We set aside one day a year to pay homage to our fathers and mothers. The truth of the matter is, too many mothers have filled the dual roles of mother and father, and in many situations, have done an exceptional job.
I often write and speak to persons about my father, mainly because I think about him regularly and constantly reflect on the statements he would often make. My father emancipated me when I was about 14 or 15 years old. One day, while I was working on the truck with him, he and another man had a difference of opinion, and when the man walked away, I said, “Daddy, Mr. Wilson was right.”
Daddy said, “Why did you not correct me?” and my response was, “You said children are to be seen, not heard.”
Daddy then said, “Never let your daddy play the role of a fool who don’t know what he is talking about.”
That was my day of emancipation, and the beginning of my telling the truth to whomever. There were six in the Kendrick family, and there was never any question who was in charge. Daddy was daddy, friend, neighbor, benefactor and active Christian, extending a helping hand to the entire community. Daddy had a number of sayings that we were raised with that were an integral part of our upbringing. There was one that hung on the wall. It read, “Can’t is not acceptable in your vocabulary or lifestyle.”
He would elaborate by telling us that all things were possible and he truly believed that. My mother explained to us that one day our father came home early from his job, and explained to her that he was not going to work one more day for anyone but himself. Mamma asked, “How do we feed these four children?”
Daddy replied that as long as God gave him his health and strength, he would provide for his family. Daddy founded his own business in 1936 and the company existed until 1987 (50 years). There was a period of time we had no indoor plumbing, no telephone, no outside toilet, no refrigerator, no gas…But Daddy instilled a sense of self-worth in the family, and a clear understanding that poor and rich is a state of mind, not being.
Over the course of my life I wined, dined, and discussed issues with the richest and most powerful men in the nation. But I was never in awe, because of daddy’s upbringing. I truly believed and understood I was their equal. I was SOMEBODY long before the Civil Rights Movement.
One of daddy’s favorites was, “Go to school, they can’t take that away.” All of his children heard the message and in conjunction with our wives, made education a reality. Daddy had four children, three went to college, and 10 grandchildren, and all 10 went to college. He had nine great grandchildren, and all nine went to college. And as I conclude this column, there is one great great grandson preparing to medical school.
Daddy died relatively young—he only saw one of his grandchildren, but his last message to me was, “I die happy because God allowed me to live long enough to see my children reach adulthood.”
(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier.)
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