(this is a revised update of the birthday salute I did for Daddy in 2015)
Happy Birthday Daddy. I love you, miss you, and am still learning so much from all the wisdom you tried to share with me when I was a rambunctious teenager, and later as a woman and a mom.
Today, August 11, 2016, would have been my dad, Warner Hale Dulan, Sr.'s 95th Birthday, had he lived. As I mentioned in my salutes to my handsome Grandson, Hugh V, and my handsome Son, Rais, Sun Kings, or Leos, are very special people. And to me, my Dad was, and still is, the number one Leo in my life.
From my Dad I learned Pride, Discipline, Compassion, Independence, Love and Pride. Did I say pride twice? Well I meant to, because Leos have a double dose of it! As if Aries weren't already the biggest egos on the planet - we come pre-packaged with big egos - and, if nurtured correctly, we learn how to control it so that we're not the most obnoxious characters on the planet.
That's not the kind of pride I'm talking about. I'm talking about never appearing in public looking less than your best; never allowing your enemy to see your weakness - whatever that may be; always doing your homework ahead of the game so you're prepared for whatever you're called to do (for me it was acting and reciting when - from Kindergarten through high school - I was a Thespian); and never ever ever beg anybody for anything - unless, of course, it was life and death - the enemy can smell vulnerability; always look a person in the eye when you're talking with them; and if every other word out your mouth is a 4-letter word, or profanity, it shows your ignorance and you've already lost; and louder doesn't mean you're smarter or better, it really means that you're insecure or trying to draw attention to yourself.
That's the kind of pride my Dad taught me. And I'm happy to say that it was the kind of pride most of my peers in Oklahoma City were also taught coming up. Somewhere between the Code of the West and Southern Gentility on the Black side.
After his biggest three focuses - loving Ruby Love (my Mom), putting food on the table, and keeping the roof over our heads, his biggest concern was our education and well being. And he worked very hard at it. Daddy had a full time job and several part time jobs - or odd jobs, as he called them. Some of them that were "embarrassing" to us as kids, have now become popular - hauling trash and taking them to the recycling plant (yes they had those in Oklahoma long before they become popular nationally), including paper, soda bottles, cans, etc., were used to bridge the gap between the underpaid salary he received from Tinker AFB. Many's a time my sister and I had to take our Red Flyer Wagon and pick up soda bottles left around so he could take them to the 7UP and CocaCola Bottling Plants - for two cents a bottle, you could rack up quite a bit in those days.
He wasn't a "church going man," but he did believe in God. He just didn't believe in the ministers. One of them hit on my mom, who used to sing in the choir, and came to within an inch of getting a major beatdown as a result. Once in a while, when he felt the need, he would walk up the hill, and sit in the balcony of St. John The Baptist Church. I'd go with him. He'd be dressed to the max, crease in his pants, shoes shined up, suit impeccably done, and one of his great Fedoras. I loved walking with my dad, all dressed up, and all the church ladies trying to figure out if he was or wasn't married.
For the most part, though, Sundays were sacred to him - that was the day he got all of us kids (4 of us) out of the house for the day to Sunday School, Church, BYPU, and whatever else, so he could have exclusive time with Mom, Ruby Love - the love of his life.
My dad was an expert dominoes player - a favorite game among the Dulan family men - something they would play for eons while the women, including yours truly when I got older, were preparing the food in the kitchen, or for the cook out; or after Memorial Day of cleaning off the graves. He was also an excellent card player. He and mom used to have Bid Whist parties at the house and bring their friends over for a night of tournaments.
He loved boxing, and I got my love of boxing from him. Dad tried his hand at amateur boxing when he was in the service - but I think that Leo pride of his didn't like the idea of messing up his handsome good looks - although he never said so. I always look at him and think of Muhammad Ali when he said "I'm still pretty!" When Ali made his transition, I thought about Daddy, and wondered whether those two would get a chance to sit and talk.
My Dad was a FINE BLACK MAN - physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. He could have been a great leading man in the movies, had he been born in a different era. He was so handsome he turned heads where ever he went. Of course, having the most beautiful woman in the world beside him, kept the temptation to stray down.
Daddy was always teaching us things - from the smallest item - like earth worms, to major mechanical and technological developments - he was the head of Tool Crib Maintenance at Tinker Air Force Base for twenty of the forty-seven years he worked for them. He would pick up a cotter pin and explain how that little device could make or break an entire mechanical system; or the value of the earth worm to the ecosystem - i.e., why we needed them in our garden in the back yard (I hated worms - so Daddy was trying to speak up for their value - I still don't like worms, but I understand their necessity). He taught me how to shoot - and I would go hunting with him, Grandaddy, uncle Adolf and other relatives. His favorite thing to do would be to take us for long drives around Oklahoma and give us the history of certain areas as far as Black and Indians were concerned.
