Thank God for My Daddy: A Tribute to the Best Man I Know

by Diana Veiga

The other day, I went into a Black-owned neighborhood bar and restaurant to pick up some wings and fries. They were playing what seemed to be a documentary of local Black teen girls talking about growing up without their father. Yes, it’s that kind of slightly hood rich spot, but I love it.

Since my food wasn’t ready yet, I got to watch about 8-10 minutes and it was absolutely heartbreaking. Girls talked about how their fathers didn’t keep promises, how they hadn’t seen or talked to their father in years, and worse they had nothing to say to him if they ever did. I wanted to cry right there in that restaurant. I don’t know about that life because I have only known a life with a father. A present father. A great father.

But I wasn’t the only one. I grew up nestled in Black middle class life, rubbing elbows with some of Washington, DC’s elite. Growing up most of my Black friends came from or were born into two parent households. Some couples went on to divorce, but the fathers didn’t disappear. They were still right there at dance recitals and church Christmas pageants. I recall the men in my church as proud husband and fathers, who painted the play sets, were “security” for our dances and parties, taught us Sunday School lessons, dropped off their daughters to Girl Scouts and then went to be Boy Scout leaders. They were committed, they were active, and they were there. It was never a question that they wouldn’t be. Why wouldn’t they be? They were our daddies.

But onto my daddy.

My father is a doctor, but that is not the most important thing about him. Yes, it provided us a nice and comfortable life, but he will never boast about his profession. What I remember most about him during my childhood is that he would play the guitar in the living room and we would make up songs together. I would dance around and he would sing. He would play the piano in the basement and again I would dance and he would sing. He loved to watch tennis and introduced my brother and me to the Williams sisters when no one else was paying attention. He also took us to the tennis court. A lot. But, no Serena Williams here. There was artwork that he had painted or photos he had shot, before the kids had been born, hanging all around the house. My father is multifaceted. From him I learned that your profession does not define you, you define yourself.

I grew up just knowing that my daddy was the best daddy and that all these things just came to him in a dream or through osmosis. But when I got older I learned from my mother that she had told him her expectations of him as a father. You see, my mother had a terrific father. My grandfather passed away when I was one, but everyone speaks of his gentle and kind nature. My grandmother worked nights as a nurse so my grandfather was home with the 7 kids during the crucial home from school hours. He ironed my grandmother’s uniforms before she went to work. Gender rules be damned! He was stern, but loving with all of his kids – and they each have a specific memory of how he made them feel special and loved. He was active and present, a rarity for fathers back in those days. My paternal grandfather was definitely present, but he was more of the strong, provider type.

My mom wanted my daddy to be similar to her father. She laughs about how when I was first born, he would do my hair and put it up in a thousand barrettes and he and I would go out to conquer the world. “You’re gonna let him take that baby out by himself,” she says people would ask. “Let him? That’s her father. He’s not gonna kill her.” And then she would enjoy her day to herself. And that’s how it was – a true partnership, co-parenting, the two of them making it work together.

And that’s when I realized that it was all about choices. That my father made the purposeful choice to be a good father. He chose to come home every night like clockwork, drop his briefcase on the floor, and have dinner with us. He chose to take us to the park or to our many activities thus giving my mother some respite so she could get her nails or hair done, or have girl time with her sisters and keep her sanity. He chose to tell us he loved us and was proud of us. He chose to come to our events and beam with pride. He chose to be there every day. In every possible way.

It can be a tough choice, but it’s a necessary one. A courageous one. One that shows my father’s character and his willingness to sacrifice a little bit of himself for the greater good, for his wife, for his family. He could have risen to the challenge or walked away. Or even worse, just half stepped it. But he didn’t. My daddy chose us and I’m so glad he did.

Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

Diana Veiga is a Spelman woman, a DC resident, and a freelance writer. Of course, she’s also on Twitter.

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