They call him "Black" because his Cajun French skin gets so dark in the sun. My mom, my sister, and even my daughter (a little) share this same trait. They share it because he is their father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. But none of them have grown up around this man.
I don't know the exact details, but I know Black left my mom's home when she was 5. Circumstances made it so that she only visited him once or twice and then no longer went to stay with him. She grew up listening to "I Don't Wanna Play House" and feeling the truth of that song. ("I don't wanna play house. It makes my mommy cry. Cause when she played house, my daddy said 'goodbye'.") She loved her daddy and she missed him. She wanted him and his love and approval.
But that was not to be in her childhood. She did know God though, and God was her go-to guy when troubles came. She would walk through the back fields near her house and talk to Him.
She grew up, met and married my dad, and pretty quickly had four children. When I was 4 years old, my mom contacted her daddy so that he could meet his grandchildren. She took us to his house and introduced us. Because of the awkwardness, we didn't stay long. My mom was still searching for that love and approval that daddies provide.
Over the years she did not give up hope of having a relationship with her dad. She often would wishfully say, "Maybe Daddy will call me for my birthday this year. Wouldn't that be somethin'?" She always kept his contact information when she could. I don't know if she ever did, but I know she often wanted to call him on Father's Day and tell him she loved him.
I don't remember meeting Black at age 4, but I loved looking at the black and white photos we had of him. He was so tall and handsome.
I grew up, got married and had my own set of four children. I wished my mom would quit hoping for her daddy's love. I figured it was just frustration for her ~ obviously a lost cause. My mom was the hopeless romantic though, always picturing a warm reunion with her dad. I guess hopeless isn't the right word; she was always hopeful.
My mom had moved to Washington years ago, but would often visit Louisiana to stay with her ailing mother. She attended Forest Park Church of Christ while there, a church full of people I myself had grown up with. A year or two ago, she found out that Black and his wife, Mrs. Ethel, had been visiting Forest Park every once in a while. I don't know why they chose that church. Maybe someone invited them. Mrs. Ethel had grown up Church of Christ; Black had been Catholic. I don't think they knew my mom went there.
Over time, my mom would see them from afar. She was afraid of pushing herself on them, but it seemed pretty amazing that they would even be going to the same church. Mrs. Kristine soon hatched a plan. Full of fun and gumption, Mrs. Kristine is my childhood bestie's mom. She started sitting by Black and Mrs. Ethel while my mom was back in Washington. She got to know them and they got comfortable with her. By the time my mom came back to Louisiana, Mrs. Kristine was good friends with them.
|My mom and Mrs. Kristine doing dishes.|
Mrs. Kristine took my mom to see her daddy one Sunday morning. It was stilted, but it was a start. Mrs. Ethel became comfortable with my mom and Mom was even able to give her daddy a hug.
"I love you, Daddy."
Blessings kept coming. Black wanted to get baptized. I had been praying and talking to Momo (my mom's mom) for years about becoming a Christian. As far as I know, she's never put faith in Christ. I'd never prayed for Black's salvation; here he was getting baptized. Mrs. Kristine asked if she could be there for the baptism and invited my mom to go with her. As they were leaving the building, my mom gave her daddy another hug.
"I love you, Daddy."
Just last week, Mrs. Kristine found out Black and Ethel were having a yard sale. She offered her help and my mom went with her. They spent hours helping them and then were able to hang out at their house and visit. My mom did what she does best — serve. She saw weeds in their backyard and asked if she could pull them. They stayed several more hours working. My mom went back the next morning to help some more with the yard sale. She said it felt good to spend time with her dad. They laughed and talked and had a good time.
My kids and I arrived that afternoon from San Antonio. My dad was flying in to pick up Mom and take her back to Washington. My mom couldn't believe she had gotten to spend relaxed time with her dad. We were just standing back watching God unfold these incredible circumstances.
After church on Sunday, Mrs. Kristine had invited Black and Mrs. Ethel and all of us to her house for gumbo. I really didn't think they would go, but we drove up and they were sitting at the table talking. Wow, my Papa. Still tall and handsome and impeccably dressed.
He said, "You must be in your 30's?"
"Yes, sir. I'm 34."
"Yea... Cause I remember thirty years ago when you came to see me. You were about 4."
He thought Phoebe looked like my mom when Mom was little. I think he was happy to meet us. My dad, myself, my mom ~ we all got to talk to him. When he got ready to leave, Mrs. Kristine said to my kids, "Ya'll come hug your Grandpa." They all hugged him and Mrs. Ethel. Me too.
My mom gave him a long hug.
"I love you, Daddy."
"I love you too, sha."
She had waited over 50 years to hear those words.