Daddy Daughter Ball Feb. 2019

In preparation for writing today’s column, I read all of the Father’s Day columns that I have written over the years to avoid repeating thoughts I have already shared. However, my 2004 Father’s Day column had special meaning and I am repeating some of its contents today.

What made it special was the attention I gave to the Grammy Award-winning song by Luther Vandross, “Dance with My Father” as it resurrected fond memories that I had and as many readers had with their fathers, back in the day.

Back in 2004, I received a number of interesting and touching letters and emails from people about this song. If you have not heard this Vandross song, take a minute, Google it, listen to it and I suspect that just like many back in the day, you will be left teary-eyed. The words undoubtedly conjure fond memories, from back in the day, of your relationship with your father.

I know that every day, every hour, every minute and every second I spent with my father were special times. I thank my lucky stars that I had a father in my life who contributed mightily to my growth and development.

Yet, we know that all men that are biological fathers are not necessarily real fathers.

While I indicated that I shall undoubtedly repeat some things that have appeared in previous Father’s Day columns, one thing that I have no problem repeating over and over again, is saying thanks to my father who has not been with me for more than 25 years, and to all fathers that had that back in the day fatherly spirit.

You may know of men that have fathered children but have not demonstrated actions that reflect what it means to be a father.

How a man can bring a child into this world, even when it is unplanned, and ignore the responsibilities of fatherhood is something that I cannot understand.

We saw in the past and see households today that don’t have fathers present. Forget about the emphasis I place on fathers, in too many cases, we cannot even find men.

Sometimes, the truth hurts. I suspect that my stance over the years with regard to family values makes some “folk” uncomfortable. I do not think that it is my imagination; nor do I think that I am exaggerating when I say, fathers were different, back in the day.

I cannot tell you for sure why they were different, back then, although I have some suspicions. What I can tell you, however, is how they were different! Simply put, today boys grow up to be men; men get older and become grandfathers and the values of the past are not passed on to the young men that follow.

Perhaps the best way to see men as fathers, as they used to be, is to take one of those trips that I take every Sunday to those days, with those family and paternal memories during that period that I refer to as back in the day.

Did you refer to your father in the past as dad or pop? I doubt that it was ever on a first name basis. Some may cringe upon hearing children today refer to their fathers by their first names. I do not ever recall something like this growing up as a child. There was always the respect given to a father regardless of the circumstances.

So, while I still have the “Dance with My Father” song on my mind on this Father’s Day, it probably will always be on my mind, every year, as it conjures up those warm relationships I had with my father which causes me to take time to reflect on these past relationships.

Recognizing the manner in which I was reared, I always focus on thoughts of discipline and respect on Father’s Day. These are memories that many of us cherish today but hated in the past. Those unique memories of old-school discipline were not laughable, back then, but they provided the touch that molded us into the men we are today.

Situations requiring discipline resurrect the words of Vandross when in his song he sings out, “When I and my mother would disagree, to get my way I would run from her to him. He’d make me laugh, just to comfort me, then finally make me do just what my mama said. Later that night when I was asleep, he left a dollar under my sheet. Never dreamed that he would be gone from me. If I could steal one final glance, one final step, one final dance with him.” This touching words take me back more than any other Father’s Day song to the fond memories I had with my father.

It was seldom my mother that administered “old-fashioned discipline.” Her discipline usually meant the hard looks, being sent to my room, being denied time to watch television or being placed on curfew. I strongly believe that my educational and intellectual levels are not supposed to bring out thoughts of a good, old-fashioned beating. But, I doubt if any of us who are products of back in the day, will deny the importance of the discipline and respect instilled in us through our posteriors. You recall it was usually dad.

Whenever I get dressed in the morning and put on a pair of pants, the pulling of my belt through the belt loops makes me visualize my father pulling his belt through the loops on his pants — except the image of his belt is not going on, it is coming off. Your father may have called it “old Betsy” or perhaps he called it “John-John.” As barbaric and harsh as some of those beatings were, there was something to be said about the impact on how we behaved and how we responded.

Will we ever forget these infamous words from our fathers, “I brought you into this world, and I will take you out?” Interestingly, none of us suffered from being victims of this discipline. If anything, those of us from back in the day became better men and women because of the life experiences that we received from the mouths and the belts of our fathers.

If only we could have bottled some of that good, old-fashioned discipline and danced with our fathers, as soulfully sung by Vandross, what a better world it would be for all of us today.

As I see young children walking the streets today, I only wish that there was some way we could travel back in time to those days when little boys and little girls did something akin to dancing with their fathers.

As a young college graduate, my father gave me a poem titled, “A Measure of a Man” by Mahatma Gandhi. Like many of you who have words, thoughts and possibly poems that have inspired you over the years, this poem has been a source of inspiration to me. It ends with these words: “Who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

So, on this Father’s Day, I shall sit and reminisce about the good times I had with my father. I will shed a tear and I will laugh at the fond memories we shared together. I shall thank him for the values he instilled in me. I shall remember the great lessons that he passed on to me, not necessarily by “preaching” to me but by examples; by the way he lived his life.

Discipline and respect, as well as the belief in the power of my almighty God, will always be the cornerstones of my life. These are not things that I just happened to come by, but they came from my father’s teachings; from his leadership. I shall thank him on this day as I have thanked him in the past for what I am and all that I hope to be. For without a doubt, all that I am and all that I ever hope to be, I owe to my father. So Dad, a big, warm hug and a happy Father’s Day. Just like Luther; I too wish that I could, one more time, “Dance with My Father” as many of you did with your father, back in the day.

Alonzo Kittrels can be reached at backintheday@phillytrib.com or The Philadelphia Tribune, Back In The Day, 520 S. 16th St., Philadelphia, PA 19146

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