As a little girl, I have wonderful memories of Friday and Saturday nights spent bartending and deejaying for my Dad. Doo-wop music was his favorite, and he taught me the lyrics to Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers and Little Anthony and the Imperials among so many others. He taught me how to sing on key, and the two of us would harmonize to the oldies on those fun weekend nights in my childhood. He taught me how to play his favorite .45's and albums, how to place the needle on the record so that it didn't scratch. He told me stories of "the good ole days" and I was his captive audience. My love for the art of storytelling began during those wonderful trips down Memory Lane with the greatest Daddy in the world.
As I grew older, he schooled me about the ulterior motives of boys. He was blunt and straightforward, and didn't sugarcoat the truth of what he knew. Still, I was determined to learn so many lessons about love the hard way. And, he was patient. He never called me dumb, naive or silly although in retrospect many of the decisions I made were exactly that. Instead, he would watch me make mistakes and tell me that it was okay, that everybody played the fool sometimes. And he would tell me to pick my chin up, square my shoulders and keep going. When I was a pregnant teenager, ashamed of the whispers and condemnation of my peers, he insisted that he was STILL proud of me. He reassured me that I wasn't the first to have a baby so young, that I also wouldn't be the last, that he had my back and that everything would be alright. When my daughter was born, he taught her the songs, too; told her the stories he had once told me. And he "fathered" her when her biological didn't bother. Eventually, he would walk me down the aisle on my wedding day, reminding me that if I wanted to make a run for it I could. "Don't worry about all these people, Cute," he said. "If you want to change your mind it's alright." He sensed my reservations even though I hadn't verbalized it. And when I shook it off and pressed on, he took my hand and led me toward the altar with his signature Kangol perched perfectly on his head. Years later, when my marriage failed, he stepped in and ensured that my children still had a male role model in the absence of their father. He was at my dinner table every Sunday, eating all the biscuits and cracking jokes with my sons while quietly reminding my daughter and I that we were queens, that we were Browns.
He'd tell us all stories about his years in the U.S. Navy, about his adventures overseas. We watched our favorite shows together - Forensic Files and Snapped - and tried to figure out who did the crime before the true culprit was revealed at the end of the episode. He got saved in the last years of his life, and he would share his Bible studies with me. It gave me comfort to know that he was redeemed, that he had chosen to walk with God before it was too late. He wasn't a perfect man. No one is. But, he was a perfect father for me. He was so very proud of me, and told me often. I was even prouder of him, feeling like the luckiest girl in the world for having a Daddy as wonderful as him. As he drew his final breaths in the hospital in 2008, his eyes locked with mine, and I gave him permission to pass on. He had fought a good fight, had lived a full life, and had equipped me to become the matriarch of my family. It was bittersweet bidding him farewell. I will forever miss him, but I know that he is in a better place and that he left a legacy in his children and grandchildren that can never be denied.
I look around the world today and I wish there were more fathers like mine. I see young ladies dressing like and acting like men, young men dressing like and acting like ladies. I see girls seeking validation in men because they never got it from their fathers. I see boys looking to rappers and athletes as role models because they never had their fathers to look to as examples. I see grown women and men never realizing that the most important jobs they will ever do is PARENTING. They didn't have the blessing that I had - a great example of a parent who took the job seriously and stayed the course even when the going got tough. Yes, I miss him a great deal. But the wealth of memories and life lessons that he gave to his family will live on for many generations to come. Each year on his birthday, my children and I meet at his grave site and we take turns sharing our favorite memories of him. Soon, laughter fills the silence and we reminisce on all the hilarious times we shared, all the ways he took up for us when we were in trouble, all the things he said and did that brought us joy. And in those moments, he's with us. We realize that he may be gone, but he will never be forgotten.
I'm so grateful for the privilege of being his daughter. If there are any fathers reading this blog, I urge you to stay the course with your children. No matter what happens with the wives/girlfriends/baby mamas, stay consistent in the lives of your children. It can make the difference between them being a success or a failure. It did for me. Had it not been for my Dad, I would not have survived such a tumultuous youth and emerged victorious. I also urge all the sons and daughters out there to give your parents LOVE while they're living. One of the things that has always brought me comfort is knowing that I constantly told my father how much I loved him, how thankful I was for him, how valuable he was in my eyes. While you still can, I urge you to do the same with your parents. Don't let another day go by without letting them know how special they are, how grateful you are for their love.
I thank God for my Daddy, my first love and my best friend.
Happy birthday in Heaven, William Brown, Jr. <3