Growing up, I remember that our coffee table at home had the requisite Black magazines: Ebony, Jet, Sepia, Tan, Crisis, Negro History, Journal of Negro Education - Daddy's subscriptions; along side Cosmopolitan, Look, Life, McCalls, Good Housekeeping, House Beautiful, Seventeen, Mademoiselle, etc - Mom's subscriptions. And we read them all.
Daddy was always taking discarded items and recycling or repurposing them. He was always building and tinkering on something - I helped him build a dog house when I was 9. I had the job of painting it. i think I got more paint on me than on the dog house.
My dad could also out dress any man in GQ!! He had shoe trees, the requisite silk ties, the three piece suits, spit shine shoes, and the right hats to go with his sartorial selections. When he and Mom would step out, look out!!! They would stop the show - spot light on Ruby and Warner Dulan. It was also for this reason that we could not go out into the streets looking like bums - we had to take time to take pride - the Leo way. It was Daddy who taught me how to wear hats when I was a kid - I've been wearing them ever since. Of course, the cutting out of the crowns so my Afro would show was my idea, but making it look stylish came from him and Mom.
I think one of the things I loved my Daddy so much for were our debates, which started when I was about 10 or 11, and had become a part of the NAACP Youth Council, and continued until he passed, at the age of 66 from multiple myeloid cancer (bone marrow cancer) in 1987. He would take the opposite tack of the issue and ask questions or make statements in a way that would really get me riled up. I had learned to refute certain statements through training at the Youth Council under Clara Luper, our mentor. But he would take it and make it personal, as if I didn't know what I was doing. That would then set us off on a harangue that could last an hour or more. And if I got huffy, annoyed, bent out of shape, he would just continue to calmly throw barbs at me and poke holes in my argument. The more emotional I became, the calmer he became. But, even if I got shrill - which I sometimes did - no one else in the family ever dared step into that conversation between Daddy and me.
Mother told me years later how proud he was that I knew all the stuff I knew. I tried to learn to be calm under fire, and not become emotional when making a point that has to do with Black people, but so far the only other people I know who do it better than Daddy are Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.
When I was 17, and fully involved in Civil Rights in Oklahoma City, Tinker Air Force Base threatened to fire Dad if I didn't quit participating in the Sit-ins and demonstrations. He came and told me what they said, and asked me what I wanted to do. I remember saying that he would just have to get fired, then, I wouldn't step down, because what I was doing was for our people - so it might be good if he started looking for another job. He got so tickled, and told me he had already informed them that he couldn't force me to quit. He continued as an employee for another 20+ years until his retirement.
He would have totally supported Black Lives Matter. I'm kind of glad he's not here to witness the atrocities that are still being leveled against Black people. He probably would have said, "I told you so. These white people are not people you want to ever integrate with" - which is what he told me when I was 10 and first joined the NAACP. Those words come back to me from time to time - especially when an unarmed brother or sister is gunned down; when someone who is uber competent loses a job because he or she is Black.
I can still hear Dad saying to me "Don't be no fool!" when I was about to get into something that might result in a behind whipping on my part; or I was popping off at the mouth during my arrogant adolescent years; or "There's nothing worse than an educated fool," when I thought I knew everything and didn't have to listen to anybody else's opinions or ideas.
My friends knew and loved my Dad for who he was and what he stood for - most of their parents and my father worked together at Tinker, or at the many oil wells throughout the city. Those men shared their intelligence, not their ignorance, with each other. They were focused on progress, not defeat. If one made it, they would pull the other through. They carpooled to work and would catch each other up on houses, deals, cars, etc.
Daddy at age 65 - FINE BLACK MAN!! August 11, 2016 would have been his 95th Birthday.
One of my fondest memories was of Daddy's birthday celebrations. When we were little, Brenda (my sister) and I would get up with Mom, sneak into the kitchen and make his favorite breakfast, and then surprise him by serving it to him in bed. And after he had eaten, we'd give him his presents - generally something we had made in Vacation Bible School. He would always act surprised and pleased at the stuff we'd give him. When I was 12, I took some leather strips from a shoe repair place - about 1/2" wide by 3' long, and wove him a seat cushion for his car. He used it til the day he made his transition. Mother kept it for quite some time after. I have no idea what happened to it since then, but he was so amazed that I had come up with the concept, he talked about that forever.
I am so blessed to have had my mom and my dad in my life - they were wonderful people. My dad was/is a treasure in our family - as are all the dads in the Dulan Clan - my uncle Adolf, my cousins Jeff and Gregory, my handsome son Rais Wilson, my handsome son-in-law Hugh IV, my brother Sylvester, his son Silas, and so on.
So I'm saying Thank you, Daddy for being the wonderful dad and Sun King that you were. Your birthday is treasured in our family, and always will be, for me.