June 14, 2013 2 Comments
My father only had one directive for all of us – do better than I have. But let me tell you, even with only an 8th grade education and his being an abandoned child from the racially segregated deep south of rural Louisiana, those are some big shoes to fill.
Abandoned 3 Year Old Boy
As my father tells the story of the day his mother left him with his father, you can still hear the pain. He was crying and begging her to take him with her. Holding his baby sister on her hip and pushing him back into the screen door repeatedly she said, “You have to stay. I can’t take both of you.” She moved out of state.
My grandfather was far more interested in womanizing than he was parenting. Daddy was often left by his father to fend for himself, or with women who mistreated him. He knows what it is to be hungry, forgotten, alone, and to be unloved. His father has never, in his entire life, given him anything, not one dollar. And although Daddy forgave him (not that his father asked for it) and took care of him up to his death at age 97, he still never got his attention, affection, nor approval.
Daddy decided early that he would not be to his children what his father had been to him. He decided that he didn’t have to live out his father’s choices.
Self Reliance Was Expected
My father was ultimately raised by an uncle and his wife (who couldn’t have children). They believed and taught my father that educated or not, a man was to use what he had and be innovative about how to multiply and make the most of it. All of the men on that side of the family worked and provided for their families well. Never dependent on others, all practiced self-reliance.
My father is no different. Daddy has always worked hard and smart! He’s a military veteran – a Navy man – and naturally curious, with a photographic memory. As a result, he’s been a student of life and made the most of every place he docked and lived all around the world. A reader and a history buff, he loves the Discovery Channels, so when you experience him – especially upon learning all he’s accomplished – you’d never know that his formal education ended at the age of 12.
He knew that he had to earn and has always been more focused on what he could do then on what he couldn’t do. And he has never – even in the segregated south of the 1950s and ’60s – concerned himself about who could stop him.
His uncles taught him that a man is defined by how well he provides for his wife and children.
Side Note: Daddy was (and in many ways still is) an excellent provider to his children. And on top of that he’s never missed a game, recital, award ceremony, graduation or any of my surgeries. When I was in need he showed up!
How He Did It With Little Education
As a young man he bussed tables while going to barber school. He met and married my mother during that time. As a young barber, he rented a building which had an apartment attached; it became his barbershop. He rented chairs to other barbers, rented the apartment and used a back room as a TV repair shop, for which he became a certified technician. He started a pest control service and had a truck hauling service. That’s just the beginning of the legitimate businesses (hustles) he’s had that eventually earned enough to buy the building he worked in; the first of many real estate properties which enabled him to provide for his family and many others in the community.
The Best vs. Your Best
Daddy ingrained this in me: You don’t have to be the best, but you do need to always do your best. My father is not a perfect man, nor was he the perfect parent – no parent is. But he was perfect for me.
In my adult life, one of the things that I’ve learned to appreciate most about my Dad is that he has lived unapologetically! He knows he’s not perfect – has never professed to be – nor is he striving for perfection. His goal is to always be better than he’s been. I love that! And I’ve lived it.
Though he started with so few resources and so little support from his parents, he didn’t let that define him; instead he decided to do the best he could. While he knew that he might not ever be the best, he always gave his best. And even when he failed miserably, his best was always sufficient for him.
I’ve learned as much from his flaws as I have his successes. When I’ve done my best, even if it’s not enough for others, it’s always enough for me. In those times, I’m unapologetic for my decisions and certainly for me – who I am – because I’m always enough for me. My goal is always the same, to be a better me.
Thank you Daddy for being a constant example of courage and commitment. I love you, Sam Green, Sr.
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