i find that i am anxious in the growing stability of my life. a new home. job. family. role. relationship. life. for the past 3 years, i’ve complained about the craziness that cancer brings but today, i find myself looking for it. longing for it. because i know that within it, my dad still exists.
in this time of rebirth i have had some random advice from strangers who encounter my situation.
“it will be hard. but one day, you will see the light and peace will be on you.”
“i know what its like and it will never get easier”
“i’m sorry about your loss. you know you can take up to 6 days for that right?”
i am everywhere and just here. i am wandering, moving, trying. i am new. sometimes i catch myself closing my eyes, and forcing memories of my dad to flood into thought. the inflections of his voice, his stories, the way he sits on his hands. i constantly regret not taping him while telling his stories, maybe i was too afraid to have a reason to, maybe i was trying to memorize every feature he owned. but this week, with that regret came a promise. to one day, write the crap out of his stories. to communicate every detail of the beautiful life he lived through paper. to give voice to the impact he had on this world. hmm..just a thought. a whisper. a promise.
* * *
My eyes are heavy, straining to see ahead.
My Dad at the wheel,
Mom with her feet up,
Listening to my Dad’s favorite jazz cds.
“Nowie, Nowie, tell me what’s happening here.”
“Dad, your music puts me to sleep.”
“No, Nowie, you have to listen to the story.
Listen, see this song is about a woman and her lover,
And something is wrong..”
He goes on to tell me about their made up love story,
I pretend to roll my eyes and entertain him with questions.
I’m painting a picture of the couple.
In my head,
The woman was always wearing a black dress with red lining.
My Father was a storyteller. When he told stories, his eyes smiled. His hands created pictures. His words were a jumbled beauty. He was captivating. As I write, I can’t help but be overwhelmed with all of his stories. They flow from my fingertips like they were my birthright. From fights with the ECO boys, to how he used to run from piano lessons, to how he made me buy a new dress 15 minutes before prom. My dad’s stories are endless & moving.
Yet while I could stand here and recount all the adventures my dad chose, I sit and reflect on his silence. Over this past year, while my dad could literally talk my mother and I to sleep, we spent most of our time together in silence. Whether I was giving him medicine, driving him to an appointment, or feeding him, we sat together in a silence that was all our own.
In that silence I thought of his stories, his life, & his legacy. I tried to harness them into my psyche, secretly knowing he wanted them to live forever, never openly talking about the loss of a future together. In that silence, I held my dad’s hand & he transferred hope into my heart, strength into my vulnerability. His smiles laid love onto my soul & his kisses helped me to hide in his strength.
In that silence, strength was redefined; a mixture of acceptance, humility, and love. His will to fight and to continue to fight is one I will always be in awe of and thank him for.
So yes, I can stand here and talk about his stories, but instead, I will talk about what he taught me. Legacy. And not the type of legacy that stands in a big house, or a nice car. The type of legacy that lives through generations. That will be told to my nieces, nephews, children. The type of legacy that can be the story to a good jazz track.
5 Tips on Leaving a Legacy that I Learned from my Dad
- Teach your daughter that men are scum and that you are the antidote.
This was the first lesson my Dad ever taught me. I grew up hearing horror stories of my dad’s women and failed dates. He never lied to me about what to expect from men, and on the flip side, he loved me with everything he had. Up to these last months, my dad would call me, “just to hear my voice.” He would try his hardest to make my dreams come true, he’d buy me roses and made sure I knew what real love was. Because of this lesson, my dad ensured that he was the standard & that I knew what to look for in a partner.
2. Barkada is Key
As you can see, my Dad was kind of friendly. We would often lose him
in public places because he was making new friends. Not only was he friendly, he embodied forgiveness and love. He had friends from so many different places & from all walks of life. From the ECO boys, to the siblings, to the PITTO group, to Word International, EAGLEROQ, StarBoys, he kept in touch and tried to really love them all. In turn, when my dad got sick, I saw what true community looked like. All those years he spent loving and forgiving never felt short, and in the last years of his life, he truly knew he was loved.
3. Even if you don’t have much to give, give.
Although I am an only child, I can’t remember a time where I lived
with just my parents & me. My dad always opened our doors to family & friends who needed it. It was often that I’d come home and my dad would tell me he gave away something that was mine or his or my moms. I learned to smile about it (& of course ask for another one). We never had much but my dad taught me that whatever we did have, was also automatically anyone’s else’s if they needed it.
4. “What do you mean you can’t?”
When I was young, my punishment was doing book reports. In all
meanings of the phrase, my dad pushed me. Believed in me. Never took, “I can’t” as an answer. I think he thought that some of his intelligence transferred to me or that I was meant for something great. Whatever his reasons, he taught me to work hard and dream big. Talent and dreams can always be cultivated into success.
5. Always, always do it with style.
My dad had style. From his clothes, to the way he ate, to the way he carried himself. Charisma. Swag. He took over the new world through loving others. Forging wisdom with laughter, and never overdoing it. My Father was unlike any man I have ever known.
In the last months of my Dad’s life, I struggled with the idea of “praise.” I would ask God, “What could I possibly praise You for right now?” In the midst of the suffering and the pain we all felt, I still praised God but didn’t know why.
On the day we cremated my dad, it hit me. I praise Jesus for a wonderful Father. For 26 full years experiencing a love than some daughters simply dream of. I praise God for a family that listened to records on the weekend and went to festivals and enjoyed art. I praise God that I have countless memories of my parent’s slow dancing and holding hands. I praise God for my dad’s legacy, that left my mother and I with more family and friends to support us than I could ever imagine. I praise Jesus for an intimate relationship with a man who taught me to imagine with no limits, never lose faith, and to push until I succeeded.
I praise God that my dad smiled so much I will never forget it. That his music will always transport his stories into my mind. That he had a way with words that can only come from the mind of a genius.
I thank God for letting my Dad’s blood run through my veins. It the bloodline of strength, simplicity, and serenity.
Thank you everyone for being a part of my Father’s legacy, I pray that together we can celebrate it, learn from it, and never forget it.