometimes when I open my mouth, my parents come out. Through his mistakes he taught me things and although I don't say it much, I am thankful for him.
Monday, February 25, 2013
Recently I lost a college friend who was the 3 Cs, caring, charasmatic and constant. I wrote the following poem at her funeral. There is no dying, only living! Even in her death, she lives. We will miss her.
Death has not won.
There will come a day when the ease of losing her won’t be as difficult to take.
There will come a moment when we will hold an image of her and our hands won’t shake,
but for now...I am here to say, Death has not won.
Today our hearts are heavy, our spirits are wounded and it feels like people are constantly slipping through our fingers. And as the emptiness lingers and we remember Sonya,
I am here to say, that Death has not won.
There will be pain before there is complete peace and the feelings of what if and what now won’t cease and we will often ask God why, why her, why now and HOW could you let this happen, but in our anger we must remember that death has not had a victory here. God’s complete love has wrapped around Sonya and she has transitioned into a place where death dare not celebrate. I want to set the record straight, Death….you have not won.
Even in our suffering we rejoice in having have known her, having loved her, having worshipped or worked with her and eventually the phones will stop ringing, and it will sound like the birds have stopped singing and the tears won’t stop streaming, but remember that when Sonya left this place, that death did not, will not, won’t ever, win.
We Love You Sonya.
Monday, February 4, 2013
I was 21 when I had my first child. I didn’t like to admit I was young, single and a statistic back when she was a baby and I was ashamed for most of my 20s of what people thought about me. I never wanted to be that girl, raising that baby, that way, so I walked with my head hung low very fast until life taught me a valuable lesson, walk proud and purposefully. The only thing I was guilty of back then, was loving the wrong guy. Even though I was pregnant young and raising a baby on my own, I knew I had to continue my dreams so that she could have dynamic dreams of her own. I raised her with the assistance of some really GREAT girlfriends that took turns watching her while I went to class and worked a full time job. I couldn’t have done such a great job or completed my degrees without them, but I knew I didn’t want her to have the same difficult task as I did.
It dawned on me today that baby, my baby is 18 and in several months is headed to a University very soon. For the majority of her life, I have prepared her for this phase of her life, but it frightens me immensely. After all, it still feels like yesterday that someone let my hand go to let me walk on my own., even if sometimes the walk was brisk, cold and relentless. I recognize she is about to walk out into the world, but I don’t feel like letting her hands go just yet. I would rather hold her by her fingertips, so I still have a little grip in case she falls (or fails). What dawned on me is that some statistics are not all bad. There are good statistics. There are statistics that people shake their heads in disgust at in the beginning and by the end, they are applauding. What I know for sure is that it takes a village to raise a child and as my baby leaves her village, I hope that she is among nobility. After all, I think I (with the assistance of the people in my village) did a great job so far. I love you baby girl! Make us proud.
Look how much she has grown….
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
What I learned over the past few days is that no one and nothing can change what is deeply rooted inside of a person, but it is life and experiences that either support or contradict a person’s testimony. As my friend stands in the gap today for her ailing mother that is in critical condition, she is reflecting on her mother’s life testimony. It is only with deep remorse of losing my own mother that I understand every challenge and every obstacle and although the pain is deep at times, there are memories of happier times that will hold her. Life sometimes has a way of making you come into your own understanding in ways that some might find unimaginable, but what I learn every day is we are all significant. We are all remarkable and key contributors to an amazing existence.
To my friend Amyr, be great! Your mother is proud of you.
Thursday, December 6, 2012
This is dedicated to everyone that has lost someone.
When I die, I want to die with the whisper of God in my ear calling me home, not surrounded by chaos or commotion. I want to be surrounded by my loved ones holding my hands, making me giggle, fixing my hair and reminding me that they are not sure how bright their tomorrow will be if they lose me today. When I die, I want to leave a testimony so grand and a legacy so significant that endowments will be started in my name. I want books to be written from my words and plagiarism to happen based on my poems.
When I die, I don’t want to die at the hands of another person or even my own; I want to drift off to sleep as my last breath carries me into the afterlife. I don’t want to die tragically. I don’t want to die anonymously. I don’t want to die without saying my fond farewells, giving my children my plans for their futures or my sweet potato pie recipe. When I die, I want to go with a smile on my face and a thank you on my lips to the people who helped shape my life. I don’t want to die without one last prayer and one last communion.
When I die, I want to be remembered for who I have always been…Me. When I die, I want my eulogy to be filled with funny anecdotes about how much I loved coffee or the impacts I have made, not the horror of the facts surrounding my death. When I die, I want you all to know that we must continue to be kind to each other and be what God has intended us to be. I don’t want you to spend your forever closing the gap between the current you and the intended you, but speak out against the people that are doing you harm, standup for those that can’t stand on their own, love the people that God purposely gave you and make your mark on this world TODAY. You may not die today, so it is your vow to live without hesitation and with motivations of complete freedom. Don’t allow the “shoulds,” and” musts,” and “oughts” to hinder you. When I die, I WILL be remembered. Will you?
Friday, July 13, 2012
Growing up a Northerner, I heard horror stories about living in the South. In history classes, we heard about slavery, lynchings, segregation and Jim Crow laws; so upon moving to Atlanta, I had a very negative depiction of how I would positively raise my family in a city known for its discrimination. The desegregation of Atlanta happened in recent stages: buses and trolley cars in 1959, the first restaurant in 1961, theaters in 1962 and public schools not until 1961-1973 (I was born in 1972 and in New Jersey, we had been desegregated for ages). When I moved here, much to my surprise, I fell in love with the cities, eclectic people, Queen Anne architecture near Inman Park, the large buildings downtown and bustling nightlife. We quickly settled for the suburbs North of Atlanta.
Then something unexpected started happening. My children began to grow up, not experiencing racism like I read about or experienced. What Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about in his 17-minute I Have A Dream speech began to unfold in front of my eyes and in the lives of my children. They became part of a whole and I began to breathe a little easier in our Southern middle class suburb. Recently, we took a trip to Auburn Avenue and I watched as my children were awe-inspired by the sights of Ebenezer Baptist Church, the eternal flame, the final resting place of Dr. and Mrs. Martin Luther King Jr. and the like. My children smiled as they recalled that history once stood right where they were standing. There was a bustling existence that once took in the same sky only 50 years prior and they were proud. I am not sure what the future holds for them, but I can only hope that "…one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
I watched the face of my youngest as she read what Dr. King said and she was impacted positively. We have a long way to go, but in some of our communities, we are making a difference. I know we are making a difference in mine.
Monday, June 25, 2012
Recently I tried to explain to my youngest child what it feels like to have your heart broken. She asked, “Does it bleed?”, “Can the Doctor make it feel better?”, “Does it hurt when it breaks?” and I hesitantly replied with “No. No. Hopefully not too bad.” And then I realized as much as I want to, I will not be able to shield my kids from hurt. I can kiss boo-boo’s, get rid of the boogie man in the closet and place band-aids on non-existent cuts, but what I can’t do is protect them from when someone or something breaks their hearts.
It dawned on me that on their journey through this life, there will be love and love lost. There will be ups and subsequent downs and all I can do is talk them through how to deal with the hurt. When I was hurting, my journal became my best friend and I spent many nights eating my way through a carton of Blue Bell Vanilla Bean ice cream. The ice cream worked its delivish magic on my waistline, but the journal helped me heal past all the ex-boyfriends, lost jobs, gained pounds and missteps. I gave my baby a hug and reassured her, that although her heart would never physically break (although it might feel like it has), I would always be there to hold her close, share her favorite ice cream and remind her how beautiful she is.