Some advice on Father’s Day: No matter the Past—Tell him you Love him and if you see him–Give him a hug; You do not always get a second chance

Father’s day                                                                               public domain

By Larry Peterson

My Dad died suddenly during Christmas Season of 1965. Yes, a long time ago, December 30, to be exact. Due to that, I have carried a “regret” inside me for my entire life. I still want a “do-over,” but it can never happen. Sometimes you do not get a second chance. And then you live with, “if only—.” I have been doing that “if only” thing for a long time.

Our Mom had passed on a few years earlier. She had just turned forty when leukemia killed her.  Dad was crushed and began drinking, It took a few years, but his body rebelled, and he had an acute attack of pancreatitis.

I was the oldest of the five kids and, at the age of twenty, thought I was a lot smarter than I was. I had to put college on hold and had been working in construction since high school. We needed the money. I had gotten home from work about six o’clock to find out he had been taken to the hospital that morning.

My sister, Carolyn, who was home with our younger brothers during Christmas break, had been there. She and a neighbor had taken him. When I walked into our apartment, Johnny, who was the youngest at six, started crying and blurted out, “When is daddy coming home?”  I told them all to take care of each other, and I would be back very soon.

My father was on the third floor in room 317. I was stunned at what I saw.  He had a tube coming from his nose that went down into a large bottle on the floor. Brownish red gunk was draining from inside of him into that bottle. It was disgusting. My gag reflex kicked in. I could not walk over to the bed.

A doctor came up behind me and introduced himself. He was taking care of Dad, and he gave me a quick rundown. I was hardly listening. He knew I was nervous, so he said, “Walk in with me.”

I did, and I have no idea what I said to my Dad. The doctor began feeling Dad’s belly and looking at his eyes. My father had sky blue eyes, and they were fixed hard on his oldest child.  He must have been wondering why his son was standing about five feet away from the bed. I could not speak because I was trying to be grown-up and not puke.

The doctor left, and he just kept looking at me. He was scared, and I could see it in his eyes. But I had to get out of there.  I said, “Okay, Pops, I gotta go. I’ll be back tomorrow.”

Walking down Arthur Ave. to the bus stop, I turned and looked up at his window. I began to cry. I realized I had never hugged him or said, “I love you’ or anything. I had just left. The doctor said he would be home in a day or two; everything would be okay. I could have gone back, but I did not. I could have stayed and sat with him. I could have at least gave him a damn hug and said some encouraging words. I could have told him, I love you, Pops.” He died at 3 a.m, scared and alone.

There it is; therein lies my regret;  never having said, “I love you.” one last time and leaving my father to die scared and alone in a strange place with strange people.  Is that pathetic or what?  He had just celebrated his 53rd birthday.

Once again, it is Father’s Day, and I have some advice to all of you who still have your father’s living. Forget the past; make sure you tell them you love them. If nearby, make sure you hug them. If far away, make sure you call them;  no texting and no emailing. The day will come when you have no more second chances. You do not want to live with an “if only…”

There is a crisis of “fatherless” children in America. Next to the disrespect and disregard for unborn life, this could be the most dangerous threat to our society. “Fatherlessness” is an ongoing tragedy that can find its roots planted when Roe vs. Wade was passed in 1973. When the destruction of human life was “legalized,”, the downward spiral of respect for life followed.

For more info about our journey as ‘orphans”, Click on the book cover of The Priest and The Peaches  located in the right column

copyright©Larry Peterson2020

 


This Hairdresser Slave is on the Way to Sainthood*

Pierre Toussaint                                        en wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

There have been many great Black Americans who have stood tall to help make America the proud nation it is today. Rev.Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Frederick Douglas, Rosa Parks, Clarence Thomas, Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice and the list goes on.

Included, among those are also Black Catholic Americans *(Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is Catholic).  The names of these  people are not so recognizable as the aforementioned.  Such people as Father Augustus Tolton, born a slave he was the first African American to be ordained a priest in the United States.

