A tribute to my father, on his birthday.
|Celebrating My Father
I knew an amazing man. He was one of the last of a dying breed; the honorable man. In a world where men blame their reprehensible acts on abuse for their faults this man overcame the hardships of poverty, neglect, abuse, indifference and abandonment to live a long, fulfilling life. From intolerance, deceit and hate he learned to be straight forward, honest and loving. He taught his children to be honest and hard working and that a person is only as good as their word. He taught us to say what we mean and mean what we say. He taught us to trust our instincts, to apologize only when we mean it, to respect only those who earn it, and never to back down from hard work or a good, clean fight.
The man was self-made. He supported his family by working two and sometimes three jobs at a time there-by teaching us the meaning of hard work. From a fourth grade education earned in two years of classroom work he went on to study numerous subjects offered through the military and his employers, there-by teaching us the value of continuing education. The life lessons he taught us were by example; he taught us fidelity by standing with his wife through 52 years of marriage until he laid her in her grave. He taught us the value of family by being there for us through thick and thin, rather we were right or wrong, no matter what occurred.
When he could no longer hold down a job outside the home he felt useless because he didn’t understand that he meant more to me than all the riches of the world. Because he stood for all the good things in life; honesty, decency, love and truth. Not that he was a saint. He lived a long and full life filled with highs and lows, fraught with grief and haunted by regret. He never felt he was good enough, always felt like the small, grubby boy who was made to stand outside on the porch, looking through the window at his cousins as they ate dinner with their family, watching; waiting to see if there would be any scraps left to fill his growling belly. He lived his whole life making sure his children never felt alone, left out or hungry.
His children are engineers, psychologists, police, teachers, ministers, parents, wives and husbands, grandparents. We are holy rollers and hell raisers; just like our father. We are only one generation removed from living in tar paper shacks with dirt floors and one man brought this family through to the next millennium. With sweat and tears and unwavering determination the son of Zora Louis Leftridge and Israel James Clark dedicated his life to his wife and children. I am proud to his child.
William James Clark September 17, 1917 - December 3, 2003. Rest in Peace, warrior. We’ll carry on, the way you taught us, the way you showed us.