Notes From My Father On Manhood
As a kid my memories of my father were striking, I remember him clean cut in tailored suits always about business. Daddy had a gift that appeared as magic because as a kid I could only identify it as a feeling that was experienced when you were in his presence. He exuded an energy that excited you and his words brought you closer. As I grew up into the role of the son who bared my father's name I was met with my father’s reputation for it had proceeded him in our community. When people found out that I was Dave Jr. their faces would light up, kind of in the same way Daddy caused people to glow when he was in their presence.
There was a crucial time in my life as a preteen where I harnessed much bitterness for my father because of the ideas I had about who my father was supposed to be and what he was supposed to do. It wasn't until I was a young adult that I realized though my father was a flawed man, who wasn't? And despite his flaws, he was able to inject into me seeds that have carried my life forward.
For years I told myself I wasn't important because there were times when my little brother, Jon, and I waited by the front door —eyeballing cars driving past the house because it was Daddy's weekend. I feened to go to Daddy's on the weekends because I could feel the magic in every room of his big house. My father lived his life with a particular kind of freedom and that translated into the energy embedded in his surroundings.
The home was large and set up for comfort and a good time. From as early as I can remember, there was always a full bar in the house along with TVs and dedicated space for his friends to drink, dance, and be merry.
I realized that my father's gift to me was his life as an example, as possibilities for me. It was as if his life was an example to me and the contrast therein aided me in the decisions of who I would strive to be in the future.
As I witnessed my father evolve and show up for me, I understood that he was perhaps a poor father to small children but became the greatest Dad his young adult sons could have asked for. As I look over my experiences with my father, I take note of five things he was sure to make me know.
Be your fucking self.
I was 18 and in my senior year of high school when I decided to stand in the truth of who I was and come out of the closet. I wrote a number of letters mapping out my feelings for my same-sex attractions and my plans for the future. My father was one of the first people to receive one.
I remember his commanding voice over the phone as he called in response to my correspondence. "Be your fucking self, son. if you are gay then that's who you are, and I love you, and there is not a damn thing in the world you can do about it."
Over the years people inquire about my ability to accept anyone for who they are. I now know my father exemplified this for me in my most vulnerable state. My father being a very open and accepting person until I came out wasn't a big fan of the gays, though he respected the community, they tended to chase him because of his handsomeness. Knowing this, to see my father evolve his former feelings about gay folks because the love he had for his son was more important taught me the value of people and how they are to be treated.
Take care of business, so you have reason to play.
For the longest time, I only knew that my father was a respected playboy. Not only could he party but was the life of that party. I knew my friend's parents at school knew where I lived because they had attended my father's social gatherings at our home on several occasions. It wasn't until I was older that I was able to see how hard Pops worked and the ambition he cultivates within. My father spoke highly of achievement and took pride in the ability and process of creating something and building it up. I watched Pops start businesses, build homes, and develop new skills without any notice. My father had the ability to look at a situation and gain the confidence he needed to go and learn whatever he needed to overcome, achieve or to find solutions for the situation.
My father had all kind of friends, and because of these relationships, I was exposed to people from different walks of life. Pops toasted with those who grossed more money than he did just like he watched the game with those who were pressed to drink the free beers in our home bar. He took his time with his disabled friends as he did his elders. I learned of the great privilege it is to be careful with people from witnessing my father care for old folks, stranger, and longtime friends. I learn that respect is golden and it makes room for you in the world.
He who toots not his own horn, horn goes untooted.
My father was a shameless plugger of all things self. He believed that if you were given a horn, it was to be tooted and if you do not toot your horn, then no one will experience what you have, and what a waste that would be of what you were given. My father showed me the importance of always tooting my horn. The countless shameless plugs, the proud bragging inserted into irrelevant stories showed not only how proud he was of me but how firmly he believed in me. It was evident from the force in which he shoved any new venture or idea of mine down everybody’s throat as if all my ambitions were just and tasted good.
Work for yourself
My father found me my first job when I was 15, a couple months from my 16 birthday. I was a suit salesman in a mall and was working a hard 25 hours a week. Around the same time Dad had bought a new home for the family to live in, but this time the house needed renovation and we the family had been recruited to do the heavy lifting. My father had given my siblings and I the responsibility of building our own bedrooms. I can remember the aggravation over the work I had to invest just to get my room livable for myself, not to mention the hours I was putting in at the mall, especially, when I only spent the money on Starbucks. It wasn't until I had successfully learned to hang drywall, tape, mud, sand, and paint the walls of my bedroom, as well as dream up things I wanted for myself that required money, did I realize the seeds my father had planted within me.
He was conditioning me to work and for that work to be all to my own benefit. I expected my father to want to free his children from work because I thought that the whole point of the hardship of those who came before was to liberate the next generation from work. I was wrong, my brilliant father had blessed me with one of the greatest gifts a Father could give a son, he gave me freedom in my work so that all of the work I do isn't experienced as slavery to and for another, but as work for and in the benefit of my own self.
What my father taught me inevitably was the anatomy of manhood, one not caught up on dick size, though we Bridgeforth men are blessed, nor masculinity though I learned what it means to be assertive. Quite simply put, I learned from Pops of my own power and how to will that power after any of my own bliss.