Unlike my Mother’s Day post over a month ago, which emanated from me like words and phrases desperate to come out, I struggled with writing a post for Father’s Day. I know I wanted to pay tribute to my father but everything I started to write about him just did not seem to grab me or even motivate me enough to finish. I believe that my writer’s block was a result of my feeling the pressure of having a post ready in time for Father’s Day. And once I took the deadline off the table, I was able to write something that was finally worth my father’s memory.
My father was a quiet man whose tranquil disposition was unlike any other man’s I had ever known. I now know that my father was an introvert—someone who preferred to keep company with himself and was always ready to go home from a family function long before anyone else was ready to. (In that respect, I am very much like my father for I struggled with my need to seek solitude during social events long before I even knew I was an introvert.) My father also had a thoughtful and pensive way about him—always thinking about the reasons why people behaved the ways in which they did.
I was always so proud of my father. He was handsome, hilarious (our very own introverted comedian with a dry sense of humor!), a good cook and had (what I thought was) such a cool job. Dad was a New York City cab driver and it delighted me to think of all the interesting people who must have entered his cab on a consistent basis. However, it wasn’t until I learned– well into my adulthood– that my father had been more than just a cab driver. He had owned not one, but two medallions (permits issued by a government agency to operate a taxicab), one of which he leased out. Not only did he work for no one other than himself but he also maintained a passive income from the medallion he leased out. My respect for the man, and the pride I felt for him being my father grew exponentially when I truly understood the significance of what that meant.
Born and raised in Haiti with minimal education, he migrated to the United States and, with very limited English, was able to find a way to earn money on his own terms. If a small, quiet man from Haiti could migrate to another country, and without mastering the language, successfully provide for his family, then, being his daughter, what can I possibly achieve for myself? Yes, of course, both my parents worked together in financial and emotional support of one another as they partnered together in raising us and sending us to very good schools. However the question still remains: with immigrant parents working so hard to elevate their situations despite their limitations as immigrants, what greatness can I accomplish for myself?
I remember one day, years after my sister and I graduated from college and we were working but not really making a whole lot of money, my father expressed to us that he felt that if someone was born– and went to school– in America, then they should be more financially abundant. I have to admit that was the only time I had ever felt insulted and offended by my father. And I only felt that way because deep down inside of me, I quietly agreed with him. It wasn’t until some years after he passed away that I was able to acknowledge the power of his statement.
My father knew and understood that there were countless opportunities afforded to everyone in America. My sister and I were born, raised and educated in America, yet we were only surviving in our chosen industries and not thriving. It made me realize how important it is to look to our elders to really appreciate how much they managed to achieve in a world that did not have all of the technological opportunities we have today. But more significant is the fact that many immigrants had to leave all that they knew behind, learn a new language and culture and a new way of being while facing discrimination and being overlooked for the basic necessities we take for granted today. If my father was able to forge his way in America to leave a legacy for his children, then how dare I not strive to better myself in a greater way? If his experience has taught me anything, it is that I can and must thrive. And I will– in his honor.