Sunday, August 15, 2010

Father Knows Best? The “Daddy” Trilogy

It was bound to happen.  I knew that I would eventually have to discuss Mr. Lewis.  I think that I was purposely avoiding the topic.  I actually planned on writing about something else, about what my mother told me about relationships (platonic and otherwise) and not considering everyone my “friend.”  I had actually written a few paragraphs on the topic and had titled the piece “Friends, Associates and Foes,” but something else needed to be said, something else has been clawing at the back of my neck while holding on with hind legs.  It is time to shake it off   And I write…

When my mother was alive and well my father, Mr. Lewis, ruled his brood with an iron fist and piercing tongue. My father was an old school disciplinarian.  As long as we abided by his rules, which weren’t always the most diplomatic, all was well. Don’t get me wrong.  My father was incredibly strict but also very loving. He just needed to be in constant control.

The financial decisions, the dinner we ate, the television shows we watched, the vacations or weekend getaways we took, were all pretty much made at my father's discretion. My mother's input was minimal at best.

I remember when we visited a cousin who lived in Harlem.  It was winter and I had to be about 10-years-old.  My father was a drinker (he has since given up the yack) and so was his cousin, Johnny.  Johnny must have hit the bottle rather hard by time we had arrived.  Shortly after we had taken off our coats and made ourselves comfortable, Johnny began to recount his encounter with the devil. Yes  Ol' hoofed foot visited Johnny.  I remember my father asking jokingly as he lounged, one leg hanging over the arm of the couch, what did the devil look like?  Johnny replied that he had a head shaped like a motorcycle helmet with two huge bulging, glossy black eyes and he was as black as coal (blame it on the al..co...hol).

Noticing how comfortable my father was as he lay on the couch, I couldn't help but comment,  Dad, you must think you're at your house, sitting with your leg up like that.  Everyone laughed at the remark, including my father. It wasn't until the ride home that the I learned of my error.

As we rode toward our house, my father looked at me from the rearview mirror.  He informed me that I shouldn't have said anything about him lounging in the chair.  I didn't understand what I had did wrong, so I asked why?  At that moment, I recall that my mother, who was sitting in the front passenger's seat, looked across at my father. With a farrowed brow he stared at the rearview mirror, his eyes locked with mine.

He spoke softly but with clear intent.  Because it is embarrassing. I was a smart kid and knew that I shouldn't purposely embarrass anyone, or hurt anyone’s feelings.  I had not meant to embarrass him and if I had embarrassed him like he claimed, then why did he join in when everyone laughed? My mother could tell that I was confused and turned her head slightly to the left so that she could clearly see my face as she looked over the headrest. She smiled at me and that was the end of it.

I learned something about my father that night that is just as true today as it was then.  My father is insecure. I didn't really know how to describe it then but time has helped to name it.  His insecurity is what caused him to bolt into the apartment when my mother had fallen in front of the building.  She wasn't diagnosed at the time but had broken a bone in her foot and had to use crutches.  My father could walk like a speed demon and he “forgot” that my mother was on crutches. In her haste to keep up with him, she fell.  She scraped her knee, elbow and ego.  He was more concerned about how embarrassed he was and didn't even bother to help her up, from what my mother later told me.

When I heard the key unlocking the door, I proceeded to open it.  My father walked across the threshold, ranting about how my mother had fallen and how embarrassed he was.  She's out there fallin' on the ground.  She doesn't understand how embarrassing that is?  I disregarded his questions.  I scanned my mother's body as she stood, defeated, on crutches.  I noticed a few scrapes and bruises.  I told her to come in and have a seat while my father still complained about the episode in the background.  When I had gotten her into a chair, I asked if she was alright. She said she was and I then went to get some alcohol and cotton balls to clean up the scrapes and bruises.  My father was still ranting and raving in the background.  Once I was informed of what had happened: my father had walked ahead of her toward the car, leaving her behind on crutches.  She said he was walking quickly and she tried to keep up and subsequently hit the pavement. There were a bunch of folks in front of the building non-of-whom came to her aid (Bastards ).

My father made the God awful mistake of admitting that he had walked ahead of her while she was on crutches.  He mentioned that he turned around when he  noticed  that she wasn't behind him and saw her in the distance on the ground and had to walk back to where she was stretched out on the ground.  I was no longer 10-years-old.  Needless to say, Ms. Lewis went in...

"Where were you? Why were you walking so far ahead of her? You knew that she's on crutches.  What husband does that?"  I calmly asked while still tending to my mother’s wounds.

A heated argument ensued; the exact details of the tirade have since slipped my memory, but...

To be continued...

2 comments:

Shelisa said...

I can relate to having an insecure father, but my father's behavior manifested itself in a different way. Sir Gary Wilson is a bard and great teller of tall tales. It doesn't happen to work in the 21st century, but he could have easily been Homer or maybe even Hesiod. Too bad he wasn't born a couple thousands years ago...or more....

TalkaboutCancer said...

Well, both of our fathers are a hoot!