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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2016: A year of change and adjustment for things to come…

2016 will definitely be a year to remember. Aside from the election of a new president (remember, God tests us…), this is the first full year that I have shared together with my wife since we were married in 2014 in Shenzhen, China.

I relocated to San Diego, California to escape the harsh winters of the northeast. I think I also brought some of the coldest (it recently registered 35 degrees F) and rainy weather the area has seen for quite some time! I found myself wondering: What happened to Global Warming?

Those cold nights and that rainy weather make up just a small portion of the climatic change for this New York City fellow. I like the fact that mosquitoes are virtually nonexistent. The air is relatively dry which is great for my asthma. It really can be Sunny Southern California!

The cost of living is a little lower. I can’t say enough good things about the quality of the foods. One minute I have a fetish for Fuji apples, the next, I’ve got a taste for sweet potatoes and macaroni and cheese. Oranges are everywhere. I have developed quite a cross-cultural palate and my wife has become quite versatile in accommodating it. Why drink bottled orange juice when you can have fresh squeezed everyday?

This first thing she purchased when she disembarked from the plane from China was a rice cooker. I had been “conditioned” in college during economics courses to think of rice as an inferior food and for a long while, leaned toward pasta dishes. Today, you will find me debating whether to use long grain Basmati rice for a particular dish or medium grain “sushi” or Japanese-type rice. It’s all good as long as I can mix it with some sweet potatoes! I recently learned how to scramble an egg with turkey sausages in the rice cooker. The egg was extra fluffy. I have regained the 20 odd pounds I lost during depression. My wife’s goal is to make me fat. I don’t think it is possible but I do enjoy eating again.

On a more serious note, I learned the importance of the people that God has placed in my life, throughout my life. At this point in time, I have outlived both of my parents. My body is still relatively strong. My mind, which was damaged by my stroke in 2009, continues to heal itself. Alhamdulillah!

My Mother died when I was 7 years old. Fortunately, God provided me which many surrogate mothers, from my Cub Scout Pack 198 Den Mother, Mrs. Brice to “Mrs. Mac.” I remember my best friend’s mother cleaning the wax from my ears with a bobby pin. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone, but no one will ever know the love I felt this woman over this gesture. Alhamdulillah! I have learned to love all mothers. It is written that, “Heaven lies at the feet of mothers.” This I truly believe.

I have helped produce three healthy, college educated children who check up on me regularly, “Hey, Pop! Just checkin’ in to see how you are doing…” When I was experiencing extreme depression, after my stroke and was considering the intrinsic value of my life. It was thoughts of them that restored my will to live. Alhamdulillah!

I have made and lost a fortune, and seek to make another, InshAllah (God willing)! When I had wealth I shared it and tried to make sure everyone around me benefited. I gave a party for my 50th birthday. One hundred and thirty people showed up representing all aspects of my life. Family members, friends, business associates, Kendo brothers and old college classmates attended. I saw my “history” in front of me, from the infant who started life on Cumberland Street in Brooklyn, from Wall Street to Westchester County, New York. From Brooklyn Technical High School to Cornell University to Columbia University Graduate School of Business. But I really wasn’t that happy… Allah-u-Alim (God knows…)

Today, I am grateful for everything that I have experienced. I am even grateful for  social media such as Facebook! It allows to keep to contact with family, friends and colleagues throughout the world, literally, from New York to Florida, from Georgia to San Francisco to Seattle, Washington to Hawaii. From Jakarta, Indonesia to Algeciras, Spain to Morocco, to Margarite, Venezuela from Tokyo, Osaka and Kochi, Japan, to Shenzhen, Huizhou, Guilin, Guanxi and Yangshuo China, my family gets larger and the Earth gets smaller… I can attest to the notion that, the World is Truly a Beautiful Place!

God really is our Nurturer and Sustainer! He is Most Forgiving. All He requires is Remembrance of Him.

My Lord, please help me to avoid that which is wrong, evil, immoral and dishonest
And keep me on the straight path.
My Lord, please help me to achieve my dreams and aspirations
And keep me on the straight path.
My Lord, please help me to stay in thy favor
And keep me on the straight path.

And Lord, please watch over me, my family and friends in the coming year.
Please give us all wisdom, better health, greater prosperity and peace of mind.
Amin!