Growing Up Booker

If you know me, you know that my dad transitioned to be with his Lord and his first love just under six months ago. I miss him every day. My brother and I were talking about today being the first birthday without Daddy and he reminded me of this speech I wrote this a couple of years ago for Daddy’s 80th birthday party. I hope it’s okay that I adapted it for posting to celebrate him today.

Growing Up Booker
The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Psalms 37.:23

There’s something about fathers and daughters. Don’t get me wrong, we love our mothers. But for girls and women, there is, apparently, just something about Daddy. Watching my new son with his little girl always under him, hearing her laughing with him, playing with her I see it. She loves her daddy. Sorry Kim.

I don’t know when I first fell in love with Loel Lonell Booker. It could have been when he and Mom would go out to their cabarets and golf banquets. They dressed up, looking so beautiful, like celebrities, better than Jay Z and Beyoncé on their best day. He would be dressed in his sharp suits and he’d dance down the stairs, pick me up and swing me around just before they walked out the door.
In the morning, he would always give my brother and I the trinkets from the event, telling us how they danced, showing us his trophies. Some of them were taller than we were. I thought Daddy had to be a better golfer than “that damn Jack Nicklaus” was. I wanted to caddie for him at Langston but for some reason, Dad never thought girls on a golf course with a whole bunch of men was a good idea.
Maybe it was when Dad had to tell us our grandmother was gone. My mother’s mother was living with us. We were small, about six & seven. Mom went to the hospital with grandma and we were left with Dad. He knelt to be on our level, and with tears in his eyes, explained how Grandma was going to heaven. It was one of the few times I’ve ever seen my dad cry. He held us close and let us know he was there to watch over us, no matter what was going on.

Could have been when we went to Texas. Dad would drive us all down to Texas, always stopping in to see Grandma Childs on the way in. She’s have his favorite meal cooking: fried pork chops, fried potatoes and fried apples. One year, he was picking on me in the living room, teasing as a father might his child. Grandma called out from the kitchen “Lonell, leave that child alone”. He said “Momma, that my child”… she stopped him cold. She told him “you ain’t too grown to go over my knee”. He said yes ma’am and stopped. I was amazed. Who was this woman that could control my father so? Then he snuck into the kitchen to hug and kiss her and she beat him back, admonishing him that he was going to make her burn her chops.

Or maybe it was when we’d all watch football. We may have been catholic, but from August to December, the Washington Redskins were the religion in our house. I have always said my parents had football tickets before they had me. If someone kidnapped one of us, and demanded the tickets as ransom, I think it would have been a tough decision for them. I didn’t know then but I see now that sharing a love of a one of your interests with your kids, is sharing a part of yourself with them too. Big imposing ideas about life, fair play and how to go on after losing are lessons made easier when you can see them played out on a field.

I might have fallen for him when he laughed. Oh, his laugh. You could hear it clear across the state. And Dad would tell us some of the worst jokes, real groaners. Who can forget oo-ee gooey? How about the toe truck? Ask him he’ll tell you himself. Maybe that’s why I get such a kick out of them. Hey Dad, did you hear the one about the woman who had twins, and had to give them up for adoption? Yeah it was so sad. They had to be split up too. One of them went to a family in Mexico; they name him “Juan.” The other went to a family in Egypt and was named “Amal. Years later, Juan finds about his real mother and sends a letter to her with a picture of himself to his mother. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wishes she also had a picture of Amal. Her husband responds, “But they are twins. If you’ve seen Juan, you’ve seen Amal…”. Aww, leave me alone. Dad got it.

Now don’t get me wrong, my parents were strict. We got whoopins, and he didn’t apologize for it. Dad believed in training up a child in the way he should go. I didn’t say that, King David did. Right Daddy? We knew to be in before the street lights came on. “Don’t make me come back there” could immediately bring silence into the backseat. And the words ‘wait until your father gets home’ would send chills down our backs. I tell this story often about how my brother colored marbles…what? Okay, okay, I have to come clean. It’s been forty years but I must tell the truth…Dad it was me. I set fire to the bathroom in the basement. I’m sorry that because of me, you had to spend all night fixing the bathroom for one of mom’s Petticoat Pal club meetings. But it turned out beautifully, didn’t it? Didn’t it???

Mom & Dad taught us to sit up straight, talk clearly and to be responsible. He never expected less from us, only more. When I was a teenager he would tell me, I should wear less makeup, I thought it was because he was old-fashioned. I didn’t realize until later that he would say it because he always saw me as beautiful, just the way I was.

Even though we didn’t always understand each other or agree, my father was one of the biggest influences and supporters of my life. He still is. It’s because of him that today, I can call myself a strong and independent woman. From pushing me on a swing as a child to teaching me how to drive a car, he always told me I was better than I thought I was and to be the best person I could be.

When the chips were down and I was at my lowest, he’d say, “Pick yourself up, you are better than this. Even today, I glow inside when he tells me he is proud of me. It still means everything to have his approval and to hear him say, “that’s real good baby, now keep it up”. It mattered to me that he sees me as a good mom, it matters to me that he cares about and take an interest in the things I do. It matters because I am still in love with him. And Daddy, if anything changes, I’ll let you know…

If you have a parent or a grandparent still with you, call or go by to see them. I’m sure it would bring a smile to their face. If the relationship is difficult and contact is not possible, for whatever reason, send some loving energy their way. I’m certain they need it. And if like me, you parents are with you in spirit only, do what I like to do: close your eyes, take a deep breath and feel their presence with you, around you, like a hug, loving you, supporting you. Give them a moment to be with you and you with them once again. Feel the warmth of Love as it transcends time and space reminding you that they will always be there, just beyond the stars.

2 Replies to “Growing Up Booker”

  1. Beautiful; simply beautiful. This brings me so many memories of my own father, who in his own way, was much like yours always challenging us to be more. Your Pop did real good Stef, I just know he is proud of you.

    1. Thanks! Living with memories of him today makes me feel so glad I had him as my dad.

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