Welcome to my father’s homegoing!
He was a simple man with an extraordinary life,
A Georgia boy, born and raised in a wooden shack in Augusta,
In the heart of Jim Crow,
With segregation all around,
And with lynchings always waiting just around the corner,
Born to a Black Mama,
And his old man was Irish, as he always told us.
Was sent to the Korean War and came back with medals,
Then chose the printing trade, where Black men were mostly kept out,
He married my mother, the love of his life, and found a home in paradise, in Laurelton, Queens.
He was a simple man who had a lot to say,
About anything and everything you can imagine,
You might not have agreed with all he said,
But what he said often made you laugh.
And he liked to tell jokes, even when the punchline was not apparent,
Except maybe in his own mind…
He had many loves, my father—
He loved his God and he loved his country,
He loved helping others, serving others,
With his church and with his fellow veterans.
He loved Monday night football,
And I dare you to find a bigger Knicks fan,
Actually, I dare you to find any other Knicks fan, anywhere.
And of course, he loved his family,
And his two grandchildren Kris and Zora,
He bragged about them so much.
We grew up in completely different times,
And I know he didn’t always understand our world, my brother’s and mine,
Of Ivy League opportunities and overseas excursions.
But it didn’t mean he wasn’t proud,
Or that he wasn’t responsible for us being what we had become,
But in any case, he left us with a lot,
With memories of sitting on the back porch in the summertime,
And of the one-dollar matinee, and our shopping trips,
And that ice cream shop,
And most importantly his work ethic.
I know my father would have preferred a different way to leave,
Maybe in his leather chair at home with a pipe in his hand,
Watching wrestling or listening to B.B. King and Bobby Blue Bland,
Maybe with a big plate of lima beans and rice.
But my biggest regret was that he never got to meet my son Ezra,
That baby boy who died last season, on the day before he was born.
But now I know that things have come full circle,
And the two of them have found each other in that spirit world,
That land where the ancestors dwell and conduct their business.
And now my son is sitting on my father’s knee,
Listening to my father’s colorful stories, his life experiences,
And all sorts of jokes of course.
And all along, that was the way it was supposed to be,
With my son sitting on his grandfather’s knee,
And you can’t ask for a better homegoing than that.
This article first appeared in The Black Commentator and is republished with permission.