Fathers…

 

On this day, I choose to remember Fathers. There is a myriad of comments and memories of Fathers, both good and bad, depending on who you ask and what time of day it is.

 

Many of us are called “Dad” or “Father” or some variation thereof. Others have the distinction of being called “Pop” or “Poppy.” I tend to be among the latter group, but this story is not necessarily about me. It is about my selective memories of him.

 

I never really knew my birth father but there was a man that in time I would choose to call Father. He inspired me, he guided me and influenced me in so many ways that I cannot recall all of them.

 

He was the first entrepreneur that I ever encountered! He had a potato chip franchise with Frito Lay and he regularly “conscripted” me to join him as he sold its products to delis, supermarkets, and bodegas throughout New York City. I learned how to greet people with a smile and a gesture of friendship. Whether it was “Que pasa, amigo” or “As salaamu aleikum” or “Shalom” these salutations all came from observations of him interacting with people in the quest to transact business and later influenced me in how I would choose to deal with people.

 

There was that extremely noteworthy spanking or “whupping” that he administered.  It deterred me from a future life of crime and directed me to pursue academic excellence at such places as Brooklyn Technical High School, Cornell University and Columbia University Graduate School of Business.

 

My introduction to the martial arts at Jerome Mackey’s Judo Inc. was largely due to his assistance. This served as the seed which would begin to cultivate my interest in Tai Chi Chuan, Kung Fu, and Kendo.

 

He gave me my first car, that 1967 red Pontiac Firebird Convertible with the rebuilt, 383 cubic inch Bonneville engine. I vividly remember cruising up to Cornell on route 79, convertible top down, listening to the Delfonics playing in my cassette deck and me trying to sing in a falsetto voice. I have yet to see a 1970s nostalgia movie portraying a scene such as this but I remain hopeful…

67 Firebird

My interest in pursuing good dietary habits stemmed for an early reading of “How to Eat to Live,” by Elijah Muhammad. My father was not Muslim but he was knowledgable regarding how to live a good life, music, classical and jazz, health and the history of slavery and how it altered our African cultural traditions. Truly, he was his own man as I continually strive to be…

 

Finally, there was the dreaded stroke which subsequently took his life. I was on a business-related ski trip to Vermont when I received a call regarding his condition. I rushed to Brooklyn, New York as fast as humanly possible in the midst of an enduring New England snowstorm.

 

There was nothing that I could do. He just laid there peacefully on life support while those of us present debated whether to disconnect the machine. He had trained me to make decisions when others may falter. In the midst of our moment of indecisiveness, he just drifted off with no help from any of us present…

 

This man will forever be remembered by me and he is forever in my prayers! He gave a song that I used to like so much more significance, Leon Thomas’ rendition of “Song for My Father.”

 

Leon Thomas: Song for My Father – Lyrics1

If there was ever a man
Who was generous, gracious and good
That was my dad
The man
A human being so true
He could live like a king
‘Cause he knew
The real pleasure in life
To be devoted to
And always stand by me
So I’d be unafraid and free
If there was ever a man
Who was generous, gracious and good
That was my dad
The man
A human being so true
He could live like a king
‘Cause he knew
The real pleasure in life
To be devoted to
And always stand by me
So I’d be unafraid and free
If there was ever a man
Who was generous, gracious and good
That was my dad
The man, The man
1http://www.allworldlyrics.com/2017/testi-canzoni/leon-thomas-song-for-my-father/

 

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