The greatest thing about being with my dad is that while everybody else in the hood clowned me for being a bookworm, he loved my mind. Never once in his life did he ever say an unkind word to me about who I was. He never once joined in the teasing that used to crush my spirit especially when my mother would say nothing and just laugh along. I had heard all the bad stories about him like people talk about everybody, but he was my rock. Even when he disappointed me and let me down, I always knew he never wanted to.
Sometimes parents lie because pride won’t let them tell the truth. Especially a black man who has been denied the dignity of being a man in a system built against him. He saw hope in my youthful brilliance and welcomed me fully into his world showing me all he knew how to do. When we would work on a project together and he was stuck trying to figure something, he wasn’t too proud to pick my brain or take my suggestions on things I had only just learned from him but added my knowledge to it.
When I first learned to drive a nail and hit it like a little sissy, he calmly lined up a row of nails and just let me practice ruining a board until I got my bearings. By the time I was working around his friends, he loved to show me off by giving me tasks they didn’t expect me to know being so young.
All this leads me back to one day when he was sitting with his friends who were drinking beer- dad only drank pop. They were always finding something to bet each other on. Somehow the subject got on the subject of catching ducks. They all shared stories of when they were young trying to catch a duck for a neighbor who would pay the to catch one to eat. They used rocks and fishing rods and tried jumping into the water on them. Nothing worked. So I said, “daddy I can catch a duck”. All of his friends laughed.
Dad said “Lil Guy do you think you can catch a duck with your hands?”
I said “sure daddy!” All his friends laughed again.
Until daddy reached in his pocket and put 20 dollars on the table and said “20 dollars Lil Guy catch a duck today.” All ten guys put money up. Daddy said “Lil Guy don’t make me lose 200 dollars.” I said “don’t worry daddy.”
So I walked across the street to grandmas and got some bread, went down to the water and started feeding the ducks. Finally one was bold enough to get closer and eat from my hand but would swim before I could grab it. I had a rubber band in my pocket so I tied some bread to my finger. As the duck bit my finger to get the bread, I clamped down on his bill with my thumb and grabbed it by the neck. It made such a noise as I walked up the street that all my dad’s friends came running screaming “Lil Guy got a duck!!!”
My father came walking down the street grinning counting his money saying “Alright Lil Guy let him go.” Dad loved setting up his friends to lose money over my mind. Even when he had no idea how I would do something, if I said I could do it and his friends were dumb enough to bet, he would bet. And he never lost. It may not be the most noble example of parental confidence, but when he died, so went the only person in this world who believed in me unconditionally. You would have thought I was the only kid he had, instead of the only one who wasn’t his. -NEO BLAQNESS