Those in the fraternity know the commercials don’t help. With my fifth official Father’s Day on the horizon I realize I have matured. I smile when people wish me a “Happy Father’s Day” and resist the urge to respond “Thanks, but it would really be a happy day for me if…” Admittedly it takes time, but after a loved one dies you realize though they are physically gone they are ever-present. They visit us in the passing scent or a comment from an honest child. I like to believe our angels send us thoughts and unexpected blessings to let us know they are there, watching. I also believe they visit us in the remembrances of the time we spent with them and in the lessons they left. Thank God for the lessons.
I patronize a local mall whenever possible. It is in an area some may consider “urban” in the new negative sense but I try to spend money there when I can. I have however decided that as a family we visit this particular place as early as possible. Like Whodini proffers, “The freaks come out at night.” As late day became early evening I remembered I wanted a few things and decided to hit the mall. Time of day and my son’s heavy Sunday cartoon rotation dictated I would be traveling alone. When you go places alone you only have to worry about yourself. As I’m sure it is for most men the shopping was uneventful. I knew what I wanted so I went in, found my size, and paid for it. As I reached the parking lot I heard a woman’s voice in an emergent tone. She demanded the receiver of her command “Get the f*ck away from me!” I focused on the source of the commotion as I made my way to my car. Never break stride. A woman was arguing with her male companion in front of the pre-teen girl that accompanied them. As they cursed and shoved each other I wondered how many times this poor child had watched this scene play out. As I feared he would the cowardly shell drew back his hand and struck the woman in her face. Without pause she hit him back and the shoving continued. Men don’t hit women. Period.
I pulled my car around on his blind side and got out before the bully could see me. Opening the car door caught his attention and gave him a new target for a moment. The young lady took a few steps forward and almost stood directly next to me. Imagine being so scared and frustrated you would stand next to a perfect stranger without even knowing his intention. I stepped away from the girl and toward this “man.” Always give yourself space. Watch his hands. I told him how cowardly his actions were (in more colloquial language) and reminded him he had his child watching. His defense was, “She’s not my daughter. She is a niece.” I let a couple seconds of silence pass for the ridiculousness of that statement to settle in. The woman (who I might add never stopped talking smack???) took the opportunity to take the young one by the hand and walk to the neighboring bus stop. That left me and the woman beater alone to do whatever it is that two men decided to do. And we did just that- we talked. He told me their whole story, or at least his side of it. He complained that her family was taking advantage of him. He griped that the child was left in their care. He grumbled about his woman this, and his woman that. I never missed an opportunity to chime in. “Men don’t hit women.” I heard my father’s voice and was suddenly standing in our old living room. Actually he was standing and I was fixed on the plastic covered yellow/goldish couch. I have never seen anything since that matched that couch exactly.
My father was clear. “Unless you are trying to save your life or someone else’s life you should never hit a woman. If I ever hear tell of you hitting a woman I will kill you.” Those that knew my father know that was how he shared important information. It was short and succinct and usually followed by some sort of threat. A threat I never doubted he would carry out if my mother wasn’t home. I asked this man how he would feel if his mother or sister or daughter called to tell him their mate just beat them in the mall parking lot. His silence meant that he saw the point, he was tired of the conversation, or both. I urged him to do better and back up the few steps to my open car door. Don’t turn your back on anyone. I am wise enough to know that he probably caught the next bus home to finish the fight, but I am foolish and faithful enough to believe that just maybe…
I hear you Pops. I always do. Thank you for it all. The lessons I learned and the few that escaped me. Thank you for watching over the loved ones you left. You would have gotten a kick out of your youngest grandson. He is a thinker like you.
Before I got up from the warm plastic on the couch my father put his hand on my shoulder and caught my eye to make sure he had my full attention. Always be a man son. Be a damn man. I am trying Pops.