Father’s day has never been the same since December 22nd 2001. On that day, my father went home to our father’s home; the man who raised me with tough love and taught me to seek knowledge above all closed his eyes and withdrew into the night. Life changed from that point on; my oak tree was felled and the one person who I could never beat in a debate was no longer there to match wits with me. In all honesty, I never grieved; the shock of seeing him pass away in front of my eyes made me run faster than Jackie Joyner-Kersee into the arms of debauchery in order to escape the gravity of memories.
Thus, for the past 16 years, father’s day has been an occasion to forget more than a time to celebrate a father’s love. How do I get myself to embrace my father in his absence? I found it easier to hold on to fleeting memories and shutter my mind to the fact that my father is no longer present. So this morning, when someone wished me a father’s day even though I have no children as of yet, I retorted with a smile “I will call you in a couple of years and say thank you”. These are the things I have perfected over the years—a smile to cover up tears and jokes to gloss over painful remembrances.
My momentary ennui did not last long; less than thirty minutes later I was encountered with someone’s petty antics. No matter that my default mode is to make people smile, I’ll be damned if my good will towards people does not get inverted into a simmering boil when I see people trying to hobble others with their animus. My heart knows that people try to break others because they are broken themselves; but I am not Jesus, I return bullets with Howitzers. It’s my own brokenness that does this really, I constantly write about being graceful in the face of other people’s hatefulness—but theory sure does have a way of being erased quickly by reality.
My Sunday off to rocky start, I hopped in the car with Timothy to head over to Vineyard Church. When I told Tim what transpired, he paused for a minute and furled his eyebrows. Then, as he was driving, he started speaking with his southern twang and recounted this anecdote:
You know Teddy, if someone walks into a room and says “this room smells like shit”, you might take him seriously at first. If he then proceeds to go into three other rooms and says “this room smells like shit” each time he vacates the three rooms, well then Teddy, you can rightfully come to the conclusion that perhaps the rooms are not what smell of shit.
I chuckled and instantly let go of my previously held annoyance when Tim conveyed this sailor’s proverb. The things that tickle us the most are the sayings that hit home. This is why comedians are so laugh out loud funny; they are turning into jokes the very thorns and arrows that bedevile our hearts. There is nothing as wonderful as past pains that become occasions to smile—when churning billows still and become calm seas—for that is when bitterness gives way to gratefulness. Tim did not have to preach at me or be pious, he just told me a witty allegory and then let me see the folly of my ways.
I asked Tim if he had children and he told me he had two. Of course Tim had two children, he gave me the wisdom of a father. This is the blessing of being a dad; we men insist on living life in the fast lane as we make it our birthright to be imprudent and live life in reckless abandonment. We are told to go out and sow our oats; after doing just that we realize that sowing oats leads to nothing more than emptiness and regrets. This is how wisdom is earned, the best preachers and teachers are the ones who bit the apple and then came back for seconds. Time, and enough mistakes, smooths out our negligence and gives us hard earned sagacity.
The morning conspired against me! I had no choice but to remember my father and the times I used to go at it with Fikremariam Million as if we were reprising the Lincoln-Douglas debates. I told Tim how my father and I used to argue; in all honesty I became an uber liberal only because my dad was a hard core conservative. My father loved Reagan; I hated Ronny in response. My father hated Bill Clinton; I came to idolize Bubba in rejoinder. Sports and politics were my father’s twin passions; I picked up on those same passions but by pursuing the polar opposite of the very things he most adored. I loved my father but I wanted to be different; I stayed rebelling against my dad.
Ah the irony of it all; we rebel against those things which we are most similar to. I am my father through and through; try as hard as I could to escape his influence, his spirit lives on through me even though I am a bit more verbose than my dad ever was. My father was my hero of all heroes; it was my dad who insisted that I never rest on my laurels and to never be content with being average. He pushed me all the time to learn more, to seek knowledge with tenacity and to challenge conventional wisdom. Above all, he taught me to be independent and to not be anyone’s project.
My father used to tell me two things all the time. The first is that mankind can take everything from you but they can never take away what you know. Second, he told me to get my facts right and to have my ducks in a row before I engage anyone in a debate or take part in conversations. These lessons he used to drill into my head were nothing more than basic training and a preparation for what life had in store. When the time came for me to face my biggest crucible and to lean on acumen in order to survive my trail of fire, my father’s admonitions became my guiding light. How poetically fitting, my father’s name Fikre means my love—it was my love that saved me from the severity of this world.
After years of foolishness and living life with full indiscretion, I finally earned the wisdom of my father Fikre. Perhaps the next wisdom I gain is to stop running away from the memories of my dad and in time perhaps that wisdom will allow me to revisit grounds I swore I would never walk on again. Time will tell, but for the time being I will be happy on this day remembering my dad’s love instead of trying to forget his absence.
Dad, thank you for all you have done for me over the years, I no longer rebel against you, it is my hope to one day be a father just like you. Though I ask God to give me three daughters—I’m not sure I can handle a little Teddy rebelling against me the same way I rebelled against you. I know you are with our father in heaven dad; rebel no more, I am my father Fikre’s son. #IamMyLove
“When a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry.” ~ William Shakespeare
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Check out the wisdom I earned from my father as I discuss the very meaning of love (fiker) in the Ghion Cast below. Have a blessed day all, may we all have he wisdom and patience of fathers.
Let me close this out with my dad’s favorite song that was also my favorite song when I was six in Ethiopia. I never rebelled against my dad’s love. I miss you Fikremariam Million (Rest in Eternal Peace)
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.