My Dad died of Pancreatic Cancer when I was 17. I would drive him back and forth to the doctor from time to time . He died in October but the summer months of June, July he went into remission. I remember him telling me one day, “ Steven if I would’ve had the opportunities you had I would’ve been a millionaire several times over. At that time I didn’t have any idea what he meant.
My Father would have conversations with me. I wasn’t excited to have them . They were very intense . Yet my Fathers words were an investment. What I was too immature to understand as a child, I fully understand as an adult.
Youth is wasted on the young, and my immature brain didn’t understand the wisdom I was getting. I also believe that deep down my dad knew his time with me was short, and he had to make sure that his youngest son was ready to face the world .
I didn’t feel particularly blessed, I was a grumpy teenager, school felt like grudery, I enjoyed playing music, hanging with my friends , watching sports , and reading books. I had applied to college and got accepted to several schools . It didn’t seem like a big opportunity it just what I did. As soon as I hit high school I began preparing to go to college. In my mind getting into college was a box to check.
Today I know why he said what he did. My Dad words came from a place of pain, but also from a place of hope and optimism. His road was challenging. The example he said is what guides me today. I don’t have my dad to talk to,but I do have his memories to guide me. Parts of my dads life were triumphant, but others painful, I didn’t see the pain that day, know I know where it came from.
My Father was a mail carrier for almost 40 years. He was great at his job, he took pride in it. One of the things I enjoyed was every Christmas helping him make Christmas cards for the people on his route. He had a stamp that said from your Mailman Tommy Thompson, he would let me stamp the cards and put them in the envelope. My birthday was after Christmas and each year he would give me money, amount would be whatever age I was that year. I know that some of it came from the money that people would insert in the cards they gave to him each year.
My Father also had another gift, he could build things, he walked into McDonald’s looked at a booth and then came home and built it for our kitchen. He designed our home and built it as well. His vacations would be used for building projects. In addition he would build for our extended relatives, and before he passed away one of his last projects was remodeling our entire basement, which I would use for years to entertain friends.
Today I know where that comment came from- My Father was a victim of racism. My dad’s path to millions wasn’t the post office. My dad wanted to be an architect and the schools around where he lived didn’t enroll blacks. My Father fought in World War 2. He left for the Pacific Theater in 1942 and left in 1945. He spent those years serving in Company B 91st Engineer General Service Regt. He began his service in Louisana then moved to New York.
The company left New York in March of 1942 and arrived in Brisbane in April of 1942. He spent his time building roads, airfields, and working on transportation vehicles. When he came back to the states he should’ve been able to use the GI Bill as a reward for his service- so he should have been able to find a school that would enroll him , sadly the GI Bill failed him and many other African Americans. My dad never became an architect, but that didn’t stop him from building homes.
What if my Father had the opportunities I had? Today I am a Professional Educator, I have been through five academic programs in order to get my teaching licenses, and later my administrative licenses. All I had to do was fill out an application, and I was able to secure admittance. This was not an option available to him. You are black, you can’t enter. Knowing that I know that I have an obligation not just to him, but many others who were denied opportunities because of race. My dad had the talent, the skill, and the ability, and he proved it throughout his life by the projects he did build, for our family and many relatives, but the question What if, makes me sad for him on this Father’s Day, and thankful for the example he set for me. I am glad I have a picture of his medals.