When someone refers to their father, it's typically thought of as the male contribution to their existence through their mother. No matter your sexual orientation or identification, it takes the male sperm and female egg to be fertilized before an offspring is produced. From this simple biological fact, we all have a father. Though this be self evident, not all of us have a father that we're necessarily proud of or even acknowledge. For those of us that are fortunate enough to have a father that we know, love, honor and acknowledge; I'd like to ask you to consider he possibility that you may have more than one.
My birth father, Charles Alvin Penager, was an OG of epic proportions. Far before the iconic hip-hop group Public Enemy released "Fight the Power" in 1989; my father could've been their muse. Born January 12, 1930 in Paducah, KY to a 15 year old child mother, he had to learn quickly how to survive in an era that didn't much care about African American males. Having to grow up far faster than most children, he entered the US Army straight out of HS. After being honorably discharged, he went to college and set out to 'fight the powers that be'. Though physically impressive, and cut from the cloth of the alpha males surrounding him, he used his brain rather than brawn to combat the racial inequality that was prevalent prior to the civil rights movement. Like a diamond, he was forged from the pressure of surviving as a black man in a white America and met it head on in his personal and professional life.
As a result, my family was what you might call 'tweeners', surviving in two completely different worlds. On the one side, we lived in and went to a school in an all white community when burning crosses on our front lawn was a wakeup call as to how much we were welcomed. On the other side, both of my parents were a force of nature in the African American community and fought tooth and nail for the liberties many of us take for granted today. Though my father took a stand for our rights and prosperity, he and my mother paid a heavy price as many in the African American community thought we weren't "black enough" but to many in the white community we were nothing but...what's that word that starts with "N"?
Though I knew my father loved me, our relationship was one of respect and parental authority. He raised all his children from the perspective of Proverbs 13:24, 'spare the rod and spoil the child. As a result, just when I began to know him as a person, and not just my father; he died suddenly of a heart attack on December 2, 1995 while only 65. I had just turned 30 years young and lost my rock of Gibraltar and eternal hero until...
Seventeen years later I met my second father in December of 2012. Professionally I was thriving, personally I was dying. As the legendary Dan Gable (who wrestling's Hall of Fame is named after) so famously stated, "Once you've wrestled, everything else in life is easy". That was true for me in my career but not so much in my relationships. After the loss of my birth father, I had lost my way and didn't have a true north star to follow anymore. Though I did my absolute best, I was failing miserably in the marriage department. Married and divorced once, I stayed committed to finding a successful life partner and got married again two years earlier in 2010. Outside in it looked like a fairytale to most but inside out it was anything but. Sometimes, two people though great individually are a molotov cocktail together. Choosing to make the excruciating decision to move on, I was saved from the depths of despair by my true guardian angel Stephanie. Against all odds, we decided to move forward together and face whatever may come our way no matter the challenges. The biggest of which to me was getting past her father...Steve Byriel.
The moment we met, though prepared for the wrath of God, I was enveloped by a love beyond definition. Across from me sat a man who "saw" me. He didn't wear a black robe and wield a gavel of judgement for anything other than who I was as a human being. He, and his wife Sherry, didn't see color, my past, my stories, my failures or my successes...they just saw "me". It was the first time since the physical death of my birth father that I felt the unconditional love that a father has for his children all over again.
A God fearing family man of steel and velvet, Steve, aka Pops; was then and remains a perfect compliment to my dad Charles. As the years have progressed and we've grown closer together, technically he's my "father-in-law" since he served as the officiant when I blissfully married his daughter Stephanie on November 11, 2017. However, titles aside, we both know he's my dad reincarnated and I'm his son. Which brings me to the picture attached to this blog post.
"Son, you want to come with me and several of my friends and go hog hunting?"
"Wait...what? Hog's? Where? Have you done this before? This is a 'thing'? They ain't gonna hunt me are they?"
"Nope, never been, but I think it'll be a blast!"
"OK Pops, I'm in!"
After an 18 hour drive from Chicago, seven men met at Four County Outfitters in Seymour, TX (population 2,575) Wednesday February 23, 2022. Thursday morning we get schooled on the 5-W's and such of huntin' hogs by our leader and guide, Ryan Miller and are on our way. Experiencing cold, snow and weather that Seymour hasn't experienced in well over a decade, the hogs weren't cooperating and failed to stand in front of us to shoot like we were at the county fair. Just as the sun starts setting on the horizon and we're about to head home empty handed, Pop's and I are riding in Ryan's truck when he sees a herd of hogs grazing by the woods. We stop, get out, stalk our prey and have Arnold (which we named our hog from the TV show, 'Green Acres') in our sights. The distinguished Navy veteran Pop's gets the first shot and I the second. He shoots, Arnold bolts from the hit; I shoot, Arnold's bacon. Teamwork made the dreamwork and it doesn't happen any other way.
Twenty seven years ago in 1995 if you told me I'd be going hog hunting with my dad, I'd laugh so hard I'd most likely have had a hernia. Now a week after our expedition started, I look back and my heart and soul smiles that my dad and I shared such an unforgettable experience together. Today's blog isn't about hunting, it's about unconditional love. The perfection of life shows up in so many ways that if we don't take the time to stop, be still and be grateful for ALL things; then we oftentimes miss the power of the little things that make all the difference. Never thought I'd hunt a hog...however, I am my fathers son;-)