Isn’t it interesting that I say “dad” when I never called you that while you were alive? It actually jarred me the first time MY son called me “dad.”
On your special day, here are some other things I never got around to telling you.
I guess if we had lived in the same house, maybe the dad thing would have worked. But until I was nearly 11, you always lived near me but not with me. And I never lived with my mother, although she lived nearby. I never told you that the arrangement was kind of tough.
As I learned more about you, I understood why sometimes you were tough on me. You were adopted — not through legal means — and you never really had an at-home dad as far as I know. You had to struggle to survive, and you may never have been on the receiving end of an “I love you.” I know that as a little boy, you once shined shoes to make a living. Do you know that I took your old shoe-shine box and tried to ply that trade? I quit after one day.
I enjoyed the time you were my Little League coach. You were toughest on me, and I accepted that, even the day you yanked me from the mound in a playoff game and sent me home right there on the field. I was devastated, but I knew I had committed a cardinal sin: I had talked back to you after you told me to do something.
You know, I felt so sad for you, but I kept silent when you and I were at the Port Allen sno-ball stand and the clerk said, “We don’t serve Negroes.” I saw how hurt you were to be belittled by someone not much older than me, and you were a military veteran, to boot.
My quietness then was much like we always were. You and I loved each other, but we never exhibited it or said it. We didn’t hug or say, “I love you.” I guess you see that my family says it and hugs. I like the way my grandson finishes our phone conversations: “I love you, too, Pop.”
I know I made you proud when I played high school sports and went on to be a pretty good reporter at the local newspaper. Those things meant that I had tried my best, and that’s what you stressed in everything I did.
When I moved into adulthood, you and I talked, but I was hell-bent on being my own man. So I didn’t consult with you on big decisions. I paid the price a couple times, but I would never tell you that.
I did like it when you and I were partners in spades and bid whist games. We were a feared duo. But I knew most times, your were carrying me. I didn’t care because I was happy we were a team, and that meant a lot to me.
As your health began to deteriorate, I tried to imagine my life without you. How you dealt with setbacks — some of it your own doing (LOL) — had made such an impression on me and helped me decide how I would raise my children, especially my son. I remember when the doctor said your leg would be amputated. I know that was one of the worst things you could hear, but you handled it with such grace.
I remember the last few days I had with you, when the doctors had concluded that machines were keeping you alive. You were scary small. I didn’t want to do it. But you saved me on that a couple years earlier when you wrote a note, and had it notarized, that you did not want to live if machines were artificially keeping you here.
I hope you’ve told the angels how splendid our last minutes here were. Remember how I held you in my arms, and with several of our family members standing by your bedside, I whispered, “I love you.” You must have heard me because I felt you say it back just before you quietly left us.
Tell everyone I said hi. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.
Edward Pratt, a former Advocate editor, is assistant to the chancellor for media relations at Southern University. His email address is email@example.com.