A Father and His Son
I dedicate this first blog to my father who passed away at the young age of 61 on January 11, 2017. To this day, I still think about the numerous conversations that we had, especially prior to his passing. I am sure that many of you who have lost a loved one so close, you often say to yourself, “What I could give to have that one last conversation.” This has been on mind for the past couple of months, and it is interesting to think, what would you say?
Before I provide my answer, I want to give some background insight about my father. He was the oldest of 9 from Starkville, Mississippi. His family moved to St. Louis, Missouri, when he was 9 years old. Although the family grew up poor, he had precious ideas, which lead to him joining the military and raising a family. After 22 years of honorable service with the U.S. Air Force, he briefly worked in the private sector before returning to Civil Service before he retired in 2015. Growing up as a Black male in an era where there are numerous negative connotations associated with fatherhood, parenting, socioeconomic disparities, Walter Duncan, Jr. never gave into to what society dictated to him. Instead, he dictated to society what he felt was appropriate in raising and providing for his three children during times of strife and chaos.
What I loved most about my father, which was more noticeable on the day of his memorial service, is that he touched so many people, regardless of color. He showed us that even though the ugly truths of racism and prejudices still exist in some corners, it should not discourage us from becoming active in society and become mentors and role models to those who cross our paths. Those were not his exact words; however, his actions said more than enough. When it came to education and his ambitions, he would often say he was not the smartest person in the room, or maybe not even in his own house, but that did not stop him from being educated. This thought process extended well beyond a diploma, as he amassed a vast network of friends, associates, and colleagues who helped this kid from North St. Louis to become very successful and accomplished in everything he set forth his mind to do.
He spent as much time as possible with his grandchildren. I remember explaining to my oldest last week that even though he may have left before his graduation, the wealth of experiences and memories were more than what I could have ever dreamed of when I was at his age. He loved his family, and he gave his all to those who were in need. Some may have turned their backs on him, but he did what he felt was right. What I learned from him is that it is not about that “atta boy” or what do you get in return, but did you do the right thing.
As a man, it is our responsibility to make sure that we are making the right choices. Even if it means sacrificing our best self-interests, it is about the common good. He sacrificed a lot, and I saw his blessings come in the form of many accomplishments, accolades, and vivid memories. When I wrote my first book, The Four Fits of Holistic Growth, I remembered how proud he was when I let him and my mother open the book cover. I remember having a small gathering and allowing them to open it because I knew how much it meant to them. Watching his expressions when it came to the accomplishments of my brother and sister, he was proud because it was a lot of work and dedication from my mother and him to help raise us to the adults we are today.
After his passing, I did not realize how similar the concepts of my book, personal motivation and self-development, was similar to what he was doing throughout his entire life. After his passing, I had a flood of calls of how he helped others while in the service, marital issues, finances, job-hunting, etc. He never would grace the front of the local newspaper of “Who’s Who,” or a national magazine publication, but he touched and impacted so many lives. If you think about it, the lives that he touched or helped extends to their children or friends, which extends to others.
Which leads me to the final point, I would not be the person I am today if it was not for my father’s tutelage in being a man. Even though for the longest he did not seem like a man of many words, I find myself now reflecting on his actions. As you are reading this, ask yourself, how far is the reach that extends from your hands, mind, and heart. Some contemplate how many people would come to their funeral; however, I would ask you to stop and consider how many lives are currently influencing now in a positive manner. From those lives that you directly have touched, how many other lives do you think your words, actions, and deeds extends indirectly to others. Imagine how many generations may benefit from your wisdom, experiences, and ambitions.
What would I say if I could have that one last conversation with Walter Duncan, Jr? I would tell him that I will be alright, carry on his goodwill, I love him, and thank you for raising me as the man I am today.
Dr. Terrence D. Duncan
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Dr. Terrence D. Duncan