This is one of the few pictures I have of my father and I together. It makes me laugh because I remember when it was taken. I was maybe 13 or 14 and I’d just gotten off work from my job at the main branch of the Memphis Public Library. (The shirt I have on has the MIFA logo on it; I was part of the organization’s “Teen Job Services” program and had to wear the shirt while at work.)
Instead of going home, I went to my father’s job, which was downtown. He was a civil engineer for the Memphis Corps of Engineers and worked in the Federal Building. He asked me to meet him after I’d gotten off work because the COE wanted to feature me in their company newsletter. I’d written a poem about a racially charged experience I had while biking around a (then) relatively all-white neighborhood, and the poem had gone on to win several awards, get published in a national literary magazine, and even earned me a Congressional commendation. Needless to say, my father was proud.
I went to his office and met the staff of the newsletter. They interviewed and took photos of both my father and I. It was very informal, very chill. When the issue finally came out, my father gave me several copies for posterity, natch, as well as the photo you see above. This was the same photo that ran with the story in the COE newsletter.
My mother and father divorced when I was young, but that never stopped my father from being part of my life. I’m thankful for him.
He passed away a month after my high school graduation, so he never actually got to see me off to college. I often wonder how my life would be different if he were still around.
There’s not a day that passes that I don’t think about my father. He was a great man, and he obviously felt I would be great, too. After all, he did name me after him. So I continue to live as best as I can so that I can continue to make him as proud as the day the photo above was taken.
I miss you, Dad. Happy Father’s Day.