It’s like clockwork. I post a blog. It triggers an email that releases at about 4:00 the next morning. Between that time and noon, I go in the “back door” of my site to see if my followers are still following. Out of the first ten people who click the blog links when they release, one of the first clickers is my father.
I don’t talk much about my father. I’m sure many of you probably thought I didn’t have a father at all. But I do. He’s good people, my dad. Tall, robust, and the color of pecan pie, right out of the oven. He’s smart and articulate. Artistic and philosophical. Conscious and proud.
For a long time, I didn’t realize the great gift I received from my father. I didn’t realize the tons of books he sent every year were everlasting accessories I wore as his daughter. I didn’t know that I wasn’t quite a little woman, by the time he challenged me to read “Little Women.” I didn’t realize that the average eight year old could not even venture to read “Around the World in Eighty Days.” “Heidi,” which I’ve read at least twenty times, was one of my many indulgences, and yet I had no idea I was reading classic after classic before Junior High School.
For this reason, my dad and the steps he took to show me a book (and make sure I kept one in front of me at all times), my dad is all over this blog. He’s deeply imprinted on every post I write. In every piece of creative nonfiction publish. In every poem and short story. He niggled his way into my defense for my terminal degree. He is lurking around the pages of my recently published book collaboration, “The Church Chronicles of Iris & Locke.” His name is even part of my pen name. He’s been right/write there all the time.
You see, any writer of worth will tell you they are good writers because they are ferocious readers. And most good writers have been reading all of their lives. They never stop. Most can’t help but accept the draw to place pen to paper. Whether there is an audience or not, there is something in them that makes them believe they must write to survive. Write to live. Write to be happy. But it’s only because they read to live. Read to survive. Read to be happy.
My father and I don’t talk much. Not because we can’t. Just because we don’t. But when we do, the conversations are deep. Talks of history. The state of America. Family. Education. Change. Revolution. Brotherhood. Community. He helped me think about those subjects across generations, and every now and then, the vestiges seep into my African American Studies and Literature lectures and add vibrancy and depth to the present conversation.
Yes, there was/is silence between us. But the seeds of conversation grew and bore gifts. Words and stories were amongst the best he ever gave me. A close second is laughter. He gave me his great big laughter, and for that reason, I have a husband who’s laughter is great and big. My dad gave me a grand appreciation for my heritage, for it was he who called my sister and I together shortly after Christmas day and taught us the importance of honoring our African Heritage through the celebration of Kwanzaa. We poured libation. We gave words of thanks. We played the jimbe. My sister, husband, and eventually children, fawned and marveled over his talent for art, woodworking, painting, drawing. On this Father’s Day, as I welcomed a guest into my home, I pointed at his various carvings lining every one of my walls, and smiled widely as I said, “Yep, my dad did those. He’s an artist.” For me, this artistic bent translated into writing, and because of that, I am able to write to you now.
As I ruminate on Father’s day, I use this space in the blogosphere to honor my father, Garfield White. He is one of my bright lights. I’ve come to realize, just because the light is far away, and the silence seems potent for long stretches of time, doesn’t mean there were no seeds of light planted within. If you reflect, you too will find gifts of light from your own fathers (whether by blood or other), gifts that are too numerous to count. When you see those gifts clearly, follow the light; honor your father–even if it’s not Father’s day.
To the point (right?), what I know for sure is that when I wake up and see those early birds who check the blog for their morning meditations and inspiration, I will see my father at the top of the list. He’s watching. He’s reading. He’s checking out his fruit. I hope I make him proud.