I honor my father, Earnest McEwen, Jr., this Father’s Day for the many blessings he poured into my life. A hard worker all his life, he was quick to remind others to “remember to stop and smell the roses.” As a kid, I recall those rare, precious Saturday afternoons when he’d take me fishing with him. Or when he’d take my mom, me, and my sisters for a holiday outing to Kensington Park not too far from Detroit, MI. We’d pray for sun. We’d often have a hot, muggy day, topped off by a great big thunderstorm.
Even as a young boy, somehow my dad knew what US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan knew when he affirmed that “Education… is the only sure path out of poverty and the only way to achieve a more equal and just society.” That’s as true today as it ever was.
Growing up in my house, it wasn’t a matter of if I’d attend college. It was purely a matter of which one. Ditto for my four sisters. As the first person in his family to attend college, my father wanted to ensure that I and my sisters received an excellent education, so that we wouldn’t have to endure the grinding hardship and poverty that he and my mom experienced growing up in rural Mississippi in the 1930s and ’40s.
Autumn was my dad’s favorite season. Many years ago, when he was terminally ill with several types of cancer, I walked the grounds of Bethany cemetery with him to select his casket. I asked him why he wanted to do this. He said, “I want to spare your mother from this burden.” I remember thinking to myself, what kind of what would do this for his wife? “A king of a man,” I thought. As we walked along the path, we didn’t say much else. We simply enjoyed the pleasure and comfort of each other’s presence. Many years after my father passed away, I wrote the poem “That Autumn Morning” as a tribute to him, to honor his life and his death. Here’s to you, Daddy!
That Autumn Morning
thinking of Robert Hayden
In memory of my father. I thank God for his unconquerable soul.
You before me,
listing toward earth
raspy beneath our feet.
dying on mounds
of autumn earth.
speaking of plots
as if you were talking about cars or trucks.
How big (the funeral), what kind, how much.
Not too fancy. Maple will do.
eased our burden
even as, moment by moment,
your body vanished into spirit.
You in your seasons
and say a prayer:
Rain maker. Angel. Guardian.
Pass It On!