First, before I begin, I would like you to play the following video. This will set the mood for this article. I want to take you back to my childhood:
When I listen to this song–as well as some others–I remember my early childhood with my father. My dad was the only English-speaking member of my household, and growing up in the Philippines and Taiwan, was my first peep into what was America. Earth Wind and Fire, the O’Jays, The Temptations, baby you name it. My parent split was I was only 6, but attempted to reconcile several times until I was 10, when a divorce finally severed them forever (but they are still friends–and check this: Facebook friend). But all of my positive memories of my father overshadowed my negative ones. What I remember of my Dad? He was loving, he was strong, he was handsome and told me I was handsome, he was smart and seemed to know everything. My father taught us about the world: He kept a globe in the living room, an endless collection of National Geographic, even had a huge map of the world in the hallway of our homes. He was a linguist; and even as a kid, I knew how to greet someone in German, Spanish, Tagalog, Korean, Thai, and Mandarin. My dad played with us, taught us how to box, even took his encyclopedia and told us where babies really came from. (We didn’t do storks in the Westray household) My father was an early follower of Elijah Muhammad/Malcolm X (gave me my first copy of the Autobiography too) from the first res, and was into history, politics, and education in general, so he educated us in the real stuff at an early age.
When we lived in Taiwan, my father insisted that we attended Taiwanese schools in order to get the full living abroad experience. We learned to speak Mandarin within that first school year (in fact, I don’t remember a time when I did not speak Chinese, we just knew how), and got the standard Taiwanese education: politics, history, calligraphy, even martial arts. For years, I would refer to China as “RED” China (Hong Jung Guo) and called Taiwan the “People’s Republic”. My dad drove us all around the island and to this day, we know the Taiwanese map as well as we know the American map.
My dad cooked and cleaned, despite that our mother was the kind of woman who woke up before our maid did. He taught us how to wash dishes and scale and clean fish. He taught us to let women walk through doors first (“so we could see their behinds”, he use to say). He taught us that our mother was the most beautiful woman in the world and that her cooking was superior to McDonald’s. Once, when I said that I would grow up and marry Marie Osmand–he chastised me for bypassing a beautiful Black woman like Jayne Kennedy. I said my mother wasn’t a Black woman, and he pointed out that my mom was built like a Black woman, so she was even better. Sex ed at an early age!
My point of all this is that I did not have my father for a good portion of my childhood due to divorce and the military, as he PCSed to Korea shortly after the divorce. But my image of my father–that handsome, Black Superman that he was, who could sing and dance, who told me and my brother that we were smart, good looking boys, who told us that our mother was the most beautiful women he had ever seen–even after their divorce–who not only told us about the world, he showed us the world himself, who mailed my mother a check every single month throughout our childhood, who called from Korea at 3 a.m. to jump on me for talking back to my mother (when she was remarried to my stepfather), who flew from Korea for my 8th grade graduation and sat next to my stepfather with a smile on his face, who rewarded me for good grades with anything I asked for: martial arts weapons from Japan, custom-tailored suits in high school, a huge collection of music for my dorm room in college–my father is a real man (yes, he is still alive). He gave me the best memories a kid could have, and no amount of nagging from him at could bother me enough at 41 years old that I won’t call my father weekly to get his advice. The music he listens to is the same music my children hear me play in my car (along with MY music). The same crude humor and lewd jokes he tells me, I repeat to all my Facebook friends. The antagonizing of the White man he used is the same stuff I use on the job to stand my ground. The lessons he taught me in the form of advice, lessons, or just by imitation are invaluable. Every boy and girl should have these kinds of memories of their father. If you are a Dad, get to work. If you are a mother, please don’t stand in the way of their fathers trying to pass these memories to your children. If your kids’ father is not this kind of man, then it would behoove you to find a real man to have over your children, because good stepfathers are the next best thing to good fathers.
A father’s number one job is to raise and support his family. But his second job–and just as important–is to teach his sons what kind of man they should be, and to teach his daughters what kind of man they should look for. I have to put out this shameless plug: My father, James Addison Westray Jr., did a hell of a job. Thanks for visiting my blog.