From Where I Sit: Happy Father’s Day
As a father every day is an opportunity to reflect upon what was, what is and what will be. We all know this to be axiomatic, don’t we? But. There is always “a but” isn’t there?
But. Life has a funny way of getting in the way. Of clogging up the gears and dulling our vision. Maybe, it is because life comes at us at the speed of light, and at oblique angles keeping us off kilter. Yet, during moments of clarity and introspection we achieve lucidity enough to understand ()or attempt to understand what is happening to us, and why?
Fathers. Here we are doing what good fathers do. I think most fathers, like most men, are natural tinkerers. As in we like to take things apart. I think the tinkerer is an apt metaphor because it describes the male mindset in regards to fatherhood. Men. We take our lives apart, and compare what we’ve done to what men have done before us. But here’s where the wonky math comes in so pay close attention. In this particular scenario we are contrasting the deeds and misdeeds of our own fathers to the fathers we wanted and vowed to be. Yet, to do so is an exercise in futility of Herculean proportions. Then we place that poor shmuck up against the fathers we are right now. And, if that wasn’t impossible, then we try to become the fathers we should be (and this guy never had a chance). Are you confused yet? Sometimes this “father” exercise becomes convoluted and untrustworthy, because mostly things get remembered incorrectly. So in the end all these “father templates” get overlapped to the point of absurdity. But it all boils down to this. How are we measuring up? That’s a tough question to answer, because sometimes we don’t like the answers we get. Often, like most men, we realize we have become our dear old dads in more ways than one after all. By some trick involving smoke, mirrors and some very impressive CGI technology we have morphed into our pops, our old man and our papas. We inwardly ask our father-selves are we doing enough for our wives and our children. As fathers I suspect this is a natural thing to do, like breathing air, watching sports and drinking beer.
As a African-American father. A black man who is a father, for unlike the unicorn and dragons of lore we are not mythological beasts. We exist and we are doing our best. Yet, there is still ground to make up and stereotypes to shatter. Like all fathers our jobs are invaluable, because the job of the father cannot be outsourced to our woman folk. Although for many years single women have done all they can pulling double-duty and without double pay. We as black men must accept our responsibilities, we must not shirk this sacred rite, not now and not ever. If we want to fulfill the dreams of our ancestors who have endured incredible and unspeakable injustices, then we have to start being men… for nothing beats a failure but a try, right? And you don’t have to try to be a Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X or Heathcliff Huxtable for that matter. What is necessary is the will and determination to be a provider, a disciplinarian, a teacher and a role model. If we are to turn the tide and break the recycled cycles of throwing our young black men to the institutions of modern day slavery, i.e. jails and the prison industrial complex, then it is imperative that we come forward and be men. And in regards to autism in the black community we are sorely far behind. There is still much work to be done, and it all starts with acknowledging the problem. Autism doesn’t just happen in white communities nor to white boys and girls. As a matter of fact black children with, even wit equal insurance, are still unlikely to be diagnosed with the disorder within the recommended 18-months to 3-years. Most minority children are diagnosed as late as 5-years old, so early intervention is key. We must not only start the conversation but we must educate ourselves to recognize the signs of autism. Read, talk, and share and we will get there, eventually.
So, here I sit sifting through my yesterdays and yesteryears trying valiantly to connect the dots with my faulty all-purpose everyman’s compass. Forgive me it’s human imperfections and mercurial heart. My compass has a weakness for the familial. It confuses its northward logic with its southward emotions. My compass has simultaneous bearings pointing every which way, for it misconstrues friends for family and vice versa. Thus, in the end calculating distances by proximity of heartbeats instead of miles in-between flesh and blood.
I bid you one and all a Happy Father’s Day. To the ladies and gentlemen alike who have come forward and taken up the mantle of parenthood. To the grandmothers and grandfathers finding themselves raising the children of their children. My hat off to the aunts and uncles, and to every family member immediate and extended, titled and untitled who are offering solace, arms of protection and words of wisdom to someone, sometwo and some place and somewhere. To every teacher, guardian, mentor and advocate both professional and lay (mostly underpaid by the way) who have cared enough and continue to fill a void. Adding their lone utterances to the silent and often imperceptible vocal chords of the voiceless. For when our voices are heard and helpful actions taken we know it is not done in vain. Let the chorus of the caregiver forever ring. For there exists no greater charity than the charity of compassion. Of selflessly giving time and caring for another, not for financial benefit, but because it is the right and just path to walk.
And for the parents of autism a moment of silence.
Autism. Autism. Autism. Say it until it means nothing and everything. Say it until there is nothing left to cure and no one to blame. Say it because it is our signage and our calling card. And although autism doesn’t wholly define us, it has undeniably refined us. Whittled away the largesse of apathy. Autism has honed our souls into leaner beings of consciousness and compassion. We the parents, the mothers and fathers, the grandparents, and every lineage of blood and love in-between, we are here and we are not alone. And on this Father’s Day let us be happy and jubilant, thankful. We are here surviving and flourishing as we witness our children survive and flourish. Autism has brought us low and built us back up. It has reacquainted us with our humanity, our humility and realigned our collective compasses as they point to our communal hearts.
Autism has reigned us in and settled us for the greater good. Autism has an uncanny and merciless way of striping us bare and rebuilding us piece by piece into the parents we needed to be all along. Autism is the destroyer of clocks too, because we cannot and must not adhere to fixed timetables. Because we have learned the time signature of autism is expansive and symphonic, it is a season where buds may bloom whenever and wherever they may year round.
Happy Father’s Day.
by D. Durand Worthey