Kaleidoscope:Father’s Day Special.

I watch a quiet spectator as he carries his precious bundle strapped to his fore every Sunday. He sits usually in the second row of my beloved church. At the beginning, they were two. Both of them with hands intertwined. Later, her abdomen heralded a third would join their family. That they loved each other was evident for all to see.Her demise was heart breaking. We all prayed he would be okay. He still continued to come to church; seeking solace in the community that surrounded them with love. His precious bundle he rocked back and forth, at times he looking quite lost. As she grew older and bigger, his shoulders sagged under her weight. Someone remarked kindly, maybe, he should put her in a stroller. He smiled sadly and his response: Her heart beat assures me I will be fine.

My daily musings take me to the local library where I borrow books. On the table across from where I sat; I see him coloring with two toddlers, ages two and three. He tells me, he took a pay cut to enable him raise his two children by working part time. Sure the financial struggles are a daily challenge but he says these have helped him tap into his resourcefulness. His family rarely eats out and he has become a great cook. My kids’ needs are met and that’s all that matters.

He had three sons, I remember. His relationship with his wife, their mother was at best described as a troubled one. He says they married young. Both still discovering who they were and what they wanted. He says though their relationship did not go the direction he wanted, he purposed to stay because of his sons. When their relationship made their home difficult for their children’s upbringing, he decided to cut his losses and run; primarily because of his sons. He wanted to raise them in a warm and loving environment and he came to the conclusion he couldn’t do it while married to their mother. I salute his bravery.

He navigates between two continents trying to provide for his family. His spouse is the primary care giver of three prepubescent children, one of which is severely handicapped. His nights are riddled with Skype calls trying to keep up with his family: doctors updates, helping with the kids home works, encouraging while still dispensing of punishment when necessary. He wonders if its all worth it at times: the constant plane hopping, the sleepless nights, the constant tugging on his heart strings when he misses another musical recital; when his youngest asks again and again: ‘Daddy, when are you coming home?’ How does he explain the reason why he took this job was to provide for them; that the medical costs continued to increase while his income had stayed stagnant, that the recession bit hard and Mummy’s job was scrapped by the company in their need to stay afloat. How does he explain to a six years old, that, their mortgage would not have been affordable without this change? The choices that were foisted upon him.

Orphaned ┬áin his teens, he has never been a sibling but a father to his brother. Their parents were taken when he was fifteen. His brother was still in diapers. Though he was doing well in school and could easily have gone on to a college of his choice, he knew he had to take care of his brother. He says the happiest day of his life was when his brother graduated from college. ‘He knows the price we paid to get him there’.

He mentors young men in his neighborhood. Those without positive male role models. He checks their homework ; tutors in courses they have challenges in; helps in building their character through a community center he volunteers in. He hates that he gets credit for helping the children. They are the ones giving his life meaning. My life without this program would be empty. I have found myself being a positive voice in a little brother’s head.

His daughter is my children’s pediatrician. A wonderful woman with a great heart. Over the course of my many visits we have forged a special bond. She was raised by a single parent, her mother passed very early. Her father raised herself and four siblings. She can not remember her father being absent for any program during their formative years.She once commented: He gave his all to us being our everything, there was nothing left to give to another. He never remarried.

My beloved is the voice of calm that helps soothe the tempestuous storm while navigating this journey we have embarked on. He is the voice of reason that helps calm my fears when I am overwhelmed. He is the strong arm of love that turns the rudder of our home-craft; with foresight as compass; with spiritual growth as sail.

Happy Father’s Day to all the men getting into the mud of life; willing to fight and wrestle for their seeds. For the great men who have said ‘yes’ to responsibility, who rise daily to face the fears, the joys, the triumphs of parenthood. I salute you.

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A Father’s Day Special:Taxidermtopia

During the course of my daily walks I had passed her store window many times. In the cold of winter, through snow and slush I would still pause and peer through the ice encrusted glass to watch her bent over her work table. Her shelves held different kinds of animals in varying poses of life. Some looked asleep, some with paws raised, fangs bared, eyes strangely dilated-all life like. From her posture, hair and mottled skin I could tell she was elderly but her exact age I could not be sure. Her hair was wildly tussled, like she used her fingers instead of a traditional comb. From my vantage point-from her glass window I could see the spider veins that coursed her mottled hands. Nails chipped, fingernails a strange brown, possibly from the constant use of dyes of her trade.

She was always bent over her work bench. If it was winter she would be draped in loose cashmere sweaters, all ill fitting-an artist whose focus was on her trade and not her appearance. Now in warmer climate, she has switched her sweaters for colorful African prints. Today, I passed her store again and in habit, I stop and peer through her window. She looks up and waves me in. I look behind me, thinking me? She smiles and points at me mouthing “You..come in”. I only hesitated for a second. I take a deep breath and enter her shop. I had expected to be engulfed by some thing similar to the smell that pervades a morgue, or at least that deep disinfectant smell that pervades hospital corridors; instead I was awash by the sweet aroma of cinnamon.

She stood barely five feet tall, her eyes strangely out of focus, the left iris a milky hue-glaucoma, she told me, later. She spoke in halting English. An Eastern European country was her origin. Each product had a story. Some were once pets she had, some belonged to people she had known during the span of her over ten decades.

A cat she had as a little girl. A couple of dogs, one of which a lover had once given her, a sign of his undying love. The love was not ‘undying’ but the dog, she kept. A crocodile she brought home from a trip to the South Americas. She told me the horrors she faced at immigration but her cargo was precious. I was young and stupid back then, I wanted to be a modern day Noah. A cheetah, another gift from an old lover. She lay her head on the life-like head and took a deep breath…’..my love for him was great’-I wasn’t sure she meant the man. Two mongrels, an English spaniel and my favorite- a Newfoundland. A bear stood on its hind legs, its right paw raised, its teeth bared…a beautiful life like pose…its irises strangely dilated. A duck, an ostrich….a life time of collection. A beautiful bird caught my attention. It was mounted on a golden stand. Its plumage a gorgeous raiment.

The bird once belonged to her father. Her trade was once his legacy. She spent many hours in his shop watching, learning and growing. He was her only parent. A small man with a great personality. He taught her to live her life on her own terms and not to define herself by societal or cultural expectations. She was the product of a brief relationship he had with her mother. His only child. He raised her to see herself as her only resource, not to expect to find herself in marriage. In fact, her father told her several times during the course of her life if she never married and never bore children but was happy in service to humanity, then he would have raised her right. He believed a woman had to be complete first before finding success in any relationship. They lived a bohemian life traveling across Europe while he catered to his customers variety of needs. In the old country, his art was in high demand among-st his rich clientele.

When she desired to explore the world outside Europe, he gave her his blessing and enough money to live on for a year. She said she spent the last decade of his life with him. I can easily say, I returned to take care of him but the truth is I returned to dwell in his shadow. As her eyes lit up as she spoke of her father, I thought of mine. I think of his words of wisdom, our deep friendship and the landscape our relationship was. A landscape of deep greenery; tall strong oaks of trees giving shade in moments of down pour. Where misunderstandings have blighted the terrain in my youth but the manure of love had watered the rich ground to yield bountiful harvest, again. A landscape where I anticipate each sigh, where I interpret each frown and dwell in his shadow.

On my walk back home, my thoughts are still of my Dad and then my cell begins to ring. Without looking at my caller ID, I know its him. Happy Father’s Day Daddy.