The Men Who Made Me: Celebrating the Father Figures in My Life Everyday

by Saaraa Bailey

While many see Father’s Day as just another token commercialized holiday, perhaps it’s true fault is that it lasts for only one day. So, in honor of this Father’s Day, I opt to celebrate the everyday influence of the men that made me.

1. My Older Brother

While most girls wish for an older sister, I was very fortunate to have an older brother. An older brother means instant protection, but for me, my oldest brother was also a visionary. From his effortless yet stylish wardrobe, to his eclectic taste in music, my brother was a combination of the experiences that surrounded him. He lived his life with high standards, and did the same for me. I particularly remember my fifth grade graduation; I was flattered and shocked to see that as a graduation present, he brought me a jewelry box in the shape of a piano.

The piano read: “To whom much is given much is required.”

Despite being class valedictorian, the true depth of this engraving flew over my 11-year-old mind. When I inquired about the meaning, he replied, “ You have alot, so you must give a lot.” We never spoke of the jewelry box again, but it still sits securely on my dresser. While the tune no longer plays, my brother’s message is eternal.

2. My Grandfather

Fast forward to my next graduation. As a gift to the graduating class, we were issued autograph books to retain messages from family and friends. Eager to fill the colored pages with funny, sweet, and inspiring messages, I quickly requested a message from each and every member of my family. When I came to my grandfather, I was admittedly expecting something short and simple, as he was a man of few words.

As expected my grandfather’s message read: “Keep on keepin’ on.”

Those four words, even four years after his death, still linger in my mind when I feel like giving up. In his eighties at the time, my grandfather knew that my road moving forward would not be easy. However, in writing these words, he gave me a hand to hold when he wouldn’t be around to do it himself.

3. My Father

While my older brother and grandfather were certainly key components in molding me into the woman I am today, the close relationship I share with my dad and his comments have been more covertly impactful. In a conversation centered on wants, goals, and aspirations I made a comment that implied something I hoped for was unattainable.

In response my father said: “Nothing is too good for my baby.”

He mentioned that although Stevie Wonder said this phrase first, this was how he felt about me. Concise, catchy, and sentimental, the casual reference to the limitless nature of my worth silently taught me to value myself.

As black people who live in a society unwavering in its efforts to devalue us, it is essential that we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, to reach new levels of greatness. This Father’s Day, I stand on the shoulders of my grandfather, father, and brother, in an effort to be closer to the sun that kissed us centuries ago with her golden legacy.

I encourage all the black women reading this to find sustenance in the kind yet simple words of the supportive men in your lives. Be it a father, grandfather, brother, husband, child, neighbor, friend, or maybe even a stranger, may their words act as the crown we wear on our heads, and in our hearts, as we navigate through life.

Photo: Shutterstock

Saaraa Bailey is a regular contributor to For Harriet.

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