After launching this blog on Mother’s Day about my beloved mother, it’s only fitting that I do the same for my dear “ole” Dad on Father’s Day.
After my mother’s untimely death when I was eight, and my brother was ten, my father assumed the sole responsibility of raising us. With his faith in God as his rock and solid foundation, Dad set out to do the unimaginable: raise two young kids alone while grieving the sudden death of his forty-year-old wife.
Because of our tender ages, my brother and I didn’t fully understand everything that was happening. But what we knew for sure was this: our dad was the most dedicated, committed, hard-working and ever-present father every single day of our lives. After our mom died, Dad made sure our lives were as steady as possible; we remained in our home, continued to attend our elementary school and our church–as my mother would have wanted. Instead of moving back to his birthplace in Florida where the majority of our family resided, Dad stayed put, choosing stability and consistency for us.
Prior to my mother’s death, my father had been a hard charging, ambitious, outgoing and exceptionally smart and talented stand-out administrator in the Detroit Public Schools (DPS). Dad was on the fast-track to one day lead the school system and in fact was being mentored by the DPS superintendent.
Then, my mother passed away suddenly, and everything changed.
Dad chose to dial back his ambitions in order to be more available to us. And boy was he available! I mean every single day, every single occasion, every parent teacher conference, every game, every ceremony and every recital, literally everything. If it pertained to us, Dad was there. Back then, it cost 20 cents (whoa!) to use a pay phone, and he made sure we had change in our pockets at all times in case we ever needed to call him.
My brother and I really missed our mom, but our dad was such a steady, strong, loving, caring and fully-engaged presence we didn’t even know we were vulnerable. But as I look back now I realize that as the waves of grief were rising all around us Dad re-created the foundation of our lives. He built a sturdy bridge for us and then carried us across to the other side. At every opportunity he stretched himself, and made himself bigger in an attempt to cover whatever he thought we were missing. And in that bigness, we found a stable, reliable and comfortable place of love that my brother and I both still rely on even until this day.
My father has always given the best advice and guidance, but one particular situation stands out. I was working for a really tough boss who didn’t like me and made the experience almost unbearable. In tears and at my wit’s end, I called Dad one day during my lunch break. I spewed a long soliloquy about what had transpired. He calmly asked me if I was near a window. Huh? I was perplexed, and said so. He told me to go stand in front of a window. All I could think was: what does this have to do with what I just said? But Dad insisted that I go stand in front of a window, so I did. He told me to look out and tell him what I saw…A tree, cars, a street, people. I was getting a little impatient and said, “What’s the point?” The point, he explained, was that I hadn’t mentioned any of the things immediately in front of me, such as the curtains, windowpane, screen. Nothing. Instead I’d looked OUT of the window and focused on what was beyond it; I’d focused on the big picture. THE BIG PICTURE. Dad was encouraging me to re-frame the situation I was facing and instead focus on the big picture: the great work experience I was having and how it would help me get to the next point in my life. He urged me to not obsess about my boss, how he was packaged, how unfairly he treated me, or how I felt about him. He was pushing me to adopt big picture thinking.
Dad was right. I dried my tears, took a deep breath and went back to work (and life) with a new, and empowering outlook. I still draw on that advice to this day.
Reflecting on the excellent advice my dad gave me that day, I now realize that it must’ve been this outlook, an ability to focus on the big picture, that guided him as he raised us alone. I’m sure there were many many times that Dad had to look beyond what was in front of him; he had to project his view forward and upward, above the immensity of the task of raising us without his soulmate, my mother. But with God’s grace he did it. And over the years no matter what’s happened, I’m constantly reminded to focus on God’s big picture for my life, knowing that when I do, I can never fail.
Dad, today on Father’s Day (and everyday!) I applaud, salute, adore, respect and appreciate you for every single thing you did for us to make us the people we are today. God blessed us with an exceptional and amazing father; you’re truly one of a kind.
Your love is the big picture that’s kept us moving forward all these years. Your love propelled us beyond our circumstances; and because of you we made it! Thank you.
We love you.