• Dedan K. Bruner

A Tribute to Bobby


Dear 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.

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