*A special thanks goes to Errol Anthony Wilkes for his contritution to the book “Daddy, Am I Pretty?” The following is taken from the publication that went on sale Father’s Day of 2010.
Dear Priscia Liliane,
This year will mark the 10th anniversary of your Mom’s passing. Dec 11, 1999 started out the typical for us during the theatre season. I was supposed to have two shows and you had your dance recital to do that afternoon. Little did we know that our life as we know it would change, forever.
That day when I saw the remnants of the car that was once driven by the woman I pledged to love and protect, I prayed to wake up from the obvious nightmare. Alas, it was not a dream. Was it some cruel joke that God was playing? Why dear God did this happen a couple weeks before Christmas? And, on the day I was to buy the Christmas tree! Well, the deed was done. I remember Tony Baker and Mr. Astley telling me that the last thing I should ask myself was “why me”. Of course, that did not stop me from making that query. I was understandably pissed at God. We had just bought that house less than 6 months and we had just begun to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Now instead of planning for Christmas, I was planning a funeral. Ironically, I have gained more faith because you must use your trials and tribulations as opportunities to achieve successes.
The worst day was when all our guests finally left and we walked into that empty house. I looked at you, barely 12 years old and life had to suck for you at that time knowing that Mom was gone and never to return. I made a pact with myself that day. I decided to live life to the fullest and to make sure that you grew up to be a great citizen.
I know some of the things I forced on you were not your cup of tea but I felt that in order for you to succeed, I had to remain vigilant. That’s why I insisted that you read Manchild In The Promised Land, Huck Finn and all those other great works of literature. That’s why I insisted that you listen to Coltrane, Bach and Vivaldi. That’s why I took you to all those Plays and Museums! That’s why I didn’t let “headaches” keep you from attending school. That’s why I taught you how to cook our native dishes and sang those folk songs you now have your friends call for me to sing to them over the telephone.
I felt that right or wrong as a Black person and a West Indian in this my adopted land, it is highly imperative that one has to be much better than others competing for the same job. I tried to instill in you that great study habits and hard work pays off.
It took me a year after Marie’s passing before I started to try to date. I kept my relationships away from you because as predicted most of them did not last long. Your aunt Maxine stated that I was too busy looking for another Marie. Well, there may be truth to that because your mother was a very beautiful and special lady. She was very passionate about her opinions and that lead to some of our most heated discussions that usually left me sleeping on that lumpy and unappetizing couch!
Sometimes I am haunted by the memories of that very last argument we had because she died before we made up. The lesson here is that we should always mend our fences and disagreements prior to going to sleep.
I remember that Sunday in August 2005 after you were installed at Dillard University, I cried on the way back to Houston. I was darn near Baton Rouge before I stopped crying. That was only because I could not see out of my extremely swollen eye lids.
Then came Katrina and you moved even further away to FAMU. The good thing is that you occasionally get to see your Mom’s family in Valdosta. Yes Prisca, that is a good thing. Family is family and I want you to learn their culture as well. It is what you are.
I want you to continue working hard. I know I preach a lot about grades and you get a bit testy whenever I do, but you know what? Tough. That is who your Dad is and I don’t suppose I am about to change now. I did not get where I am today by half stepping and as long as I am alive, I will not allow you to be mediocre at anything in this life. This is why you get frustrated when you call me for advice and I don’t tell you what you want to hear. My love for you just will not allow me to lie to you.
I know I normally write my letters to you with my trusted fountain pen but I am trying to evolve into the 21st century. Since it took me so long to write this one, look for my subsequent letters in your mail box.
You have grown into a strikingly beautiful young lady and as I have said to you many times before. The right guy will come along. After all, Mom and I found each other. Do not make any compromises with your life that will come back to haunt you. Everything and every choice you make in life has consequences. You have to learn that patience in the case of love is a good thing. There are some good guys out there and one day one will be yours. Right now your job is to finish your college studies and be a well-rounded individual. Real men dig smart women, trust me on that one.
I close now with this last bit of advice. It is my high school motto LABOR OMNIA VINCIT. It’s Latin and means “work overcome all difficulties”.
With All My Love,
A copy of the book “Daddy, Am I Pretty?” can be obtained at www.FootprintsBooks.com .