Playing Catch Up (A Poetic Letter To My Deceased Father)

by Steven Fox

Mom often said that I looked like you.
That my fingernails were like yours.
And my anger.

She never really started saying things like this to me until after your death. I have asked her why.

I suppose that I never really cared or was taught to care about you like so many other black boys care about their fathers.

Maybe that’s why I call you pop.

Because, every now and again, you would pop up on my caller ID as some mysterious California phone number.

I like talking on the phone so I always answer random numbers.

Mom often said that I sounded like you.

Funny thing is, she’s only heard my true voice twice. One time at the National Civil Rights Museum and the other at the Historic Clayborn Temple on my birthday in 2017.

And as I sit here engaging in this 2nd person non-fiction writing prompt with tears in my eyes, I am kind of sad about that. But not too much.

I guess she showed up at just the right time like mothers usually do.

Mom says that she always knew that I would be ok.

That her sons would always come back to her.

Maybe because of the love you gave her and the love he learned to give herself.

I suppose that I am just writing to tell you all the crazy stories that I never got to share with you before you died. First off, I’ve only seen one picture of you and the house that you and mom lived in smack dab in the middle of Orange Mound. I have no clue where that picture is but I know exactly where the house is.

I only heard good stories about you pop.
How you were a good provider, a loving man and the photographer all of the ladies gravitated towards.

Of course mom used the word ‘womanizer’. She is a trip, you know?
A big ol’ Leo of a woman trip.

These stories about you kind of helped save my life; that and her leaving me in the Lauderdale Courts Housing Projects with two of her lesbian friends due to crack-cocaine trapping her mind.

Pop, the ladies she left me with were great but they didn’t have any sheets on the damn bed. T
hat sh** still triggers me to this day. I
hate a plain a** mattress without sheets on it.

You know us though.

It wasn’t long before I got up and left. I

went across the courtyard and asked the neighbor for some shoes and walked those oversized Ellesses 3.5 miles and somehow located mom.
I even had some change to get a pack of cherry Kool-Aid to tide me over.

To my surprise, I didn’t know that it was bitter. Anyways.

I found mom.

She told me to call grandma and chose to go back into the darkness of her substance. As I turned into the night air, I realized that I didn’t have on any underwear. I noticed some superman briefs on a nearby clothing line and put them on. Of course they were too tight.

It was crazy, Pop.

I was just 8 years old. I’m not sure if I want to tell you what happened after this or before it but at least now I can start catching you up.