Note: This was originally posted on another platform back in August, my goal is to TRY and consolidate all of my work on one site from now on. Please note I said TRY lol. 🙂
This past Father’s Day was pretty rough for me. I found myself bombarded by posts from people with fathers and without active fathers, angry with their children’s fathers, exes, etc. I didn’t want to be one of those cynical assholes who wishes everyone would just shut up about their fathers who were still here…so I just opted to log off for the day.
I decided that would be the day I opened up some of my old emails from NKBJR@yahoo.com (my dad) and reflected on our interactions, his influence, etc. My dad and I were similar in the sense that we could text/email throughout the day but not require all the face to face interaction.
I got upset and couldn’t finish the messages. I opted to return to it this week. Today marks the 5th year of losing him. I’m looking at this and realizing I harassed him constantly. About everything and nothing…Sometimes discussing random topics in the news, post 9/11 family safety strategies (this was SERIOUS for him), sometimes to help me with things, other times because I’m in trouble for doing something stupid. Who knew then that I’d NEED these endless threads now?
Anyway, the beauty of technology is that it enhances the immortalization of our loved ones in an even more engaging manner than pictures and mementos. I observed how much I sought his approval with everything. Do you think I should do this? Do you think I should get this degree? Have you heard this song? Dad, which of these cars do you like? Have you read this? What does this mean? Can I get on your insurance again? Can I have some gas money? Please look at my new web site!, etc. There was a serious rush of nostalgia and I started to reflect on the many lessons I learned from him-directly and indirectly. It was insane reading these things with an analytical mind all these years later.
As the oldest of six, I’ve observed that we all have our different frames of influence with regard to our parents. For example, I was the guinea pig so the things I was taught and influenced by likely differ from most of my sibs. They started to figure it out as they had more kids LOL… Seriously, I met my parents in their early 20’s. I’m not who I was in my early 20’s at all anymore so I’m sure I’d have a shift in focus by the early 30’s or so. Just like my mom, my father had a very strong influence on who I am and how I carry myself (especially my high-maintenance/princess tendencies and the amount of shit I do not take from relationships-see, I’m self-aware). I see it more and more daily-and not just when I shout expletives around the house or avoid unnecessary interpersonal interaction.
So here’s the list…in no particular order.
2. Always leave a tip.
If you don’t, people will wonder who the hell raised you and I don’t need them looking at me.
3. Classic Rock is the greatest genre of music.
You don’t have to dance, you don’t have to talk-just enjoy it.
4. It’s okay to love your family but simply prefer to eat alone in front of the television.
5. You were born a woman. You were born a person of color. Okay so what? These things don’t have to be limitations.
You’re just as good as everyone else at your job. Probably better than most of them. Stop crying, figure out how to navigate it and then help somebody else, hell-get me a job there.
6. Baseball is a sport for intellectuals.
Anyone who tells you that it’s boring is not an intellectual.
7. On Dating (several things here) :
a. Having a boyfriend does not define you. You have a father and you have your own mind. You’re too damn smart to chase after boys. You honestly need to be studying. (I will NEVER forget this high school conversation)
b. Never cry over these damn boys. If you’re not happy, you leave.
c. A man should always pump your gas and he also should check your tires and oil before a long road trip. If he doesn’t do these things, he doesn’t value you.
d. Do NOT date a man who doesn’t know how to drive a stick shift.
e.Do not trust a lazy man-you know…the type of mf who cannot take care of himself. Definitely do not marry him. He will have plenty of women doing everything for him.
f. A man’s love is in his actions more than words.This isn’t something he actually, said-it’s something I observed in his behavior for years.
I don’t think I’ve actually heard my dad say “I love you” to anyone ever, but there was no question. None. He was so awkward about things like that. He’d say “y’all alright?” whether it was to one person or a group of us-but everyone knew it meant “I love you.” Weird, I know. Anytime something happened to me, the FIRST thing I’d yell, request, or cry (depending on the situation) was “Please call my father!” “Where is my father?” ” He will come get me!” And he was always there.
g. A husband should always ensure that his wife drives the nicest, newest vehicle in the house.
h. Most importantly, he MUST be a REDSKINS fan!
