I Keep. . .

“I keep… moving forward, pressing onward, striving further…”
–Jill Scott, “I Keep…,” Beautifully Human

9 September 2004

Dear Dad:

I keep… telling myself that every day, every year without you should get easier… but it simply doesn’t. And as much as I try to be strong, to move on, I still haven’t yet. But I will.

I keep… waiting to hear you sing one more song, a sweet song… the kind that filled the room every single day. I keep waiting for your encouraging words, your discipline that came in the form of a hypothetical situation or experience. Keep waiting for you to laugh at one of my horrible jokes, to hear that you’re proud of me or that you saw me on TV.

I keep… in mind everything you taught me, everything I learned from you every day of my life. Your appreciation, admiration and respect for women, your ability to make people feel at ease, your love of family and friends… all of that is what I hope to perfect one day. I’m still working on it. Your words are etched upon my heart and mind, so I know I will.

I keep… wanting to know the real pain you experienced over those last ten years, want to feel what you felt, want to take it all on myself… and bring you back without it. Back to when you were my walking life example, vibrant and strong. A man’s man. I keep thinking there is something I could’ve done. And then, I realize that there really wasn’t. That it was your time. And that I should use my time to make you proud.

I keep… saying things that you’d say, doing things you used to do, attempt to act the way I feel you’d expect me to. The way that would make you proud. I’ve had some missteps along the way. Fallen short more often than not. But I’m still trying.

I keep… in touch with my favorite cousin from Pittsburgh, always ask about your side of the family. Always wish we were back in the Ford Taurus singing crappy R&B songs on the highway, on our way to the Steel City. Always wish we were back on Apple Street together watching the Steelers with your sister. Wish you were here to help me celebrate their Super Bowl wins.

I keep… remembering how many people showed up to your funeral, the stories they told about you, ones I’d heard before, but still made me smile and my heart swell with pride. To have that kind of turnout… that kind of rapport with so many people… shows what kind of special man you were. I wear that as a badge of honor these days, as I have my whole life. I was put into a special slot when I was put with you. I realize that. As a matter of fact, I keep realizing it.

I keep… writing like there’s no tomorrow, keep giving back to my community every day by talking to these students the same way you talked to me, letting them know that their hard work will pay off. That they can be great and leave their individual marks on the world. That what they do and say does matter. That they have to keep striving for greatness, and that impossible isn’t an option.

So today, 17 years later, on the anniversary of the day that your body left this earth, when you breathed your last breath that early Thursday morning… I keep… saluting you. I keep… remembering you. I keep… loving you. And still keep trying to be like you.

I have a lot of work to do when it comes to that… but I’ll never stop working.

With All My Heart, I Keep Going…

Your Son

(Thanks to Jill for the inspiration… thanks to my dad for the template on how to be a man.)

Albert Oscar Dawson, Sr.

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