My black daddy

I originally wrote the message below a few years ago for Father’s Day, in honor of my own dad and also my priest.

But this week Father Everett Pearson passed away.

He’d had a rough run health-wise the past couple years, and it finally got him.

It’s odd in many ways, to be sad to have someone so close to you pass on, and yet to be happy knowing they know they had a full and complete life and are perfectly happy to be taken home.

Father Everett had no fear of what was coming and total faith in what was to come.

That just leaves those left behind to mourn as we must.

I saw him 2 months ago. When I left he simply said “Be well Tom, love you.”

Love you too Father.


“You know we call you my white son?”

I smirked and said, “I’m honored. I’ll start calling you my black daddy.”

Who said this?

The priest that married me, baptized my first-born son, and is always there for me when I need to be set straight.

Father Everett has been my priest, friend — and yes — a father figure, for 16+ years now. (I met him when I lived in one of my target inner-city neighborhoods for flipping houses).

He often reminds me that fathers come in many different forms. Sometimes it’s an actual dad, sometimes it’s an uncle, an older cousin, a friend, or just a role model that makes a major difference in someone’s life.

Chances are you’re a dad to someone.

And someone is a dad to you.

Even if they aren’t your official father.

So even if you got dealt a crappy hand in who your father is, there’s probably someone who is like a father figure to you. And that’s the person you can and should celebrate on Father’s Day.

I’m lucky, because I have a great natural dad as well.

Absurdly patient.

Quietly strong.

Total straight-shooter.

A great father and role model. The way I strive to be for my kids.

When I was home in Buffalo visiting him and my mom an odd thing happened.

I took my boys back into the fields and woods at the end of my street where I used to roam and play as a kid.

Walking the trails, we ran into someone I hadn’t talked to in 30+ years.

Oddly, it was someone who used to pick on me as an 8-year-old kid.

These days he’d be called a bully.

Back then he was just bad news best avoided.

I was never as big or as strong as this kid and sometimes I got knocked down hard and bleeding. Until I learned to just outsmart him and get him to end up hurting himself instead of me (like by crashing his bike into a phone pole instead of into me as I moved away at the last second. After that, he left me alone.)

30 years later on the trail, there were no grudges left.

Seeing my kids with me, he told me how cool that was.

Then he told me that he doesn’t have any kids of his own, but that his older brother died and he’s now raising his nieces and nephews.

Which made me think of what Father Everett always said…
You’re a father figure to someone, even if they aren’t your own kids.

I told him to take good care of them and wished him nothing but the best.

So to all the fathers out there:

Happy Father’s Day!

Tom Zeeb

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