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And when he was born my grandmother must have had all the requisite dreams, holding my dad in her arms. She must have seen in his huge black eyes the beginning of genius. She must have seen talent in his precocious growth, talent enough to live up to his Ellington namesake. He was musical – a beautiful strong baritone though not strong

Ellington & Ruth Norman – my father & mother – 1962

enough to lift him over his timid paranoia induced by his velvet-black skin

And today, the day of father’s, I wonder what my dad would have been like if his skin were another color?

Would he have lost that ‘good job’ wrongly accused of theft?

Would his footfalls coming in  the back door continue to translate as angry tirades about his children’s shortcomings?

Would he need to find surcease in vodka’s white-lightening providing a shield from a life shot through with responsibility?

And yet, every morning I could understand the language in the back door slam – speaking volumes to his work ethic – every morning.

My father, I understand now, was a complicated man attempting to live in a world that minimized (by degrees) most men.

And he helped, unable, as he was, to resist those who found him irresistible.

Who’s fault that his silken, coffee brown body invited touch?

Where, in his beautiful black shroud of skin, did strength and weakness reside?

Life’s ecstasy?

Life’s agony?

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