In the Black community, we tend to place more emphasis on Mother’s Day in comparison to Father’s Day. But growing up, Father’s Day was what I looked forward to the most. I mean, I guess you can say I was a bit of a daddy’s girl. My dad was like the 8th wonder of the world to everyone who met him. Big and strong in stature with a heart to match. Little did I know that one day that big and strong heart would fall weak, and he would be gone forever.
Now, I am 32 years old, and I have lived more of my life without my father than with him physically. He passed away when I was about seven years old and from that day forward, my life would be changed. I went through periods and phases ranging from anger, to depression, to guilt, to sadness, and many others I choose not to name. I did not understand why my dad had to be the one to leave. I questioned God and everyone one else. I even had thoughts like “there are so many useless and deadbeat dads, why take one of the few who actually cared for his kids, family and community?” I just did not understand. Until this day, I still do not understand.
I was told by many that time would heal the pain. That was a lie. I have not gotten over it. Honestly, I’ve only learned how to cover the pain with make-up. The breakdown that his untimely passing had on everyone has been felt over the decades. Relationships were altered. Values were lost. My family was completely separated. The community that he supported mourned.
My dad wasn’t just a father to his kids, but he was also one to his nieces and nephews, the youth he coached in pop warner football, and all the kids on our block. He was a brother to his siblings and in-laws, a perfect husband to my mom, and the best son to his parents and mother-in-law. He stood for something… his family.
He taught my brother how to care for his family and showed him how to protect and love his sister (me). He taught me that my word is the only thing that I have 100% control over, so make sure I always stood by it. He also taught me that life would not be easy, but that did not give me the right to give up. I’ve held on to those lessons.
I was angry because he wasn’t there physically. I wanted and needed him, but he wasn’t there. It took me until I reached adulthood to understand and to accept that he was not here physically, but he was still omnipresent. He was always there amid my situations, guiding me, protecting me, encouraging me. He was there when I had my emergency blood transfusion. He was there the day I took my last curtsy as a debutante. He was there the day I left for college. He was there when I graduated from college. He was there when I gave birth. He has always been there.
The subtle yet obvious ways he shows up in my day-to-day dealings confirmed that I never stopped carrying him with me. In the ways my brother mimics his parenting style, the vein that my daughter has in her forehead, the ways my nieces have my brother wrapped around their fingers, the way my nephew runs to my brother for protection… those are the things that come directly from my father.
The song says, “If this world were mine, I’d place at your feet all that I own, you’ve been so good to me… If this world were mine, I’d make you a king with wealth untold, you could have anything.” I think my father was the wealthiest man in life and death. In life, he had the undying love and support of his family and community. In death, his memory has never faded, and we all still look to him for love, guidance, and approval.
The memories that I created with him in those short seven years are long-lasting and present right when I need them to be. It’s the life lessons and talks, it’s the days at the racetracks, it’s the shared hostess cakes, it’s the racing home down Gage and Normandie from my grandmother’s house, it’s the Luther Vandross concert, it’s the overly coordinated family presence on the football field, it’s the epic birthday parties and fish fry’s, it’s “The Big Payback” by James Brown playing in the house and car on our way to a rival football game, it’s the dancing on his feet with him singing “If this world were mine” that constantly resonates with me.
If this world were mine, he’d still be here to physically hold my kids. He’d be here to rub my back and tell me that I am a perfect blend of he and my mother. He’d be here to wipe my tears and eliminate my fears. But since he isn’t here physically, I’ll hold the words of the song and say, “If this world were mine, I’d give you the flowers, the birds and the bees, and the old love inside me, that would be all I need.”
On this Father’s Day, I choose to smile. I choose gratitude and appreciation for the man who gave me life, wisdom, and values. I choose happiness and love, because he taught me to be forever grateful for the small things. We gave you your flowers in life and we continue to water those flowers and provide sunlight in death.
They say, “A father should be a son’s first hero, and a daughter’s first love,” (author unknown). You have been that and so much more.
Happy Father’s Day to my father, Kelvin Lee Prude, Sr. May your life and legacy continue to prevail through the generations of your future lineage. May we never forget your sacrifice and abiding commitment to your family, your faith, your community, and your dreams.