Thanksgiving is only two days away. I’m looking forward to spending some time to relax, eat some delicious meals, watch some football, and enjoy quality time with my loved ones. I’m not sure what time I’ll be crossing the Walt Whitman Bridge to head over to Philly but the first person I plan to see is my father. I saw Dad almost ten days ago at Philly’s Men Are Cookin’, an annual cooking event hosted by the Ivy Legacy Foundation where he has participated since its inception for the past 23 years. Almost every year Dad prepares his famous collard greens that he serves with either turkey or pork. I’ve participated in the event on a few times, but this is more Dad’s thing than mine since my stepmother and Dad’s wife Betty is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Rho Theta Omega chapter. They are quite delicious and I have to give Dad credit where its due because my father can throw down and prepare some slammin’ collard greens.
I try my best to come out and support Dad at Philly’s Men Are Cookin’ if my schedule permits, and I was glad to be able to do so this year. At the end of the night prior to the Ivy Legacy Foundation giving out their awards for that evening, Dad was acknowledged by the committee for his participation in Philly’s Men Are Cookin’ for 23 years. I was so proud to see him get that recognition even though he attempted to get me to go onstage since I’m his namesake, but this was his moment. Had the Ivy Legacy Foundation not give Dad that special acknowledgement, I was still proud of my father not only for his dedication, but also for being my parent and a significant, positive influence in my life. I took some pictures that evening, posting them on Instagram and Facebook. There was one I referred to as Dad and his twin since I do resemble him.
As I’m sitting here composing these words, I’m thinking about the impact that Dad has had upon me. He wasn’t the perfect father, and I don’t think one exists, despite the images I saw in my early childhood and adolescence on television sitcoms that aired in the 1970s and the 1980s. Dad was my father. He was a provider, a supporter, and an encourager who always wanted the best for his children. Sometimes he had his moments, but then again so did I (another story perhaps for another time) and nobody’s perfect. It feels great to reminisce about how Dad has contributed to my overall growth and development as a man, an artist, and a writer.
Art. Outside of my immediate family, not too many people know that Dad can draw. I remember my paternal grandmother sharing with me during my childhood some sketches that Dad drew from the Walt Disney movie The Lady and the Tramp when he was a teenager. I also share that same ability because I enjoyed sketching comic book characters when I was a child. Dad would bring home comic books he purchased for me at Robbin’s Bookstore on 13th Street near the corner of Sansom Street, and I would draw my heart’s content. At one point, I wanted to be a comic book artist, but that was a gift I never felt comfortable sharing with the rest of the world unlike my writing.
Writing. When I visited Dad on the weekends after my biological parents separated and divorced in 1981, I would always ask Dad if I could have a pencil and a yellow pad to write. He always supplied my request, allowing me to write down my ideas and whatever thoughts came across my pre-adolescent mind. I found contentment just sitting there writing. In my early adulthood when I decided I wanted to be an author, I told Dad I wanted to write mysteries. Dad supplied me with every mystery book he read or went out to purchase on the subject. When I first started reciting poetry, Dad and Betty would frequently attend some of my featured performances back in the late 1990s.
Star Wars. The intergalactic space opera that was a life-changing experience for a seven-year-old, introverted, uncoordinated, artistic child growing up in Southwest Philadelphia. Dad took me to see the original Star Wars back in 1977 and it gave the ability to dream and pursue my creativity despite the fact that it drove my mother and my second grade art teacher Mrs. Kendall up the wall with every project I made in art class had themes to the movie. He also took me to see The Empire Strikes Back in 1980 on several occasions, which really increased my aspirations to become the next George Lucas. I remembered spending that summer trying to write the next chapter in the Star Wars trilogy until I discovered the anime television show Star Blazers on television. There’s a part of me that wishes I actually wrote that sequel since I wasn’t 100% satisfied with Return of the Jedi (I don’t like Ewoks).
Chess. I discovered and learned how to play chess in the second grade. I was fascinated by the strategies involved with how to win the game using the different pieces to maneuver around the chessboard. I remember coming home from school that day sharing with Dad my excitement for the game. Unfortunately, our family at the time didn’t own a chess set; however, that didn’t stop my father from denying his son until he could purchase one. Dad took a checker board and every United States coin currency he had and crafted a chess set for us to play using pennies for pawns; nickels for rooks; dimes for knights; quarters for bishops; a fifty cent coin for the queen (Susan B. Anthony coins weren’t invented back in 1977); and a dollar coin for the king. As weird as it sounds, it worked as Dad and I played our first chess match.
Family. Dad has always served as the father figure to his younger siblings. His dedication and commitment to family has always impressed me, generously providing to his loved ones, including his children, nieces, nephews, cousins, grandchildren, and most recently his next door neighbor’s children who he adopted as his great-grandchildren. That’s something I’ve always admired about him even though I am not a father. I’ve recognized this trait in my brother Mike who carries that generational torch in his relationship with his daughters and my nieces Camilla and Kamiah. I also try my best (and it’s not easy as times) to dedicate and commit myself to the individuals who I consider my loved ones.
Men’s Health. Dad has always been my role model when it comes to taking care of one’s health and well-being. He was the first one that taught me how to shave at 13. He was also the one who gave me the birds-and-the-bees conversation at 15, but I already knew what I needed to know after taking Health in the 8th grade. Dad had an impact on the way I dress letting me read his copies of GQ when I was a teenager. In recent years, we’ve shared conversations about men’s health issues as we both are growing older as adults as we inquire about our health and reprimand each other when one doesn’t disclose to the other when they’re feeling ill.
Determination/Resiliency. Dad is one of the most determined and resilient human beings I know. Whenever my father focuses his efforts upon accomplishing a particular task, he will put in the time and effort to see that task completed. He never allows anything to stand in his way and will have no problem transforming the impossible into the possible. He educates himself on how to do home repairs to the best of his ability from plumbing to drywall to electrical work to minor automotive repair. I also inherited that same trait when it came to accomplishing my creative endeavors, especially writing my first novel One Love. This is something I plan to apply more often when it comes to my future creative endeavors.
Thanks, Dad, for the positive impact you’ve made into my life.