I Seriously Owe My Mother and Father & Others
The preceding article “I Owe My Mother” is entertaining, yet so true. As I read it
and reflect, I realize I would be remiss if I did not follow up with something a little
Until age ten, I enjoyed the luxury of a two parent family. It was then that my sister
Jean (age two at the time) and I became unwilling members of a single parent
household, and our mother inherited the much more difficult task of providing for
our every need. I found later that our father’s premature passing was likely due to
getting out of a hospital bed and exerting himself while trying to help another
patient. This was believable to those who know my immediate and extended family.
It was and is characteristic of our family to be willing to go the extra mile. During the
ensuing years, my mother went plenty of extra miles, raising my sister and I in fine
fashion in spite of having Multiple Sclerosis. My sister and I inherited genetically
and learned by our environment the virtues of going the extra mile. We went plenty
of extra miles, because it was required.
I was working part time at a corner grocery store before age seven, became an
attempted robbery victim at age eight, earned a commendation for delivering
newspapers in the storm of 1950 before age ten, had to bluff and battle my way
past bigots before age sixteen just to attend school. At age nineteen prior to
entering military service I was challenged for passing a test “too easily,” and before
age twenty-one had attended Non-Commissioned Officers Academy. Before age
twenty-two I was entrusted with responsibilities requiring an Interim Top Secret
Clearance, communicating with organizations with such clandestine sounding
acronyms such as ASA, NSA, and others; and traveling around Germany, armed
Within eight months of my Honorable Discharge and recommendations from as high
as the commander of Group Headquarters, I had heard every then current excuse
for not hiring African American males, including “You are too qualified.” On Nov.
22, 1963, just over two months after finally being hired, I listened as bigoted co-
workers cheered the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and I realized
that even the people that finally hired me didn’t like me.
Fast forward forty-three years, and the “actors” have changed, but the movie is the
same. Because God blessed me, and my parents raised me, and much of my
extended family supported me, I have very little to apologize for. My life’s work
speaks for itself. In spite of what I have done, let these next few words find a home
inside your mind and soul. None of what I shared means anything to anyone if it
doesn’t mean anything to me. Let me rephrase it. NOTHING you do earns you
respect, unless YOU respect yourself first.
I have been independent and fully self-supporting since age nineteen, and have
constantly provided some degree of support to others since age twenty-four.
Ironically some of my biggest and most vocal critics today seek to instruct me on
responsibilities concerning everything from marital relations to work ethics. They
seek to teach me logic, despite the fact that I have the 99 percentile in logic, and
worked for thirty-six years using that blessing. I used that logic in part to rise above
mediocrity in an environment that to paraphrase Gil Scott Heron was, “too hostile to
Among today’s constant critics are sometimes friends who I would expect to be
more supportive, less critical, or at least more observant before they become
critical. But in the end, they don’t know that they don’t know. They aren’t Mom or
Dad, and they certainly are not GOD.
My message to the reader is that we must always seek higher ground. Each of us
has challenges. Each of us will at times be treated unfairly or unduly criticized.
Each of us can at times expect the doomsdayers, the naysayers, and the “experts
at everything” to try to repair what is not broken. When they attempt to interfere,
and they will, we must get over it, thank God for our parents and parental figures,
and get on with the lives we have been prepared for.
If you have a mother and father, thank God. If you have a mother or a father, thank
God. If you have neither, thank God anyway, and then look for a mother or a father
figure. If you are so smart, or so independent, or so bitter, or so defeated, that you
don’t think you need or can use a mother or father, or a mother or father figure, still
thank God, but also be very careful.
My mother passed away in 1984, and today I still cling to what she taught and the
way she lived. In my more distant memory (but still there) is the quiet strength of a
father, who before age 38 had earned the level of 33rd Degree Mason.
And just as importantly, I cling to my extended family and those surrogate
relationships that God has placed me in, including “Ma Gardner”, “Mom” & “Pop”
Fleming, Thomas Stith & others.
"Seeing the world not as it is, but as it can be"
"Where there is no vision, the people perish." - Proverbs 29:18
Your Success Newsletter - May-June, 2006 - Published Bi-Monthly