Every Father’s Day since 1996 has been filled with a little sadness. As I did last year I have reflected over 15 years about my dad and what his life meant to me. So this year I will give a little peek into his life as he described it over the years. My father was the oldest of four children; born and raised in Chicago, IL. He came of age in the 1940’s and 50’s. Around the age of 20 his mother died, which put him into a tailspin toward substance abuse for many years.
My dad did not like hospitals even though he had a congestive heart condition that resulted in a number of hospitalizations during my childhood. He also did not like the smell of fresh flowers because his first encounter with fresh flowers was his mother’s funeral. From conversations with him and looking back many of his life decisions were based on the anguish he felt when his mother died. He spoke of the day she died with vivid memory. He had gone off to work as he did every morning and said that my grandmother told him “good-bye”. According to him she usually said “see you later”. When he got home all the lights were on and he soon found out his mother had died.
He still had his dad and a very close knit family to love him; however, his mother’s death negatively impacted much of his life. But even with the sorrow that he carried he did make some positive life decisions, one of which was marrying my mother. I as many children was conceived prior to my parents nuptials. My father had learned how to be a man that took care of his family from my grandfather’s example. He was not perfect but he taught me that family was important. Approximately, three years prior to his death he had released himself from the demon of substance abuse, finally living life free of sorrow. For me as painful as it was when he died, I was glad he transitioned without past burdens.
AMBROSIA SALAD MEMORIES
Thanksgiving morning, mom up early
pulls from kitchen cabinets and refrigerator shelves
coconut, sour cream, fruit cocktail, pineapple,
mandarin oranges, and maraschino cherries.
In one big rush, I’m back to age 10
when my dad used these ingredients
mixing them into ambrosia salad.
His love was in his hands and culinary creations
he cooked with care, baritone laughter boomed
against kitchen walls shaking old window casings;
scents from our apartment tickled the noses of neighbors.
Dad’s hands grated potatoes to make pancakes
for big breakfasts with cinnamon apples,
and sausages sizzling on top the stoves’ gas burners.
Never did I realize how firm the food connection ran
within my memories succulent scents of ham,
collard greens, yeast rolls, and macaroni & cheese
make me remember happy Easter Sundays.
My dad was taken by God’s grace on a Sunday
June 15, 1997, Father’s Day baritone laughter died.
I miss him and the messy kitchen, pots, and pans.
by: Joyce M. Rose-Harris (c) 2009