This man was my father, a man I knew very well. A man I knew my entire life, a man who made indelible marks on the character of my life for all the years of my life, a man that I have loved beyond measure. He gave me the best of himself. A man who I was always only an arm’s length away from. This man I called Father.
Pops as we sometimes called him in his later years, was a man for all seasons. A good and faithful man.
He had two distinguishing features. He was the poster child for what a father ought to be, and what a parent ought to be.
He never boasted, he laughed a lot, ever popular in the community especially with the ladies. I would sometimes look out the window to see him by the fence engaged in conversation with 4 or five women of all ages chatting and laughing.
“Hi Pops” was always the greeting as the folks would pass by.
“How tings, you looking good, say hello to the others” would be his response if they couldn’t stop to chat.
My father was the opposite of my mother in character, she was formal and he was noisy and rambunctious, outgoing while she was selective, but the deep and abiding feature in their relationship was their devotion to family life and being the best parents ever. They gave of themselves completely and it is almost impossible to speak of him without having to mention her. They laughed a lot, they drank pots and pots of tea and played cards and danced around the house. My father could not dance so you can imagine the hilarity when a waltz was on the radio and he would call out, “mek wi dance nuh”, as he grinned with great affection. Mama would join him and the jokes would begin.
Cecil was devoted to his children and was always carrying a bag with treats for us. Treats which included books. His family was his hobby. My father was kind and tender-hearted and loved to cry. His tears were never far. He was thoughtful always thinking about the plight of his neighbors and what could he do to help. His last lucid discussion a month ago was him wondering what became of the families of men who were incarcerated. He wondered if the wives remained faithful to the husbands until they were released and if not, how awful it must be for the man when he came back to find that they had moved away and he had nowhere to go. He never judged, he wanted peace and security for everyone.
Cecil George loved Dominoes, Boxing, Tennis, Bodybuilding and Trucks. At aged 90 he wanted me to renew his driver’s license so he could buy a “vehicle” so that we could go driving. That Christmas I gave him one of my Hess toy trucks and he looked me dead in the eye and said,”yuh tink yuh funny” as he examined it. Cecil loved Gospel music and would blare his record player with Jimmy Swaggart, Mahalia Jackson and Jim Reeves until the rest of us found ourselves tapping our feet and swaying. He never grasped his wife’s Episcopalian music. The tambourine was his instrument.
My father was faithful. We could depend on him in every situation. He was protective. He hated the idea that I lived alone while I was in Jamaica because I was unmarried and had no one to protect me. “You need to come back to New York so we can look after you. I was at least 28 years old and there he was worrying over me.
Cecil was trustworthy. My mother could trust to leave us in his care for extended periods because she knew that he had the capacity to be our mother as well as being father. Those were the times that he cooked morning noon and night, gave us weird hairdos and let us stay in the front yard until the peeny wallies (or fireflies) came out. We loved that immensely. That tender disorder is a sweet memory I carry.
Cecil was a funny fellow. He was a storyteller and told us outrageous stories much to the chagrin of our mother. One particular story was how he met our mother. We laughed so much and believed the yarn, while mama scowled and promised to deal with him.
He was the one who got down on all fours so we could ride on his back screaming “Hi Ho Silver!!”, until mama intervened,
“Cecil yuh going to mek dem kill yuh?”
He was the one who ate the porridge I made for him sweetened with salt, instead of sugar, and never said a word except, “thank you my daughter”, I was ten. At nineteen when I found out that he ate it because he could not bear to make me think that I had displeased him. It was my first breakfast and my first cooking lesson without my mother’s supervision. I was horrified at the discovery but fell deeper in love with him. How could you not love such a man?
Our father gave us all that we needed as children and when he couldn’t he comforted us with hope for tomorrow. He never complained. I spent my years studying all the beautiful things about him and we are all eternally grateful that we could give him back some of the tenderness that he gave to us as children. We will miss him but our hearts will always carry the warmth of his love. We will smile and see him in each other’s face.
“He never made a fortune, or a noise in the world where men are seeking fame; but he had a healthy brood of girls and boys who loved the very ground on which he trod. They thought him just a little short of God;
Oh, you should have heard the way they said his name,”