There can only be one “Pop”.
Some of you know that I am in the process of finding out who my DNA family is, and it has been such an emotionally exhausting task that I decided to journal as progress happens. Along the way, certain parts of my history are brought to the front of my memories, to the front of my heart. I will soon know for a fact who my father is, what my name should have been, where my forefathers came from, and what names do they possess. In no way is this journey meant to disrespect anyone, as it is a fact-finding journey, and facts matter.
To say that I do not know who this person is may be confusing. There are people who loved me then and now who earned their place in my heart and memories. There are those who came and went, and those who stayed. The is but one “Pops”. No one will ever take his place or fill his shoes. In the season and spirit of thanks, I am choosing to simple pay tribute properly.
What do you say to a person who came into your life and changed it for the better?
A LovePrint is love in action. An action in love. It is the covering of those your care about in so much love that nothing else can stick. It is the canvasing of people in your circle of so much adoration that they take it into their world and do the same thing. One act at a time, in love.
Roland Thomas Morgan came into my life around the age of 11 or so for me. I remember not being overly impressed initially, but I had no reason to not give him a chance. I asked my favorite question:
” Who are you?”
He told me that I should introduce myself first before asking such a thing, and that led to a conversation of two bullheads, one age 11, and the other, a grown man. What happened was a mutual respect club of two, as he promised to be decent, and I promised to do the same, We would agree on was that we both wanted my mother happy, and after was agreed upon, we would be able to reach agreement on most other things.
My mother raised me and taught me how to be a good person. Pops taught me how to be a man. I can only speak for myself on this, and recognize that he had his flaws and imperfections. What I can say is this, he lifted me up in ways that still stick with me to this day. He challenged me, he inspired me, he gave me directions, a helping hand, and love.
He was my personal driver, from school, from practice, from games, and from work. In those minutes and hours, he showed me the world. He fed my dreams, he plotted my successes, he gave me the soundtrack to my youth, and he gave me a reason to believe in the good in people. He changed my taste in food, he introduced me to style, embraced our differences, and told me stories about the war. He explained life before integration, set boundaries for life after, and prepared me for whatever was coming next.
He took my curiosity of sports and fed it like I needed it to survive. My love for boxing was passed from his lips to my soul with stories of Jack Johnson, Cassius Clay, Floyd Patterson, Sonny Liston, Rocky Marciano, Jake LaMotta, and his favorite, Joe Louis. If you ever wanted to see a smile that could light up the sky, ask Pop about Joe Louis. The pitch of his voice would raise from the deep bass as he described meeting Louis after he fought Schmeling the second fight. He would laugh in this disco club style bass speaker pound when talking about the differences between Ted Williams and Willie Mays. The Splendid Splinter was his guy. He would chuckle whenever he asked me to lock Williams swing and run to first base.
He is responsible for my love of music. He would drive us around DC, Maryland, and Virginia with a car full of 8 tracks that included Barry White, Eddie Kendricks, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, and Sam Cooke. But his guy was Teddy Pendergrass. My goodness! He would let me choose the artist, and then spent time telling me where they were from, why that mattered, why it sounded the way that it did, and I can’t hear those artists today without smiling and hearing him sing above their music. He drove me to the Cater Barron Theatre to listen to the Dells, Impressions, and the Staples sing during a sound check before their show that night.
He thought he could dance. He really did. He was the prototype of the old black guy trying to dance to this new fangled hippity hoppity music in the early 80’s. but finally came around when he could recite the chorus to Rappers Delight. He also introduced me to Redd Foxx, Moms Mabley, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, and this new cat named Richard Pryor, who had albums that I could only listen to when no one else was home.
He used to take me shopping for clothes because THE LADIES LOVE A MAN IN TIGHT CLOTHES! I knew that not all men were created equally whenever he rocked his open chest shirts. Everything looked good on the man.
He taught me to know my way around the kitchen and laundry room. NO WOMAN WANTS A MAN WHO WEARS DIRTY CLOTHES. And, making his bed should be a mans first task in his day. He handled clothes inspections each morning before school, that line from the iron should make the crease sharp on the jeans. Anything else is unacceptable.
He would give my team uniforms the once over as well. Making sure that I had the right black polish or spray paint for the Black Knights Football helmet painting on the back porch the Friday nights before Saturday games. Clean those cleats as well! Make sure that the converse leather was clean. And straight into the laundry post game. He made sure they were set out the night before school. No last-minute chaos, young man.
He would ask me to breakdance. He wanted to understand. He wanted to understand the need for a beer bong. He would sneak to watch me play, masking fear that I somehow wasn’t proud of him, or that he wouldn’t fit in with the majority of white parents at games. But he was ALWAYS there. He knew about injuries before I could tell him. He would always look for my homework. I WAS WIRED TO USE MY BRAIN AND NOT LABOR.
He could build anything by hand. I was horribly disappointing at it. He still patiently worked with me. He got me a paper route that turned into three. He got me a summer job clearing rooftops and houses, which to this day is the hardest thing I have ever done. I couldn’t wait for two a day practices to start so that I wouldn’t have to kill myself with him on these roofs.
He would check in at work. Always. And he never offered advice openly. He managed to weave the conversation to lesson points without ever letting on that he was teaching me. And, he was happy to help.
He was the voice in my ear on dates, and he was undefeated in picking out keepers. He spotted Beckie early, and even gave her the nickname Bex. I still use it today, some 35 years later. If I dated you more than once, he cosigned you. If not, well, he didn’t. He was protective in the best way possible. He wanted the best for me.
He is also the reason I do not like guns. I never felt threatened, but he had one in the house for work, and I hated it. He was loved Johnny Walker Black, and Johnny Walker Red for the holidays. He never got me to meet him halfway with pig’s feet, chitterlings, or pickled eggs. He took me to Baltimore to see the Orioles after the Senators left town, and to see the Colts and Always Hurt Burt Jones! He did all of this because he wanted to, not because he had to. He did all of this when the person who could have, didn’t.
He did all of this until the day he died. He never wavered in his love for me, or those I loved. He never once said that I couldn’t. I never forget the day that he threw down the gauntlet and challenged me to a fight since I had been spending those hours in the basement lifting those weights. He said I was ready. I was. I remember coming home from doing my first television show. The big 6’3, 240lb man cried. He said I impressed him. He said I was ready for the world.
He also cried the day I came home from Charlotte. He had gotten satellite tv so that he could watch his boy talk football in Carolina. He said that he knew that I talked funny for a reason! He had taped the shows and given them all to his friends to watch. And we celebrated in a way that many of you have shared with us. A shot of Johnny Walker Black.
It is with tears on my face that I type this. He deserves these tears. No matter what I find out from DNA, there will only be one and only POPS.
What do you say to someone who came into your life and made it better?
What do you say to someone who covered you in LovePrints?