My father only had one directive for all of us – do better than I have. But let me tell you, even with only an 8th grade education and an abandoned child from the racially segregated deep south of rural Louisiana, those are some big shoes to fill.
To women raising Daddyless children who feel disadvantaged and men who didn’t have fathers but now have (or want children): I hope this immediately gives you perspective on the choices available to you regardless of your circumstances. You always have choices. ALWAYS.
Abandoned 3 Year Old Boy
As my father tells the story of the day his mother left him with his father (who was never fatherly) and his newest woman, you can still hear the pain in his voice. He cried, gripping her leg, and begging her to take him with her. Holding his baby sister on her hip with one hand and pushing him back behind the screen door with the other, repeatedly she said, “You have to stay. I can’t take both of you.” Finally, exhausted but with all he could muster moving toward her as she quickly walked away, he gave up. She moved out of state.
My grandfather was far more interested in womanizing, which produced many children, than he was parenting. Daddy was often left by his father to fend for himself, or with women who mistreated him. A step mother who would feed her kids and dare him to touch it. He knows what it is to be hungry, beaten, forgotten, alone, and to be unloved. His father has never, in his entire life done anything for him. He ‘s never given him anything — not one dollar. And although Daddy forgave him (not that his father asked for it) and took care of him up to his death at age 97, he still never got his attention (unless he needed something from him), his affection, nor his approval.
Daddy decided early that he would not be to his children what his father had been to him. He decided that he didn’t have to live out his father’s choices.
Self Reliance Was Expected
My father was ultimately raised by an uncle (his mother’s father) and his wife who couldn’t have children. They are who I consider my grandparents: Uncle Nevers and Aunt Ella Rose. Uncle Nevers worked in the town lumber mill and he owned the restaurant and juke joint (where I hid regularly under the bar eating potato chip and pickles). My Aunt Ella Rose was an elementary school teacher. They believed and taught my father that, educated or not, a man was to use what he had and be innovative about multiplying and make the most of it. All of the men on that side of the family worked and provided for their families well. They were entrepreneurial, industrial and used their natural talents and grit to practice self-reliance.
Though not enthusiast about formal schooling Daddy has always worked hard and smart – choosing to be more like the men who raised him than the one who fathered him! He’s a military veteran – a Navy man – and naturally curious, with a photographic memory. As a result, he’s been a student of life and made the most of every place he docked and lived all around the world. A reader and a history buff, he loves the Discovery Channels, so when you experience him – especially upon learning all he’s accomplished – you’d never know that his formal education ended at the age of 13.
He knew that he had to earn and has always been more focused on what he could do than on what he couldn’t do. And he has never, even in the segregated south since the 1930s, concerned himself with who could stop him. He knew they’d try, but never loss momentum on their efforts.
His uncles taught him that a man is defined by how well he provides for his wife and children. (Those were Daddy’s lessons. In my work, particularly relationship education in The Grown Zone the definition of a Grown Man is certainly expanded, but today is a different time).
Side Note: Daddy was (and in many ways still is) an excellent provider to his children. And on top of that he’s never missed a game, recital, award ceremony, graduation or surgeries. When I was in need he showed up!
How He Did It With Little Education
After leaving the military he bused tables while going to barber school. He met and married my mother during that time. As a young barber, he rented a building which had an apartment attached; it became his barbershop. He rented chairs to other barbers, had another side that became a beauty salon where he rented spaces, rented the apartment and used another back room as a TV repair shop for which he became a certified technician. He started a pest control service and had a truck hauling service. Yes, all at the same time and that’s just the beginning of the legitimate businesses (hustles) he’s had that eventually earned enough to buy the building he worked in; the first of many real estate properties which enabled him to provide for his family and many others in the community.
The Best vs. Your Best
Daddy ingrained this in me: You don’t have to be the best, but you do need to always do your best. My father is not a perfect man, nor was he the perfect parent – no parent is. But he was perfect for me.
In my adult life, one of the things that I’ve learned to appreciate most about my Dad is that he has lived unapologetically! He knows he’s not perfect – has never professed to be – nor is he striving for perfection. His goal is to always be better than he’s been. I love that! And I’ve lived it.
Though he started with so few resources and so little support from his biological parents, he didn’t let that define him; instead he decided to do the best he could and to learn from who was present for him. While he knew that he might not ever be the best, he always gave his best. And even when he failed miserably, his best was always sufficient for him because he had given his all.
I’ve learned as much from his flaws, inadequacies and failures as I have his successes. When I’ve done my best (and it’s all I ever bring – I won’t do it if I’m not committed to it), even if it’s not good enough for others, it’s always enough for me. In those times, I’m unapologetic for my decisions and certainly for me – who I am – because, again, I’m always enough for me.
My goal is always the same, to just be a better me. So I’m never in competition with anybody else. I never feel inferior to anybody else. And I’m always enough even when I’m alone in that assessment.
This olé man has absolutely been my rock and biggest cheerleader! He taught me self-respect, resilience/perseverance and self-reliance as acts of self-love. He was the first man to love me without condition, absolute acceptance, and unwavering zeal; the first to let me know that I am worthy of all things good just as I am and gave me permission to dismiss anybody who treated me otherwise.
To THE Sam Green, Sr., My Daddy, thank you for being a constant example of courage and commitment. I will forever appreciate you. I am who I am in large part because you are who you are – great, good, bad, and ugly – I’m grateful for it all!
As a barber you’ve been many things to many people, and a pillar to the community. I love you, Sam Green, Sr.
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!