The Walk: Bass in My Father’s Voice

“Julian? So what really happened? Your mother told me that you have been late coming home from school every single day.”

I sat down at the kitchen table and looked at my parents. I cleared my throat and said with all the earnestness that I could muster:

“I don’t know, Dad. I have no idea. Every day I have come STRAIGHT HOME!”

I might have even had a small tear in my eye.

But it was what my Dad said next changed everything.

Now before I get to what he said, let me set the scene:

I was an elementary school kid in Sacramento, California. My school, Freeport Elementary was a relatively short walk to our home. Our family only had one car, so my mother would walk me to school in the morning while I would walk home in the afternoon (my younger sister was napping at that time, and my father was at work).

The walk should have taken 15 minutes or so. Maybe 20. But I was routinely 25 minutes, 35 minutes, sometimes almost an hour late. My parents, as you could imagine were extremely concerned.

“Is our son getting lost?”

“Is our son being bothered?”

“Was our son being bullied?”

After every late arrival, my Mother would ask with a worried face:

“Are you okay? Why are you late coming home from school?”

And during each and every inquisition, I would give the same earnest answer:

“I don’t know, Mom. I am coming STRAIGHT HOME!”

And I would respond so emphatically because it was the truth. I WAS coming straight home.

I came straight home AFTER I jumped in the mounds of dirt at a nearby construction site.

I came straight home AFTER I played with stray dogs in a field.

I came straight home AFTER I threw sticks down the street.

I came straight home AFTER supervillains were vanquished in my wake.

I had these extraordinary adventures where I would use my imagination and the environment to tell a different story every single day. It was awesome. There was only one problem:

These adventures took time. Sometimes a lot of time.

But Mom didn’t need to know all that. I came straight home. It was just AFTER my extraordinary adventures.

How could you not believe a face as cute as this?

Well that day, my parents decided to use spy tactics to get to the bottom of the getting home late everyday situation. Unbeknownst to me, my father left work early to check on his elementary school son. He parked our green Datsun hatchback near the school and waited.

This wasn’t exactly like our car, but you get the idea.

When the bell rang and all the kids were dismissed, he followed by car the little boy who traveled by foot. He didn’t honk, didn’t pull next to me as I walked, he just waited.

And watched.

HE WATCHED me jump in the mounds of dirt at a nearby construction site.

HE WATCHED me play with stray dogs in a field.

HE WATCHED me throw sticks down the street.

HE WATCHED me vanqish supervillains in my wake.

He watched it all, and said nothing. I was so engrossed in my extraordinary imaginary adventures that I had no idea that a BIG GREEN DATSUN HATCHBACK was following me down the street. After watching me for a while, he went to our house another way.

I can remember that afternoon where I walked to the house and I saw the car in the driveway.

“Hmmm. That’s weird. I wonder why dad is home early?”

I walked in the house with both my parents sitting at the kitchen table. They told me to sit down.

“Julian? So what really happened? Your mother told me that you have been late coming home from school every single day.

I sat down at the kitchen table and looked at my parents. I cleared my throat and said with all the earnestness that I could muster:

“I don’t know, Dad. I have no idea. Every day I have come STRAIGHT HOME!

And with a level of bass in his voice that wasn’t there before, my father asked “So what about when you were playing with that little dog, throwing those sticks, and jumping in the dirt?”

I was frozen in shock.

His question caused me physical and mental paralysis.

It was a bigger shock than when Darth Vader said, “Luke I am your Father.”

It was a bigger shock then finding out that Mom and Dad were really Santa Claus. It was a bigger shock than finding out the birds and the bees talk wasn’t really about birds or bees.

My parents told me years later that my eyes got as big as saucers. That they had to pinch themselves and fight to keep from falling out laughing.

It was then, with my mouth still agape that my father stood and said, “Julian, come with me.”

Gulp.

It felt like Simba in Lion King when he took Nala went to the elephant graveyard and was in big trouble as a result.

“SIMBA!!!!!”

There is a moment when Mufasa summons Simba with the gravitas that only James Earl Jones could bring, where the little lion cub ducks his head and attempts to hide in the grass.

In my story, there was no grass, no Nala, no Toucan Sam type bird rescuer for this lost little Simba. Mufasa had called me, and with trembling legs I stood to my feet. It was a moment for my father to teach his elementary school son a lesson.

Recently, I was in a really difficult spot. I had a horrible day, a horrible week, in the midst of horrendous circumstances. I had just jumped in my car to get to my next appointment when my phone buzzed.

I went to dimiss the call becasue I was not in the mood to have a conversation or a discussion with anyone about anything.

I looked down and saw three letters:

Dad.

I picked up with no hesitation. My Dad doesn’t suffer fools gladly or often engage in small talk. If he’s talking, it’s important.

So when he calls, you answer.

“Hey Dad.”

“How are you son?”

I tried to answer calmly and with eloquently, but the words just wouldn’t come. Warm tears choked them away. The only thing I could get out were:

“Not a good day, Dad. Not a good day.”

This wasn’t an imaginary adventure, this was a real one. In this adventure, I wasn’t looking to vanquish the villainous or beat the bad guys, I was simply trying to lead myself.

A bottom paddling wasn’t necessary, because life had already taken good care of that.

And with the gravitas that only a real life Mufasa could bring, Leon David Newman taught his son a lesson.

A lesson about life, about love, about legacy. How to be resilient when the going is rough, to bravely walk the path when you can’t see it, and to have faith even in the darkest darkness.

Then he prayed for me.

It is an enounter that will never leave me for the rest of my life. It strengthened me, encouraged me, and gave me a glimmer of hope when I was completely devoid of it.

There is nothing like a Father’s voice when a son (or a daughter) has their way. To all the fathers, father figures, mentors, men of influence, and brothers that are shepherding little lions and lionesses young and old:

Keep speaking. Keep teaching. Keep reaching. Keep loving. Keep leading. Keep guiding.

The world needs you.

And to my Dad:

Thanks, Mufasa. Happy Father’s Day.

Love, Simba.

--

--

--

Julian Newman, is a Diversity and Inclusion thought leader & imagination strategist from Wakanda. He also is the father of 4 amazing Queens as daughters.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

What My Family Gets from Pandemic

Robert Lee (Daddy) & Me

Fisherman’s Daughter

To My Mother I Am the Mother I Am Because of Everything You Taught Me To Be

Wonder | How to be involved

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

How I became part of the Louie Anderson’s book? It’s all about courage.

Louie Anderson book

MY FAVOURITE FESTIVAL

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Julian S. Newman

Julian S. Newman

Julian Newman, is a Diversity and Inclusion thought leader & imagination strategist from Wakanda. He also is the father of 4 amazing Queens as daughters.

More from Medium

6 Powerful Tools That Will Transform How You Measure Your Self-Worth

MEMORIES CANNOT BE QUARANTINED

Don’t Seek Success, Build Critical Mass

Dietary