Damn, this is going to be a tough one to write.
For one, we left my pops when I was eleven, and that is not to say that there was much there before that, as far as father son moments even are concerned. Otherwise, I guess there wouldn't have been the need to bounce. Pretty much, he was only there when someone had fucked up and needed an asswhoopin' but I don't particularly recall much beyond that now that I think back, other than learning to punt a football.
Complicating things, as far as Father's Days are concerned are near death experiences. So, bookending the whole not having much of a pops thing and damn near dying, I would be inclined to give the praise to my grandfathers on Father's Day.
Except one of them passed when I was 4 months old. While I am sure that his remaining may have had a positive change on my own dad and his approach to it, I am only able to offer that as an opinion and not a statement of fact, since I have no recollection of ANYTHING that happened while I was 4 months old.
My other grandfather, my moms' dad, on the other hand? I don't know where to start...
- The tonk games until 2-3am, gambling for money he gave us, only to teach us how to play while winning it back.
- Walking down the hall to find him in his den sitting at his desk fidgeting with his bigass calculator for nothing in particular.
- Walking down the same hall to find him sleeping with his head back in that chair while "watching" old westerns.
- Sitting silently as Granny would "buy him fathers day gifts" that were actually things she wanted.
- The fact that he talked to my brother and I like adults, even at the age of 8 or younger perhaps. I am of the opinion that these are the things that became the invaluable life lessons that my own pops just couldn't -- or wouldn't -- impart on us, perhaps due to a lack of applicable point of reference, but whatever.
In fact, that is what I will go in on now..
Sure, there was the jaded view of a veteran who came from an odd family situation and used it to make better for his. As elementary schoolers, we were not worldly-experienced enough to judge these things, so the lesson was received without the knowledge of such bias.
Cars, clothes and cooking... I can say with absolute conviction that I took those three things from him. He would go to a restaurant and lay a list of instructions on a waitress so extensive as it related to his steak that she would damn near have to bring out the cook who would eventually have to bow before his Obi Wan to their Skywalker... Of course, that was what he did professionally.
At the time, I never thought of the old man as much of a storyteller, as his anecdotes were never of the "I/me/we/my" variety, he would always start his stories -- usually over a glass of scotch and water -- with "listen, son..." and would go on to get directly to what he had to say, and it was usually applicable to the topic at hand, or would be readily and apparently so before you were allowed to talk, even if you just shut up out of respect.
Shortly after retiring, and just after my niece was born, he -- a diabetic -- had to have his right leg amputated below the knee, and in such became a lot less mobile than he had been in years before, so the chipping balls in the park was no more. Not so much needing to drink without the stresses of work, I don't recall that bar being stocked since, and Granny has been trying to give it to me for years now.
Even with the dearth of mobility on his part -- he had a prosthetic and a cane, but usually got around in a wheelchair when he had to go further than a walk around the neighborhood, more on that in a minute -- after my accident, he was in my hospital room early and often and I remember that fondly. It means a lot when someone who needs a wheelchair to get around can come see you in the hospital.
It was after this time that another good friend of mine just home from the Army at the time, Bobby, asked who he was because he used to sit on the bus stop and talk to him before work every day. I would explain to him who he was, then explain that the things that he was doing, being the quiet but personable stranger is what endeared him to all of us through the years. Not overbearing or forceful in his sharing of information, to the point of not even offering it up as "advice," moreso as "take it or leave it: information that you should be able to immediately see the value in if you'd open your ears and accept it. Bobby would always tell me after that when he talked to him, expressing ad hoc "man, your grand pops is cool as fuck," and all that goodness. Eventually, Bobby moved, then got a couple of cars, but my granddad stayed going out there and sitting to talk to whomever came to that bus stop, including the bus DRIVERS, who would structure his breaks around the time spent talking to him.
I came home from the hospital on my birthday 2003, and would spend days for the first week or two with my grandparents before I could lift my arm, with my broken shoulder to be fully mobile to prepare my own food and such. Even with my jaw wired shut, my favorite times of those days were waking up from my 4-hour hydrocodone nap, then sitting in the den with him and talking about nothing in particular -- but ironically everything under the sun -- until mom came to get me after work.
