It Might Be Time to Have That Talk With Your Dad
Dear LEVEL Reader,
Hope your Passover and Easter family time was filled with love, a delicious meal, and some appointment dancing via IG Live. (RZA vs. Preemo: who won?) Having a seder over BlueJeans was as strange as the group was large, but the “Dayenu” sing-along still had peak participation. Sunday’s Easter brunch with my mother was more manageable and natural, even though it was missing her signature macaroni and cheese.
Over the past 31 days, I’ve had way more communication with family than usual. You can probably relate. I spoke to my father about a week ago. It doesn’t happen often; although our quarterly 10-minute catchups don’t really have the foundation to support deep discussion that can help bring us closer, I do enjoy them.
This particular check-in had some weight to it. He loves the kids, and wanted to know how the family was doing in this difficult time. “How are the kids and Leslie,” he asked. “Are they safe?” I returned the gesture and asked him how things were going on his end. The answer was infuriating: He told me that he had been commuting to his office until very recently, when he finally started working from home. My father is a 67-year-old-man who has outlived three of his younger siblings. He also has high blood pressure — one of the conditions we know puts you most at risk of complications from the coronavirus.
What would make an elderly Black man who is wicked smart continue to travel anywhere? I didn’t probe. Nor did I give him a lecture full of stats that would put some healthy fear into his day-to-day operations. I mostly listened. When you stay quiet, people want to fill that awkward silence.
Turns out my aunts — one of them a nurse at Long Island’s Mt. Sinai South Nassau — had been giving him grief over being out in these Covid-19 streets. I remained quiet. He ended things here: “I need my life more than I need money.” Say less, Dad. Glad you landed there.
Writer Drew Costley, who covers health, science, and technology for OneZero, wrote an excellent story about the pandemic as it relates to Black men. He starts with an anecdote about his father, a car salesman who has plenty of interaction with customers. The handshake is still a thing in that profession. Here’s the beauty in Drew’s piece. (1) His father is safe. (2) He’s giving Black men a stern wake-up call. We overindex on diseases that diminish our chances of survival once the virus attacks. (3) His swipe at U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams was warranted.
So take care of yourselves. Exercise. Once we’re out of this, stop avoiding that annual doctor’s physical. Know what tests and screenings you’re supposed to have in your forties and fifties. Our resident researcher will be looking into this soon, so not doing homework won’t be an excuse.
These are some of the bullet points I didn’t give my father — because the more he spoke, the more I could tell he had the information. Drew’s piece is what you need to hear. For now.
Jermaine Hall, Editor-in-Chief
ON SECOND THOUGHT
Stories you may have missed.