- If everyone in the room is an asshole, in every room you go to, chances are you are the asshole. It’s important to know that.
9. Everyone makes mistakes.
Most people will agree that my dad was the most forgiving and understanding person around. I could come to him with any fuck up and feel safe. I’d be disciplined but not judged-if that makes sense. He told me it’s okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them.
“If you own your mistakes, no one can throw them in your face.”
“The people who won’t let you forget your past almost always have their own shit that they aren’t dealing with. You don’t need them.”
10. Stop spending your money on things you can’t afford.
Unless it’s a car. Always get the car.
11. Please stop upsetting your mother.
I got this one a lot. Basically, I had to learn to choose my battles and stop taking every opportunity to prove I’m right or that I don’t agree…or that I could do something my own way. Sometimes, I just have to shut up. I was a shitty teenager.
12. Never EVER turn your back on those less fortunate than you.
Until he passed away, my father was always closely involved in the community and established many bonds with the children in his elementary schools. He cared about the DCPS children as much as he cared about us. He set a great example of how to stay connected to the community and help others when it matters-not just when there are cameras around. He was also generous as hell.
I remember a conversation we had one night-we were talking about how bad the situation had gotten in the DC Public School System, and I said “Well dad, why don’t you look at another school system like in Virginia or something?” He shouted “If I leave, WHO is going to care about these kids?!?!” I was so impressed with him in that moment. I remember thinking “Damn, I hope I care that much about my job someday…”
13. Who said you could stop going to school?
Get all the degrees you can. Do what the hell you want, but make sure you go to school. Do not conform to what society expects you to be or think. It never occurred to me that I should be average. I thank both of my parents for that.
14. Learn to drive a stick shift.
What the hell are you going to do if there’s an emergency and all you have available to drive is a stick shift? This was a legit concern…especially post-9/11.
15. Never let me catch you thinking you’re better than anybody.
You already know you’re smart and can do whatever you want. Now you have to be responsible with it.
16. No one is going to die just because you said a bad word.
This is probably why I have issues trusting people who don’t curse.
17. Engage every media outlet.
Only an idiot would limit himself to knowing what’s happening in his own world. You need to be exposed to everything around you. Believe me, it’s more going on than what YOU see.
18. Pay the goddamn parking tickets.
19. Go further than me.
This one was hard to type. My eyes are watering again. What I take from this five years later is that legacy is important to him. I’m doing my best. I know if he were here, he’d be Dr. Brooks now…likely advising me through my struggle. I think he’d be proud to have two Future Doctors so far.
20. All people are deserving of LOVE and forgiveness, no matter how they may disappoint you. That doesn’t define them. It doesn’t define the relationship…he never actually said that but I watched it in his actions with others-especially with me.
Intentionally or not, I have seen him be hurt, I have disappointed him, he has disappointed me. That’s life. What I take from these experiences is that it’s all a dance…a cycle. You don’t put people you love on pedestals, only to condemn them when they fall-you put yourself in their shoes and treat them with LOVE whether they’re up or down. I’m able to easily forgive for this reason.
My father sacrificed a lot to give me a great life and a clear understanding of what I want out of life. Even through his mistakes, there were lessons to glean-many lessons that he openly explained to me. He helped me understand when I needed to get my own shit together and not wallow in excuses and bullshit. I am eternally grateful to him for that. There isn’t much I can do to repay him for everything he gave me but I am constantly paying it forward by helping others, continuing my education, serving my community and living my life just the way I want to.
This hopefully has not painted a perfect picture of my father, that’s not my intention-and he certainly wouldn’t appreciate it. I just wanted to tell the world how much I love and appreciate his influence.
RIP Dad, I love you.
4 thoughts on “In the Spirit of 8/19… 20 Things I learned from My Father”
Danita–This is an excellent post on your blog. Your father was a very wise man!