The Only Gift My Father Gave Me
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because a father’s gift is worth waiting for.
The writer has authored six books and lives in Hayward, California.
It was the mid-’60s, and the Jackson 5 was just getting started, Aretha Franklin was fine, Stevie Wonder was blind, Marvin Gaye was not yet hot. But my father … my father was as flashy as they came. He wore his Afro as tall as they got. He was a smooth operator. And I never stopped looking up to him.
To admire my daddy (and I did — I mimicked him every chance I got, I absorbed him) was to be entranced by his bling: rings and jewelry and stones that looked to me like the biggest diamonds in the world. Now I know that my father probably didn’t have on a ring that was worth more than $500. But to me each one seemed worth millions. He wore nice slacks with silk shirts, the kind with the puffy sleeves. He made all the women lose their minds with his great big “old lion face” ring with the sapphire stones in each eye. I was always asking him, “Daddy, will you give me one of your rings when I grow up?” But he never seemed to hear me, or maybe the question was one he just refused to respond to.
And I was growing up: Before I knew it Michael Jackson had started relaxing his hair, Stevie Wonder had started getting old, and still there was no sign of my father relinquishing any of his bling. I was almost 40 years old when I went back home to Texas for the weekend to visit my family. After landing and putting my things away, my brother and I drove over to my father’s place. I remember us exchanging hugs and catching up on the latest gossip, and then my dad asked, “Why don’t you guys take a ride with me?” Our father took us down the street to a local pawnshop. “Come over here,” my father said. He had given a man behind the counter a receipt, and within minutes the clerk came back holding a small box in his hand and gave it to my father. With this great big smile on his face, my father smiled at me like he’d done so many times before. His gold teeth, shining as bright as ever, blinded me now like never before.
“For years, son,” he said, “you’ve asked me for a ring. Well, if you have $168 you can have this one.” So there we were, me and my dad, who had never really given me anything up to that point in my life. But there he was, next to the ring that I had for so long wanted him to give me. And he was giving me a chance at it. On my own dime. It was both humiliating and gratifying at the same time. I had to decide, though, and I chose: I chose the ring, my father’s ring, which was priceless to me. So what did I do? I paid the man … and bought the only thing my father ever gave me.