I’d like to thank all of the well-wishers and folks who had been praying for me and my family (I read every comment and viewed every like as a reminder of the community that I have). Also, I really appreciate all the folks who donated to The Oaks Academy or to the Kheprw Institute in my father’s name. Today was a tough day and a good day, filled with family, love, and jokes. For those interested, here is the text of what I said at my father’s funeral:

I am the son of Jerry Broaddus and the grandson of Ernest Broaddus.

 

I remember at Grandma Ruth’s funeral, dad and Pap were up front, cutting up the entire service. I was sitting there getting so mad at them, but when I asked him about it afterwards he said, “if either me or Pap lost it during the service, that whole place would have come down.”

I’m pretty sure I’m not going to lose it, but I can’t make that promise, but I know you got me if I do, right?

I told Ro that I didn’t know if I would speak today. I literally wrote this at 3 a.m. this morning. I didn’t know if I’d have any words. Not because I lost my father, but because I literally just came from giving a keynote speech at a conference of librarians and teachers. In that speech, I talked about how rare black male teachers are and how even just their simple presence, the power of them just being there, can make such a huge difference in the lives of their black students.

That idea keeps playing in my head over and over, because my dad was there.

I know this may shock you, but he wasn’t the traditional sort of dad. He was never on the cover of Parents magazine, but he was there. Sometimes him being there looked a lot like him on the couch or in bed whistling for us to bring him stuff. Those damn whistles. One for me, two for Chenault, three for both of us. Then Ro came along and threw the whole system off. Didn’t matter where we were, when we heard them—and you could hear there all across Franklin—we knew we had to get back to him.

Richard Jordan reminded me of the time my dad raced me and him. Keep in mind, me, Richard, and Michael McDuffie were the fastest kids in the neighborhood. My dad had been standing there, smoking one of his Kools and sipping on a little something, listening to us talk crazy and said, come on then. He walked down to the finish line and set his cigarette and drink down. We asked him if he wanted to change shoes, since he had these wingtip shoes on. He said he’d make do. We lined up, Richard counted us off. He got to the finish line and had a chance to take a puff and a sip before we got there.

He was there.

He was there to make fun of us when we made him go to school recitals playing the recorders because we sucked. He was there when we didn’t want him, at 3 am when he came back from the clubs and felt the need to give us fatherly advice like “when you’re driving, it’s important to wear socks. Driving with cold feet is the worst.”

Growing up, he wasn’t a man readily in touch with his feelings. But he loved his family. Every Sunday we’d gather together for our family dinner and he and my mom would cobble together something, mixing British, Jamaican, and American dishes. Which sounds great til you get meals like steak n kidney pie, meatloaf, collalou, and bread and butter pudding. No matter how crazy the meal, he’d make BBQ wings for me because he knew I loved them. And if he really wanted to say I love you, he’d give me the last wings from his plate.

He was there.

He wasn’t a perfect man, but he taught us the power of being there. I look at the parents his children became. We’re not the traditional sort of parents. None of us will be on the cover of Parents magazine, but we are there. We are there in the lives of our children, ever present even when they don’t want us, we’re there. Guiding, supporting, advising, making fun of. Doing the hard work of being present in the lives of our children.

The power of presence in kids lives makes a difference. And I thank dad for that lesson.