Dedan K. Bruner
Father of 3
It was during my junior year in high school & kind of a chilly Friday night back in NC. I was coming home late after beating one of our most hated football rivals. I was feeling great because we won, I played well and knew my family had been there to watch.
As I approached the house, I noticed the lights were on in the living room. I thought “who would still be up & in the living room”. It was my mom and she looked bummed out. She stayed up to tell me that not only was my dad (biological) not at the game, but that he had died earlier that evening. How could this happen? She proceeds to tell me that “I think it was a heart attack”. What?! Heart attacks only happen to old people or obese people…is what I was thinking. He was 37 years old. He was about 5ft 8 with a slim athletic build. How could this man have a heart attack?! I later found out that he had high blood pressure due to a genetic heart valve issue. A condition that was passed on to me and almost prevented me from getting into the Air Force.
That night in 1992 has had the biggest impact on my life. It has shaped who I am as a man, and more importantly as a father. I have a commitment to health and wellness that borders on insanity. My kids know that I wake up at 3:30 am to hit the gym & think I’m nuts. The average life expectancy of the men on my father’s side is 58. I’ll say it again…58! I’ve done blood testing, DNA testing, holistic dietary evaluations, and allergy testing. All just to see how my body reacts to certain foods and how to eat the right way. I spread this knowledge to my kids and monitor their reactions to foods to determine if they have some of the same sensitivities or reactions.
My children are 18, 15 and 3. I want to be there whenever they need me for ANYTHING. I don’t want them to have to go through life thinking, “I wonder what my dad would do” or “I wonder what my dad would think/say” or “I really wish my dad was here”. I was really looking forward to my 18th birthday and really being able to kick it with my dad and connect with him on a level that wasn’t really possible as a kid. I grew up with a father in the house, and Pastor Williams is a good man. However, things are different when you have the same blood flowing through your veins. When two people have the strength of the same ancestors guiding your thoughts and deeds, that’s a special kind of connection.
I’m already 5 years older than my dad was. I feel that he is with me and is guiding me through life every day. My aunts, uncles, and cousins on his side all say that I have his demeanor and can “see” him in me. I have our military photos next to my garage door and give him a “nod” every time I leave the house. I plan to live to be 116…twice the age I’m supposed to. He’ll be there with me every step of the way and my kids will never have to wonder “What would dad do/say/think”. All they will have to do is ask.
Life is short, and you never know when it will throw you a curveball. Be there for your kids. Talk to them, not at them. Keep it 100 with them. Let them know your flaws & shortcomings. If you’re a little vulnerable with them, then they will feel comfortable being vulnerable with you. They are a part of you. So, the more you take the time to connect with them, the easier it is for them to understand why they are the way they are. That leads to them being more confident as they navigate life and know what kind of person they want to be and the kind of people they want around them.