Dedan K. Bruner
A Tribute to Bobby
While we remember very different versions of my childhood, one thing we agree on was the story of me going off to college. Early on, it was clear that the expectation was that I would go to college. Later, the emphasis shifted to me going "away" to college and that
California schools were not an option. I do not know if it was because as a woman raising a young Black man you wanted me to be self-sufficient or because as a teenager, I got on your nerves just that much. I suspect the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
When it came time to prepare for my freshman year, I was adamant about going alone.
Admittedly, part of my stance was that I was eager to prove I was a man and ready for
life's next phase. The larger part was that I simply thought that that was what college
students did. You knew better, but you did not fight me. After all, you had raised and
prepared me for the journey. We shipped my trunk, you dropped me off at the airport,
and in the summer of 1994, I flew from California to Washington DC alone. Days later, I realized how wrong I had been as scores of parents and families filled the dorms in a frenzy of excitement and preparation to ensure their students were well-situated for the road ahead. I felt like a fool. It would not be the last time. A few days later, I got a postcard
from the Bahamas, addressed to the dorm (when I left home, I had not yet received a
room assignment) wishing me luck on my freshman year. Clearly, you were not sitting
around waiting for me to call and tell you what my room looked like.
Two months into my first semester at Howard University, I stepped in a hole and
aggravated a previous injury, completely tearing my ACL and requiring reconstructive
knee surgery. You were there. You flew in the day before my surgery, and as I
write this, I recall how happy I was to see you and to show you my new world. My
surgery went well, and the next day you were on a plane home. I was shocked that you
decided to leave so soon. I did not know how long I expected you to stay. In retrospect,
no matter how long you could have decided, it would not have been long enough – -I
missed you. At the time, I thought you were punishing me for my insistence that you not
accompany me to college (to teenagers, responsibility often feels like punishment).
In the years since, while the physical distance remains, we could not be closer. As a
friend and confidant, you have been there beside me through marriage, divorce, the
birth of my daughter and every single milestone or setback of note, words cannot
express the level of my gratitude.
Referring to you as a “Super Mom” feels inauthentic. The appreciation of heroes tends
to lean towards an acknowledgment of deeds but not sacrifices. I know that
the 21-year-old who graduated from college 8 months pregnant had dreams and a
vision for her future that changed with me. I know that carving out time after long days
to make baseball games, swim meets and water polo matches, many
in the rain, was not your idea of an ideal way to wind down after work, but you did it.... all
of it. Thank you for the lessons, the rules, the advice and for always being a source of
support whether I was smart enough to lean on you or not. More importantly, thank
you for the sacrifices we do not talk about. Government assistance, getting fired, the
nights you stayed up figuring out how to make it all work while I slept peacefully, and for
the broken promises that others made that you fulfilled. While it may not need to be
said, it cannot be ignored, thank you for pouring into my daughter the way you and
Grandmother poured into me. I appreciate the letters, gifts (without plugs) and the safe spaces you provide for her to wonder, imagine and explore. Thank you for always seeing the big picture.
I could not love you more.
Your son, Dedan.