It’s been five years today since my father left us. Sometimes (a lot of times I just want to pick up the phone and talk to him). Since I can't phone him, the next best thing is writing a letter.
The last week of your life was painful (for you and for us). For some reason, you couldn’t talk. Maybe it was the drugs to sedate you or maybe it was the pain. Either way, I wish that you would have been able to share some last words with us on what we now know was to be your death bed. I wanted you to hold our hands and tell us how much you loved us and how proud of me you were for this accomplishment and that one for bringing your grandchildren into the world. I knew all of these things already but I still wanted to hear them.
I wish you could have given voice to your greatest regret and your greatest pain. I realize that though I’d know you my whole life, there were still areas of your life that were a mystery. I’m so grateful when my mother shares little tidbits that I didn’t know.
What I do know is that you loved us in your own quiet, reserved way. At a time when many daddies abandoned homes, you were there, even if you weren’t perfect. You had to pave your way through boyhood, manhood and fatherhood because your own father wasn’t there. Thank you for what you were able to piece together.
And thank you for your smile that charmed strangers wherever we went. Your kindness to others built bridges that have endured for years. Still, people tell me "oh how much I loved your father and his beautiful smile."
Thank you for a love of books, words and poetry. I remember a letter you wrote to me during my freshman year at Howard. You referred to us (those who love to pen words) as a unique breed. I never saw us that way until you penned those words.
Thank you for playing music of every genre in the house. You expanded my musical horizons more than you know. I hear Marvin Gaye, Kenny Rankin, Carole King and The Commodores and think of you.
Thank you for having a soft spot for kids and the elderly. In an era when kids were seen but not heard, you took the time to hear and see us. I'll forever love you for that.
Thank you for loving your grandchildren immensely. I have such great stories to tell them about your deep and abiding love for them. I only wish you were here to see them growing up. We talk about you so much that even baby girl says your name when she sees a picture of you. You'd be so tickled by that.
We miss your contagious laughter, your knowledge of just about everything under the sun, your superb cooking, and of course, your smile.
I still haven't gone to visit your gravesite. Even after all these years, I'm just not ready. Maybe one day soon....Until then, I'll hold onto all the good memories and the love. Most of all, the love.
Your first-born daughter.
Here's a video I made a year after his death. Click through if you can't see it.