Birthday’s are a time of reflection.
Years ago I came to the realization that the hollow sentiments encapsulated in store bought cards didn’t speak for me and I decided from that point on to always craft something from the pit of my soul.
These are your birthday words.
I wear the mantle of writer – and on this day I am compelled to realize your role in this reality.
And I thank you, wholeheartedly.
Many recollections are thick in my mind, like fresh paint in an enclosed room.
“To keep my nose in a book.”
“Don’t learn the hard way.
Being wary of those who would delight in pulling me down versus lifting me up.
Those summer writing assignments where I had to write in impeccable penmanship, to submit for your approval and doing against the backdrop of my friends playing within earshot.
You told me that words would define and save my life if I read enough of them.
Admittedly, I abhorred the chore.
Because you made me read everything: Reader’s Digest, Time, National Geographic, the entire set of the World Book encyclopedias and the Child craft collection in the living room.
After I read everything in the house, you made me go to library with a mandate to read everything in there.
I hated sneaking in the back way because the threat posed by a older kid who always took pleasure in knock the books out of the shopping bag that I carried them in.
I didn’t understand what you meant when you said:
“That boy is a metaphor for the rest of your life, there will always be someone trying alter your trajectory, you better grip those books tighter.”
Then you made me write “trajectory” and “metaphor” a hundred times and use it in a sentence.
Admittedly, I found more pleasure in having Alfie beat the hell out of him, but nearly 30 years later your message has resonance.
This world place where the evil and self-centerness can and will alter your trajectory.
If you recall I read so much that the kids in the neighborhood and some in school said I talked funny – it left me feeling ostracized.
And you said something that you probably don’t remember, but was a bookmark in my life.
You told me (in a near shout nonetheless):
“Shun, a lot of times it isn’t for them to understand you, but if you understand them you are operating from a position of power. Let them talk boy, just make sure you are listening to those words.”
Although the shadow of my youth has passed, I’m still your “boy” and I’ve seen scores of broken men whose abandonment by their own father’s echoes loudly in their and those that they touch.
I am a flawed man, but I am not broken and you made sure of that. I hope that I have honored those prescient thoughts and aspirations that you had for me as I’ve only wanted to make you proud and justify the faith that you invested in me.
Let me leave you with something that I’ve learned on my own journey:
Perfection isn’t a destination, it is a long winding path. Endeavoring to be better is the destination and it is the cousin to perfection.
Happy Birthday Daddy
Patterson Brother #3