Father's Day -- a holiday celebrating the tidings of the alpha male figure in a familial environment -- a day that embraces nostalgia, where it becomes systematic and emotions become recurrent.
I don't celebrate holidays often.
Growing up in the concrete jungle of Philadelphia on the north side of the Art Museum, life is different than most people below the dividing line would like to agree. Frankly, who can blame them, the spattering of metal casings mixed with innutritious miasma coupled with the disregard for one's brother, in a city of "brotherly love," is prevalent in urban environments.
It's just a matter of thinking after one gets acclimated properly.
Once the aforementioned is dismissed, to some it's just a waiting game. Wondering what petrifying event awaits around the next corner, or the safest route to school, maybe even "what can these fifty cents buy me from the corner store." That type of mentality.
The hood, ghetto, or whatever the popular term is, definitely isn't suburbia. Not saying that all goes well behind a white picket fence, but the chance of basic survival is greater there than here. The familial setting sometimes seems instant there rather in some of the rougher parts of the somewhat urbanized military zones of Philly.
Walking down the broken pavements of North Philly that glisten with poorly drawn hop-scotch boxes from middle school daughters and are shadowed by multiple sets of brick-patterned row homes, a trend appears.
Daughters without fathers, sons missing a parent, families of two instead of three, it was all the same. I grew up on a block where I was the only kid with a father, something that never sticks out as challenging until Father's Day appears.
In my mind, having a father was a crutch in early childhood. Other kids would only have to worry about appeasing one parent whereas I had to appease two. It seemed like having a father was the most troublesome thing to plague my life since the first acne bump had grazed my russet face at age 13.
How I was so naïve.
During my youth, I disliked my father greatly, or at least I kept telling myself that. Most of my weekends were spent at his small house in a quieter neighborhood near the outskirts of the city, a more diverse place. I would pick weeds, mow lawns, vacuum rugs, and perform random acts of plumbing through apartment complexes that he owned.
I dreaded every second.
My father was very old-school. He listened to jazz on the long, sometimes waning, rides home in his low-riding cherry-red corvette after a track practice or basketball game. A retired detective, he fought crime and shot bad guys in his 20s on 52nd street, a rougher part of West Philadelphia. He wore weird patterned dress shirts. His hair was grey. He was a lighter skin tone than my mom so when I didn't want to see him, I always told myself I was adopted.
How I was so naïve.
The one thing my dad had a vast fascination with was cars and the way they were built. On occasion, we took long trips to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, to see immense displays of motor vehicles in wide, grassy knolls. We'd stroll into Northern New Jersey to go to a Mercedes-Benz convention or pick up a part for a car. It had seemed like all of our time was spent in or around cars after a while.
But because he liked them, I would at least give them a chance.
We would roll back into my narrow block in North Philly after the sun had set. My dad would leave me with my mom, and then he'd trek back to the outskirts of town like a hermit in his cherry red carriage. I would always get questioned by my neighbors or my friends when I left the low-rider.
"Where'd you come from?" one asked. "Why does your dad drive that car?" said another. "Why can't your family just be normal?" probed a third.
Black people can be rough on their own sometimes especially in close knit communities. "The village that raises a child" mentality sort of seeps in too deep and intermingles with a jealous nature that becomes all-too-tangible at times.
After the long days on longer rides to see different beamers and wagons, I started high school. I went to a private school not far from home, the best for boys in the city, a rival high school of my father's. To much of his apprehension, I stayed at the school, usually catching a trolley along Girard Avenue or hitching a ride with a friend for a few blocks.
The school was different from our neighborhood. I was one of possibly ten black students in my grade. My class neared 300 my freshman year. My dad went to a similar school, except many middle-class black families would send their students to his school back in the sixties. My dad wanted me to become acclimated in a more diverse setting, not one that was all one race. It didn't matter to me much; I just wanted the best education possible.
I tried my hand at athletics while in high school; my dad wasn't at many sporting events. I played football, ran track for a few years, and was an Honorable Mention All-conference wrestler, he attended one meet my junior season after which he said "Damn, you really got your ass beat huh?"
Graduation day finally arrived, and with it my father did as well. It was funny, most of the times when I had to dress nice it seemed as though my dad was trying to out dress me at my own functions, or at least it seemed that way. Even though he didn't do it purposely, it was always amusing.
I packed my things, and got ready to leave for college. My dad wasn't one who always agreed with higher education, but if there was a scholarship that came with it and it meant he didn't have to pay, he was all for it. It was in those days, 120 miles away from home that I truly started to love my dad.
Even though the car rides were tedious, the physical chores were monotonous, and many of the "adventures" we took seemed pointless, they made more sense when I was on my own. The hard learned lessons were avoided, the learning curve was eluded, and intellect was in hand from day one.
How I was so naïve.
I sit on my porch and gaze down the tarred black street of my inhabitance amid my seasonal hiatus from secondary education. Now a junior, I watch daughters and sons frolic, double-dutching through jump ropes, dribbling basketballs and enjoying their afternoons, not nervous about what society has in store for them.
The trend still continues. Daughters without fathers, sons in single homes, nothing has changed from when I was in their shoes. I see my childhood friends and greet them with hugs and stories from college, mine mirroring some of theirs. Nothing has changed on their part either.
As the street lights turn on, kids slowly begin to turn in one-by-one. Leaving my seat, I head toward my white, paint stained metallic door, looking to retire for the evening. Prior to opening the door, I see a cherry-red Scion pull in front of my household. Under a grey, half-tinted window I see my father.
"You wanna catch a movie?" he asked. "Sure." I responded.
I grabbed my keys, sprinted to the car and we sped off.
Most kids my age back then didn't see the importance of having a father or father-figure in their lives; they were more concerned about escaping the hood. While it is a valid mindset to have in a city known for handgun murders, most stemming from where I grew up, I could never replace my dad.
I could never replace the brackish old man with the grey hair. I couldn't replace his cherry red corvette that he classically drove everywhere we went. I couldn't replace him.
I was naïve in my younger years thinking I could survive without a father, like the other kids. But I'm glad my naivety was finally set aside behind the always changing chagrin of having Richard.
I only know two people named Richard Tynes, the boy writing this short-story and the man who wrote his long-story nearly two decades ago. Every day is Father's Day.
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