As we approach Father’s Day, I’m thinking about my dad. The first memory I have of him was on a cold day in LA…I think I was about 2…we were in the parking lot of my pediatrician’s office. We’d gotten out of the car, and he’d knelt down to tie the hood of my pink jacket on my head. After he finished, he stood up, took my hand and off we went.
My dad. He grew up in the 40’s and 50’s in the turbulent South…Alabama to be exact. He has so many stories of the things he’s seen. One in particular stays with me. He and a friend were hired by 2 white men to salvage wood from a broken down shack. This was a job that he was frequently employed to do. He was about 10 years old at the time. The shack was buried deep in the woods, and the men picked up my dad and his friend in their truck and took them out there to get the lumber.
They’d finished the job, and were on the road in the bed of the pickup truck driving back, when my dad nudged his friend, whispered to him, and said, “Hey! Look there!” It was a black man hanging from a tree. The white men had been talking, but when they saw that, they went silent and slowed down as they drove past the tree while my dad and his friend were in the back, scared to death and silent.
Those men kept on driving, and my dad and his friend made it back home safe and sound. He says he remembers thinking that if those men had the inclination to pull over and do the same thing to he and his friend, he wouldn’t have been able to stop him. That would’ve been that.
As we grew up, my dad found a way to teach us to be aware of the potential for prejudice and racism in the world, but told us not to give in to the idea that we would encounter it around every corner. He had a chip to get rid of after his experiences growing up, and managed to keep that chip from the shoulders of my sisters and I. I respect and admire that so much.