From that point, we would only have him with us for one more year. He would go back into the hospital twice more over the course of his last year. The first time, he soldiered the fuck back out like no problem, as every single time before, but July 8, 2004, something was not right... It was one week after Preston and my 25th birthday... Thursday the 7th, Preston's car had burned up (yes, literally). As I still did not have full driving privileges back yet or -- in such -- a working car yet, I had mama's car and was on my way to work, when she got the call to come to the hospital. Regina (my sister) picked her from work, after getting the kids and Granny up.
Something just did not feel right...
I was on Cornwallis Road and I got a phonecall on the way in to work -- my first time being told that something was wrong this morning -- and was told to come to the hospital. I wenr to the building and informed my supervisor where I was going and that I was not sure when I would be in, but that I would call.
I got to the hospital and parked, walked in with a heavy heart and walked into the room with my family, a room full of faces as fucked up as mine is as I type this... I was informed that he would not be coming out of the hospital this time and that my uncle and his kids were on the way from Atlanta. I went outside, called work and let them know I would not be in, then went in to tell him I love him and say goodbye to him. I thank Janelle Hayes for taking the call and attempting to talk me down, and offering to talk to my supervisor for me.
If someone would have offered me a hit of their blunt right then, I might have cheated on my promise from a year before never to smoke again.
Still waiting on my uncle to come, I stepped back outside, passing Reverend Handy and shaking hands, but not able to talk, of course, I went to the car, I needed to just be alone. On the way back in, I bumped into two of my dad's sisters (yes, we get along fine with most everyone on that side of the family), and walked them in to where the rest of the family was situated. We sat in the lobby a while longer before the Atlanta troop came down, then it was finished.
Periodically, I will go to his grave to "talk to him," tell him how our Lakers are doing, how everyone is, remind him that we all miss him and love him very much. I guess for me, being that I was -- and still am -- kinda like odd man out even with my own pops, it is tougher for me even TRYING to deal with fathers day, as the man who I took the lions share of my life lessons -- loyalty, honesty (sometimes brutal), punctuality and unfortunately a bit of alcoholism -- is not here to see me at the point where I have gotten it all together, but can't fully enjoy it 5000% percent because he is not here.
I had to fuck up with money to have to get my credit together. Now I have done it and I own a home, the first of his grandkids to do so. It only hurts that we can't sit on MY couch together and have a Scotch.
I had to diddle in a lot of women and lose a lot of love to find the one I am preparing to spend the rest of forever with. I have not been able to properly introduce them, she only knows him through pictures and fond stories.
I had to make a LOT of terrible mistakes to learn right from wrong. At this point, I am more reserved, mature and less a hot head, and now at the time where no one has to go to bed wondering if I will be okay, am I at the point where I don't even have to offer that fear.
Most male children live for the moment where they become the light in the eyes of their fathers... I mean that to say where a man can look down on his boy child and be legitimately proud of what is looking back. It stings me so badly considering that my paternal couldn't be bothered to act like he gave a fuck until my siblings started having kids, for which I was still odd man out, and even then only seemed to do so to make himself look better. It stings me even worse that the man who I would more readily accept was the one who really taught me how to be one myself is not here to see me now.
I will continue to use this as a part of my motivation to continue to do better, in the hopes -- regardless of what YOU believe -- that he is somehow watching over me now.
Jessie T Lee Sr.
Rest in peace pops, we miss and love you... We'll see you on the other side, I will talk to you this afternoon, rain or shine, old man.
I tell the two of you this to remind you to make the most of the memories WHILE you're making them... Appreciate and thank the source of the appreciation while you still have them to do so. Never could you imagine how bad a great memory can feel until you're forced the realization that is not to be anymore.
For those of you who are cool with your old man, or his old man, or even your mom's old man, get out there and have a happy fathers day...
Me? I am only leaving this house once today, I don't need for people to see me like this.