Today is Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday. Tomorrow is my dad’s 83rd. Nelson Mandela served 27 years in prison and ultimately received the Nobel Peace Price in 1993. My father served a 24 year sentence of his own, but the best I can do for him is to award him my own prize: the Croix de Estrogen.
You see, since my father married in 1952, he has never for an extended time lived without a woman. He lived with my mother until her death in 1998, except for a few brief, shall we say, “time outs.” However, my father spent 24 years living with five women – his four daughters and his wife. At one point, all of his daughters were of menstruating age and his wife was menopausal. That in itself was a special form of hell.
But my dad earned his sentence. I’ve heard stories of how he was quite the Lothario back in the day before he married my mom. If I recall the family lore correctly, he met my mom while he was hanging out in a parking lot, watching two women fight over him. He walked away with my mom.
A while back, our local paper ran a series of stories on the African American night life in Sacramento in the 40’s and 50’s. There was mention of a popular African American club, the Momo Club, and a wildly popular exotic dancer who worked there. Lo and behold, there was a quote in the paper from one of my aunts talking about this dancer and how popular she was. I asked my dad, “Hey, Dad, did you know this lady who danced at the Momo Club?”
He replied: “Know her? I used to date her.”
Huh? MY dad?
So, my dad, who was wildly popular with the ladies in his own right back in the day, earned his sentence in estrogen hell: Four headstrong, intelligent, smart-mouthed daughters who don’t take no tea for the fever. And boy, did he ever have a time with us speaking to him as only daughters can to their fathers:
“Daddy! You need to put some lotion on them crusty feet of yours. You’re grossing me out.”
“Daddy! You know that tie don’t go with that shirt. You need to change.”
“Daddy! I can see your boxers through those white pants. You need to change.”
“Dad, you need a hair cut. You starting to look like Huey Newton ‘bout the head.”
“Daddy, you need to cut them toenails. You lookin’ like The Brother From Another Planet.”
And on it went. Not to mention what my mom dished out, especially when he came in the house sweaty after having mowed the lawn or worked on cars:
“You stink, old goat. Go take a shower.”
I think that when my sisters and I were all of menstruating age (and, as nature would have it, often at the same time monthly), my father would have easily switched places with Nelson Mandela. However, he happily went to the grocery store and picked up our feminine products. At the time I thought he was, well, mental, for taking on such a task. Inevitably, he would pick the wrong product for one of us, and that particular PMS’ing daughter would let him have it:
“Dad! You KNOW I don’t use these. You need to take them back.”
“Okay.” And he would gladly return to the store and correct the error.
It wasn’t until I was older that I came to understand the wisdom of his ways. I asked him why he didn’t mind going to the store (sometimes repeatedly) to buy feminine products for his daughters. His response: “When your daughters are using feminine products, that means they’re not pregnant.”
Tomorrow is my dad’s birthday, and I’m happy to report that he is happily remarried and no longer surrounded by menopausal or menstruating women. I award him the first (and only) Black Woman Blogging’s Croix de Estrogen for all his years of service to attitudinal, PMS’ing and menopausal women, all of whom were in his family.
Happy Birthday, Mr. Mandela. And Happy Birthday, Dad.