My father and I lay on the bed together looking up at the ceiling. He was on the left side, I was on the right. He was a young man. I was an older man. We talked. It was the longest conversation that we had ever had, and although I don’t remember most of what was said, I felt good; very good. And then he remarked ‘why are your nipples so hard? You must be popular with the girls.’
My father’s love was never ingrained in me the way my mother’s was. It flickered and went out like candlelight in my childhood before I ever knew its warmth. I knew his religious conservatism would have made him cautiously proud of my professional achievements. He would have hated the person I am.
Family Values is one of those principles we all claim, yet to each it often means something different. It has become an ideological intersection of social collisions.
There was a time when it represented dad, mom, daughter and son; a white picket fence and a white steeple church. All things white and beautiful.
But, it was never really that way. In communities black and brown and yellow and red; in communities white that also struggled to buy bread, the notion of family had a more fluid edge. People in need, people needing help, those among us without and those of us alone; the young, the old, the sick , the hungry; the abandoned and the forgotten. They were taken in and given names; bound up, helped up, comforted, fed, visited, cried over, buried and remembered.
Generations of slaves untimely ripped from the womb of their motherland survived their despair because they defined family by a limitless definition of love.
My dream of my dead father gave me peace that he loved me, but reminded me that it was important to love myself. It also reinforced for me that family value has far less to do with blood and much more to do with love.