Others include: Henriette Delille, the founder of The Sisters of the Holy Family; Mother Mathilda Beasley who became known as “The Idol of the Poor”; Daniel Rudd, a black Catholic journalist who founded the National Black Catholic Congress and  Elizabeth Mary Lang. Born a slave she became the co-foundress of the Oblate Sisters of Providence.

Another person who is part of the legacy that Black Catholic Americans left for all of us is Venerable Pierre Touissant.

Pierre was born a slave in Haiti in 1766. He was fortunate because his owner, Monsieur Berard, wealthy from raising and selling sugar, baptized Pierre into the Catholic faith and also educated him. He trained the boy as a house slave saving him from all the hard labor expended by those working out in the sugarcane fields.

Tensions were rising among the slave population in Haiti and the senior Berard returned to France. He left his son, Jean Berard, with the plantation. However, the pressure was building among the slaves over conditions and Jean decided it was time to leave. In 1787, he and his wife took five of his slaves with him including Pierre and his sister, Rosalie, and moved to New York City.

Jean Berard’s decision to leave Haiti proved to be a good one. In 1793, the slaves in Haiti revolted and Monsieur Berard heard that his plantation had been burned to the ground. He was so distraught that he passed away, probably from heart failure. Madame Berard was left without anything or anyone to help her, except, of course, Pierre.

When they arrived in New York several years earlier, Jean Berard had managed to get Pierre into an apprenticeship hairdresser program. The young man turned out to be an artist at hair styling. It was during  a time when the wealthy women had their hair stacked high with layers of curls and ribbons flowing down. Hair styling was time consuming and demanding and soon Pierre had more business than he could handle.

Pierre supported Madame Berard and was working almost 16 hours a day.  She eventually married a man named Monsieur Nicolas, also from Haiti. She made him promise that if anything happened to her he would make sure that Pierre was given his freedom. She passed away and Pierre was given his freedom. He had earned enough money to pay for the freedom of his fiancee, Juliette, and marry her. He also earned enough money to pay for Rosalie’s freedom. By this time Pierre was almost 45.

Pierre constantly spoke of the love of God and the beauty of the Catholic faith. He loved being Catholic and had no qualms about talking about it with his many customers. It did not matter to him that most were not Catholic and, for the most part, did not even like Catholics. He just wanted others to experience the joy he had in knowing his Catholic faith helped fill him with God’s love and they could have the same by embracing that same faith..

Pierre Toussaint was dedicated to the theological virtue of Charity (aka) Love. He cared for the sick and even brought them into his home nursing them back to health. He visited areas infected with disease and plague bringing food and clothing to the suffering. He even went to those who had been abandoned by their own families. He helped Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton (who had  an orphanage in the city) by raising money from his rich customers and giving the future saint his own money.

This was a Black Catholic man living during a time when being Catholic was even dangerous for white folks.  He attended daily Mass every day for 66 years. He sheltered orphans, provided foster care for children, helped them get into school and even helped some of them get their first jobs. During a cholera epidemic he crossed over the quarantine lines to help the sick without regard for his own well being.

Pierre Toussaint’s crowning achievement may have been his helping the Catholic Church raise the funds to build the first St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Mulberry St. He also provided and raised funding for the First Catholic School for Black children at St. Vincent de Paul in lower Manhattan.

Pierre Toussaint died on June 30, 1857. He was 87 years old. In 1991, based on documents and investigations into his life, Pierre was declared a Servant of God. In 1996 he was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II reaching the second step on the journey to canonization. In addition, he was the first layman honored by having his remains moved to  the present St. Patrick’s  Cathedral on Fifth Avenue in midtown Manhattan.

Venerable Pierre Toussaint we thank you for your Love and ask for your continued prayers.

*This article first appeared in Aleteia on February 10, 2017

©Copyright Larry Peterson 2017   (©reprinted and updated  Larry Peterson 2020)