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That distinct telephone ring jarred me out of a deep sleep one Sunday night more than seven months ago. Any parent with teenaged kids subconsciously knows telephone calls at 2am are seldom going to be of the good news variety. It was my cousin on the line. This conversation, unlike all the others was brief, terse and cut like a knife. “My son was shot to death about an hour ago,” he said, trying desperately to keep emotions at bay. “Just letting you know’ he continued before hanging up. The call ended before I was fully awake. Monday morning at work, my thoughts were still heavily consumed trying to figure out if indeed I’d heard what I kept thinking I’d heard. Completing a work schedule under these circumstances was next to impossible, so I decided to go home early. There was no sense wasting any more time, I called to verify events of the night before. It was confirmed.
For my cuz, Father’s Day 2000 will not be the usual happy day. He and his wife agonized over their son’s ‘choice of friends.’ They shared with my wife and I their anxiety and disappointments shortly before the tragedy, yet even with the faint glimmer of hope he might be turning the corner, there was this overriding sense of powerlessness to stop a derailed train. Yeah, there’ll be no more hugs, cards, expressed sentiments or going out to dinner. Instead, the day will be reduced to looking at old photos, sports memorabilia, diplomas and reminiscing about what might have been, what could have been. A life so full of promise ended so abruptly.
Fathers Day 2000 will come and go, that is a certainty. Some men will have become Dads for the first time, some Dads will reach the lofty status of grandfather and a few others will step ever further up the ancestry chain to great grandfather territory. I’ve no idea what it all means other than the family bloodline continues into the new millennium. That family line though is under severe duress as that gap between fathers and sons widen perceptibly. Ok, allow me to expand the thought some. Assume you were born and raised outside of the United States and your children were born and raised in the good old US of A. Tell me again; with all the straight face you can muster, how much do you have in common? Hello? Are you still with me? All right, now they’ve reached the teen years and perhaps recently graduated from high school. How much do you have in common now? I’ll give you a hint, how many times have you had to remind them what it was like growing up in your hometown, i.e., no cars, television, phones, computers and $150 Nike Air Jordans. How many times have you had to challenge their manhood or womanhood, whatever that is these days? Has the word(s) ‘ambition’ and ‘get a life’ become a regular part of your vocabulary? Oh, not to worry I’ve got a thousand more questions to prove the point. We won’t dare venture into the area of food preparation, not when they firmly believe big Macs are the answer to every meal. Yeah, you don’t wanna go there. Aha, I see you grinning and nodding your collective heads in agreement. Problem is, when we loose these little battles; they all add up to loosing the big war and so the chasm widens even more.
All is not lost though. As a human species, we’re preconditioned to see the proverbial glass half full. Quite recently, a very good friend of mine for whom I have great deal of respect, sent me an email photo of his young son posing with his soccer teammates. One had to be totally blind not to see the pride emanating from the Dad’s included description. I’m willing to bet he takes the kid to practice and gets involved in his day-to-day upbringing in a meaningful way. He is equally involved in his daughters daily lives as well. I remember visiting him in Germany a few years ago and over conversation in the living room, there he was combing their hair for school the next morning, preparing the evening meal and ensuring they took timely showers. He was adamant about curtailing television viewing in favor of them reading a book of their choosing for him literally everyday. What a Dad huh? A coworker was beaming only a week ago because his eighteen-year-old daughter had finally gotten past her teenage angst to graduate from high school and looking forward to life on a college campus. There was a certain satisfaction getting past all the hurdles and obstacles. The future looked bright with a limitless sky above.
For my cuz, there’ll be no such bright future
ahead. It all ended way too quickly. He was just as decent a father as one can
have in this life. He too was a provider in the economic sense of the word, as
we all are, and very much a responsible Dad to a fault. Yet we’ve come to
realize, life is not always fair, at least from our vantage point of view. We
never anticipate death to intervene so destructively. Knowing this, Dads,
cherish those kids put in your care. Kids, look at your Dad in a different light
on Fathers Day. Do whatever it takes: email, phone call, letters or cards to
communicate that day. Tell each other those three time worn words ‘I love
you.’ Believe me, you can’t ever say it enough, so, go ‘head, just do