To the man that taught Batman how to drive....
My dad turns sixty years old this weekend. Although I have made senior citizen jokes for the past five years, I am aware he is not old. But I mean, if I was 55+ I would be trying to take advantage of that discount at the movies and restaurants. And if we are being honest, there are times you have tried to pass someone off as a child so you didn't have to pay the full price!
But all jokes aside, my dad is a Black man from the Southside of Chicago. He is a Black man in America and he made it to Sixty years of age with good health! And as I am writing this, I am reminded of the recent Black-ish episode about Pop who turns 65 and they joke he is the oldest Black man in America. Let's face it, to be a Black male with no prison or arrest record in America is something the media would like to tell you doesn't exist, but we know it does. Oh, and I forgot to mention he is educated and employed.
Honestly, I shouldn't have to write qualifiers to why my father deserves to be praised--but, alas here we are.
I know I have written post that highlighted the not so pretty moments in our relationship; however, I am aware that in the grand scheme of things there are more good than bad. I love my dad. And as we transition into the new phase of our relationship where I am the youngest but still an adult, I find myself reflecting back on the things he taught me.
For the sake of time (and space) I will tell you six things that my father taught me, whether implicitly or explicitly. One for every decade he has been allowed to grace this earth. Do not get me wrong, he has taught me way more than six things...so this is just a few.
1: How to find joy inside of pain, even when it doesn't make sense.
I have written about how my mom died when I was born and how that has affected me as I have grown up. However, I have never really addressed how that possibly could have made my father feel. Even in one of the darkest times of his life, he was able to name me Joy Melody. I am not trying to make this about me; but it must be said that things have could have gone a completely different turn. I have heard horror stories of parents resenting their children for less and knowing that my father was able to name me something happy even when he may not have been completely joyful, as well as loving me unconditionally my entire life has taught me that it is possible to find the good in things--even when it doesn't make sense.
2: You make time for what is important.
For a period of time, my father worked a job that had him working overnight. This meant that he was getting home only shortly before I was leaving for school every morning. But, my father would still sit at the kitchen table with me every morning. Sometimes he would be half sleep, but he was still present. He would make sure to ask how my day was. He would ask me about my school work and tests and even bad grades I had received; even though, at the time I really did not appreciate it looking back I wouldn't have it any other way. Even though he could not be physically present at all my extracurricular events during that time, he made it point to allow me to chat his ear off in the morning so I could give him a play-by-play recap.
3: Why play checkers, when you can play chess?
Literally, he taught me how to play chess. I am actually convinced this is why I do not know how to play Spades because I was trying to master Chess. He was always trying to teach me ways to use critical thinking every chance I got. So, we would sit at the kitchen table and play chess on Saturday mornings. Not only during these times would I get to learn how to play chess, I would get to hang out with my father. I got to share in something that he loved. He would tell me stories of how he got into chess and other things he enjoyed. He even gave me a book on how to play chess, and he doesn't know this but I finished the entire thing. Granted, I forgot it all now but I still read it!
4: Conversations are important--even difficult ones.
People think I like to talk a lot, but honestly, I can say I inherited that from my father. Every Sunday after church, whether at a restaurant or at home, we would spend hours having conversations. He wanted to teach me and my sisters how to communicate with each other and him. Now that I am older, I understand that this was something that wasn't really encouraged when he was growing up because it was a different time. He also taught us on how to have a disagreement in an educated way. He had some foresight with that one because that seems impossible in the Trump era.
5: If you do not know it, don't ask someone for the answer. Look it up for yourself.
I remember vividly the time before the 2008 election. I was not old enough to vote, but I was old enough to be surrounded by kids who had "opinions." I remember asking my father about the candidates one day when he was watching the news. Instead of him telling me about them, which would have some biases, he told me to go to the computer and look up the platforms of each party and each candidate for myself. He said he wanted me to have my own thoughts and not just repeat what he or anyone else thought. I guess you could say that is why I am a researcher now. He has always pushed me to not only formulate my own opinion but have it based upon facts.
and last but not least
6: Never take yourself too seriously
My dad and uncle used to tell my sisters, cousins, and myself that they trained all the superheroes to drive and that is why they always were speeding. My dad used to call me "The Tooth" because I loved to eat so much as a kid. My dad use to dance around (by dance I mean "dad dance") to Earth, Wind, & Fire, Stevie Wonder, and other greats. My dad also tells really corny jokes but will laugh uncontrollably at them and be the only one laughing. And when we don't laugh, he will tell us to "lighten up!" Basically, my dad is just an all around funny, lighthearted, genuine guy. And in today's society that is something that is necessary for survival. I know that sometimes I am uptight or stressed and do not want to interact with anyone but my dog, and it makes me think about all the times my father may have been stressed from work and just life in general and he tried his hardest to not let me see that. Corny jokes and all, my dad taught me that you cannot go through life with a stick up your you-know-what and live a long life.
I know I am bias, but my dad is basically the best dad in the entire world (fight me if you want to). And I am so happy and blessed to say that I had and still have my father in my life. Happy birthday dad! I hope year 6-0 is the best one yet!
Your favorite youngest daughter