Sunday, June 20, 2010

Me and My Dad (Happy Father's Day)

(As published in the Los Angeles Sentinel, June 12, 2008)

This Father's Day is special for me but not in the way you might think. Not in the way of buying gifts but spending time reflecting on my own father, Roy Barnes Jr.

It was five years ago on June 1 that I said goodbye to him for the last time, his body succumbing to lung cancer and possibly fatigue from an honorable career as an engineer who spent three decades at MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority).

Memories of Dad are still fresh in my mind, from taking me to arcades to speaking powerful words to a junior high bully to the final memories of taking me to college and a family dinner at Harold & Belle's.

But Father's Day is usually not a heavy time for me because I can smile knowing that I had the privilege of being taught by a great man who taught me the values of hard work and compassion.

He started work early in the morning and came home late at night, never once complaining about his tasks and still willing to help me with math homework.

No matter what kind of problem it was, he would sit there and diagram steps for how to solve it. Even for someone like me who barely struggled in math, it made my work a lot easier.

His sharp mind was something I'll never forget. He always had an answer for any question or problem I had and I never saw him without an explanation for anything.

I think about a man who worked hard to put two kids through college, thinking about us well before me and my sister were born.

I remember the times when we used to watch Monday Night Football together when I was in 6th grade. It was the first time I can recall watching sports consistently and even though he wasn't home to watch it most of the time, it helped birth my love of sports.

These are the memories that I start replay and dig up in the times when I evaluate our relationship. Some of them easier to bring up than others but every new "old memory" brings a smile to my face.

He was gruff at times but underneath that toughness laid a caring heart of love that was often on display with those around him. I can't recall the numerous times he came home with different gifts and the excitement that we felt.

Whether it was a basketball card set, a new video game or something nice for my sister, he never failed to remind us of his love.

See Dad knew what it meant to give back. He always said, "Take care of those who take care of you" and he did that for his family in New Orleans.

I know he would have been sad to see Hurricane Katrina tear apart his city and perhaps his old neighborhoods. Part of me wonders how he would have responded but I know he would have gone to great lengths to assist my uncle (his brother) and niece.

I could spend plenty of time thinking about what he would never get to see, but instead I think about where he gets to see them. From a skybox seat above the clouds, he gets to watch his daughter teach in Atlanta for the next two years and his son develop into a journalist.

He gets to see his wife enjoy her retirement and continue giving back to the people around her in a way that he would have appreciated.

The last things he bought me were two San Diego hats before I went back to school after winter break in 2003. The last bit of money he gave me was some change I found in his coats after cleaning them out.

I still have all of that in my room - along with the last family picture we took on the balcony outside of my college dorm freshman year. I think it best describes the environment he wanted to create - he wanted me to be taken care of and on my way to a college degree.

Now five years later on the verge of another Father's Day, I still miss him but this one is special because I'm satisfied knowing that Dad would be proud of where I am now. Even if he's not here physically to share it, he's still a huge part of how it all unfolds.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful! Thanx for sharing your love & appreciation for your dad. Very moving to read.
    As you know, we def relate as far as having fathers who love & support us, encourage us, and buy us sports cards.
    We also relate because I lost my Mom 4 years ago and she & my dad are my rocks.
    I appreciate your positive approach to life & your ongoing relationship with your father.
    Peace & blessings always