My parent’s divorced when I was 10. Following their divorce my brother and I lived with our mother. My mother never got over the pain inflicted upon her at my father’s hands and my father never figured out how to be a daddy to his children once he and my mom went their separate ways. As a result, my brother and I felt a void. This void was not a reflection of my mother’s parenting abilities because she worked very hard to provide stability for us. My father’s absence was simply something that could not be replaced.
This void has always made me seek out stories about households that had a father present. Unfortunately, I have come across more people that share the same void that I have when it comes to the presence of a father in their life. And, in some instances, although the father was in the home, he was not in his children’s life.
I was not fortunate to get to meet you, but, through your children, I have learned, and am learning so much about you. Through the stories that have been shared I feel connected to you. I guess I understand what they mean when they say a person can live on through the memories of others. Your strong legacy continues through the seven “pups” (as your youngest son would say) that you and your wife raised.
As colleagues over the years, your youngest male child would share little stories about his life growing up in the Summey household. These stories would leave me in stitches and allowed me to see another side of my litigator “frenemy”. I always felt that his life was so colorful and exciting. And, while not perfect, there was a clear bond that he shared with his family.
I learned, through other colleagues, that you passed away years ago after battling cancer and that our colleague was very close to you. But, it was not until recently that I was given an opportunity to understand and appreciate the profound impact that you have had on this man’s life.
His memories of you are of a man that worked hard every day and was dedicated to his family. Although you could have easily walked away from your responsibility, it impacted him in ways you may have never known to see his dad come home to his wife and seven “pups” each and every day. And, through him I do not have visions of you coming home, plopping on the couch, and simply being satisfied with being present. I see a man that was determined, despite limited financial means, to ensure that his children were not overlooked in our society. As he describes you coming outside chasing your “pups” in the house when nightfall came I see a man that was determined not to lose his children to the streets. As he describes you forcing him and his friends to read a book when they were hanging out at the house, I see a man that was instilling the importance of being an educated Black man. As he describes you as the person in the household with the true cooking skills, I see a man that taught his son that he does not need to be limited to gender boundaries set by society. As he describes jumping in the car with you and working with you at various jobs, I see a man that understood the importance of teaching his children a great work ethic.
Not surprisingly as I get to know your other children I see that the profound love and respect is not limited to your son. You seem to hold a place in each of their hearts. Recently, I laughed uncontrollably as your oldest daughter shared the story of your youngest son deciding that he wanted to become a pianist. I could vividly see your entire family lined up on the church pew waiting to support your son in his endeavors. Laughingly, she told me how he sat in the designated area with his chest puffed out like he was the next Mozart, ready to shock the congregation with his musical genius. When his time to perform came, he took his seat at the piano, still holding on to that confidence. Unfortunately, his skill level did not match the level of confidence he displayed so when he began to play it was clear that this Summey would not be the world’s next musical maestro. Never one to disappoint, knowing he was in trouble, your son still did not give up, he stopped, regrouped and took another jab at it. Being the natural comedian that he is, he entertained the congregation as he tried to regroup and press on. As everyone else chuckled uncomfortably you refused to allow his siblings to laugh while their brother made his way through his performance. Finally bringing the performance to an end, he stepped down and worked his way to the security of his clan, where you were right there to applaud him and congratulate him as everyone else suppressed their laughter. I don’t know if you knew at the time that you were building a man that would go on to continually persevere and concern himself very little with the world chuckling at him. Today that is recognized as grit and determination and many argue is the true key to a person’s success.
As your health began to decline your son shared that he watched you continue to get up and go to work every day, clearly in pain, but never complaining. Seeing your hard work and dedication drives your son to excel and be the best that he can be. He wakes every day, without any grumbles or complaints, and goes out to earn his living. And his success is a direct tribute to his love and respect for you.
Not too long ago I learned that you graduated from North Carolina Central University College of Law. While the path chosen for you did not lead to you practicing law, I strongly believe that your accomplishment and life had a direct impact on your son’s chosen career path. This little tidbit of information helped me to understand a little better why he is not satisfied with being a mediocre lawyer. His drive and determination to advocate for his clients is another tribute to you and all that you sacrificed for him and his siblings.
Over the past couple of days I have thought about you quite a bit. I thought this was a little strange since I never had the chance to meet you and then I realized that Father’s Day was approaching. I had been thinking about whether or not I even wanted to write a special piece for Father’s Day. I did not feel it was appropriate to focus on the void that existed in my life. And then it clicked. I needed to write a piece that would pay tribute to all of the men out there that were not only being present, but having a presence in the life of their children. And, while I never met you it is clear to me that your life and love for your brood is a wonderful example of what it means to be a daddy. What better way to pay tribute to all of those men out there that have figured out how important it is to be a daddy to their babies. Happy Father’s Day!