She introduced me to Whitney, Mariah, Anita, Oleta, and Phyllis, but my mother was my diva. She told me that as a child, she would play Diana Ross to her younger sisters’ Supremes. When she sang, people paid attention. Her voice was sweet, yet strong, not a church-trained growler by any means; instead, she was a captivating chanteuse who hit high notes almost effortlessly and pulled off big performance moments like the best of them. Before I was born, she would sing with several local jazz bands (even sharing the stage with the legendary Dizzy Gillespie at one point), but that was put aside to be mother to me. Still, friends would ask her to sing at weddings, anniversary parties, and other gatherings, and each time it was a thrill for me to watch. I sat by her side and watched as she picked out which gown she would wear, as she glammed up with hair, makeup, and jewelry, as she warmed up singing to Regina Belle or Patti Austin or someone like that, all the while struggling to manage nerves, sometimes more successfully than others. It was interesting to observe the conundrum of a glamorous woman and scared little girl all in one. She never seemed to feel entitled to the spotlight as some entertainers, but she walked into it because she loved to sing, she loved to entertain, and she was good at it. A divine gift cannot be denied.
My father was an observer. He didn’t miss much, if anything. Even if he didn’t speak on it right away, it was information filed away for later use. Whereas my mother was more likely to dive head first into a new social setting almost naïve to any potential dangers, my father would take things in first, pleasant all the while, but trusting after it was earned. He never said this, but I’m pretty sure that he tried to read people like books, flipping through their pages as he observed their actions, searching for a premise or plot to their behavior. There were times when I felt like he didn’t notice me, like he didn’t know me, but then out of the blue, he would do something for me so perfect that I knew I was being observed intently. My father was an adapter, and was driven to excel. Not only did he want to know how to do that thing you did, he wanted to know how to do it better than you did. To be at least above average was always the goal; to be good was frustrating at best; to be just okay was nearly unacceptable. I struggle balancing that same drive to be excellent with the need to appreciate all that I am and have in this moment. But I thank my father for showing me that I didn’t have to settle. Period. Knowledge is power, and we were not created to be weak.
Like so many of us, I have some rather deep-seated issues with both of my parents that I am working through. I am working hard to let go of the negative and to forgive, point blank. Frankly, that’s hard as hell at times, but writing this blog was necessary to help me along on that road. By committing it to writing (and the interwebs), I am choosing to acknowledge the wonderful foundation my parents laid for me to be the man and musician I am today and the man and musician I wish to be tomorrow. I thank them, and I thank you, whoever you are, for taking the time to read this.