When the Family Feuds, Part 2
“Have I been talking to myself? Yes son, you are destined to be a minister!”
Did this man say what I thought he said?
“I’m not a minister, Bishop, and I have no aspirations of becoming one. I never have”
“That’s just it son! You possess the gift and you’re not flowing in it! You should be out here leading souls to Christ instead of coaching football. Don’t you remember that night when the brothers of the fellowship laid hands on you and spoke that prophetic word over your life?”
“I do remember that night. Those sweaty men scared me half to death spitting all over me! It felt more like a nightmare than a service”
“Son, don’t be like the servant that buried his master’s talent in the ground”
“Honestly, I feel differently about the faith than you do. I’m using my talent to guide and nurture young men through football. So in essence, I am a leader of men, just not from the pulpit”
My father removed his glasses and began to wipe them. He sat there in his chair, simply shaking his head in dismay.
“I can’t believe my own flesh and blood would do this to me. You’ve turned your back on everything! You’ve turned your back on God. You’ve turned your back on your marriage . . .”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Now you’re crossing the line, dad!”
To my surprise, my father placed his glasses on the table and pulled back his chair. Was he about to fight me? Before I could find out, my mother quickly intervened.
“Now Bishop, I believe that we should table this matter until another time. We are here to celebrate AJ, remember?”
“Be quiet and know your place, woman! I’ll talk to Kenneth as the Lord dictates! He needs to hear this!”
He pounded his fist against the table. The patrons who were trying to ignore us couldn’t anymore. The wait staff were looking in my direction, but I nodded and signaled that everything would be cool. I had endured enough of the unjustified browbeating. I wasn’t a kid anymore and I refused to be debased in front of my own child! I started to get up and leave but AJ did something that took me for a loop; he stood up for me.
“Grandpa, why are you so hard on my dad? Despite what you may believe, he’s a great father. He’s been with me through every phase of my life. Even with mom being gone all the time, he’s always been there. I believe he has answered his calling; he’s a wonderful dad”
I couldn’t do anything but smile as those words came from my first born. Unfortunately, my father didn’t care for AJ’s honesty.
“Son, this is grown folks business! According to the word, your father hasn’t walked in his destiny. He continues to run away from his responsibilities. Running doesn’t make a man great, that makes him a coward! One thing is for certain, Bishop Thomas L. Bailey didn’t raise no coward! I’m here to make sure your father doesn’t continue his namby pamby ways”
“Namby-pamby? So I’m not a man because I don’t wanna preach?r”
“Not just that. My bible tells me that a man that allows his wife . . .”
“Let me stop you right there! Outside of the past three weeks, I’ve been a faithful husband. I’ve never committed adultery. However, I wasn’t the best husband because I treated Morgan like property instead of my wife. Before she stepped out, I constantly berated her, saying how fat she was even though she’s in better shape than me! I found every way to make her feel inferior to me so that I could control her. So I can see why she cheated. I forced her to. That was my fault and I have to live with that. I’m man enough to own that”
“So what example are you setting for your son, huh?”
“According to him, the best I can! Dad, I’ve always tried to live up to what you wanted me to be. What you wanted me to do. But I’m not you. I’ll never be like you. My path is different from yours. We are different. Can’t you respect that?”
“Not when it’s out of the will of God, no I can’t”
“Do you even love me?”
“Do you love me?”
“Me and your mother brought you into this world”
“But do you love me? You spend so much time telling me how I’m not meeting your expectations, how I’ve fallen short of my calling, but you have never once said you loved me”
For the first time that night, my father had nothing to say. He sat there and drank his tea and set his sights towards the band. I wanted to continue to press, but there was no need. I already had my answer. My mother excused herself as she was trying not to cry in front of us. AJ looked at my father with disdain in his eyes and said
“Grandpa, do you love me?”
The bishop looked back at him.
“Of course I love you, AJ! You are meeting your expectations. Even though you chose the wrong school, you are still on the right path”
“You can’t love me if you don’t love my dad”
He paused for a second. Then gave an unexpected response.
“I love your father, but I can’t support him right now. He is about to allow your mother to leave him and soil our good name”
“I am here, you know. You can direct your comments toward me”
“Okay. Do you know what your divorce will do to my good name in the fellowship? Do you?”
“What does my life have to do with you? It’s my life!”
“No son, it’s our life. I’m a bishop and you are my son. If I ever want to be over the fellowship, then things have to line up”
“You know Bishop, I’m so sick of that fucking fellowship! You know it’s nothing but a cult right?”
“See? You have no respect for the church anymore! You probably haven’t been to church in years have you?”
“So what if I haven’t? Does that make me lower in God’s eyesight?”
“Yes, it does”
“See, this is why I could never be you, dad! I’m not going along with foolishness! I refuse to let common people monitor my every move. The last church I went to had people emailing the pastor because of something they didn’t agree with on my social media! I’m not an elder! I’m not a deacon! I’m not a fucking trustee! They were trying to control my life while other motherfuckers were robbing them blind in the name of the . . .”
“Kenneth, you’re out of line! I think I’ve heard quite enough from you this evening!”
“Nah, I ain’t even close! You and your high mighty brethren! When will you all learn that those crosses and collars you wear around your neck don’t make you holy? Your walk in Christ does! To me, you all are like guard dogs!”
I knew that I had gone too far, but it felt good all the same. My father stood up with the vigor of a twenty two year old and began to come at me like he wanted to do me bodily harm. I quickly jumped to my feet to intercept. Just as he was about to cock his fist, my mother reappeared and stood between the two of us.
“Bishop, please stop! Please!”
I stood there and looked at my mom, trying to hold her husband at bay. I was the younger, stronger one, but she felt the need to restrain him. Even with how he talked down to her, she continued to protect him.
“Ingrid, I think we’re going to have to cut our trip short. It’s time to leave”
Without saying goodbye, my father began to leave the rooftop. My mother stood there, trying to be strong, but I could see the turmoil her heart was currently experiencing. She had lived with this volatile man for over forty years. No doubt he had beaten her to keep her obedient to him. Now she didn’t even know how to protect her only son from his assault. Before he started down the stairs, my father yelled out
“Ingrid, let’s go!”
My mom kissed and hugged me and AJ before she disappeared down the stairs. I saw the shock on the guests’ faces. In hindsight, I wish that this altercation would have never happened. But for the first time in my life, I didn’t have any regrets. I said what needed to be said. I left everything on the table. As my mother disappeared, AJ hugged me.
“Dad, if you want, we can still go to the Red Cow”
“Nah, the night is not over. We’re not gonna let a bad attitude spoil our evening. Take your seat and let me make a call. I have a surprise for you”
I went off into the distance and dialed a familiar number.
“Hey beautiful. There’s been a change in plans. Instead of meeting us at the house, do you think you could join me and AJ tonight? After what we just encountered, a friendly face would be welcomed company”
Written by the Wednesday Gentleman