“You sure we’re in the right place dad?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, it’s not named the Red Cow and we typically eat there every week! Are you feeling okay?”
“Oh, so I can’t treat my son to a nice graduation eve dinner?”
“I’m not saying that”
“We can hop in the car and head there if you want! I’m sure they have our seats waiting”
“Ha, ha, ha. Very funny dad”
“I guess it’s too late now. I can see our hostess coming toward us”
At her beckoning, AJ and I left the waiting area and began our trek toward the roof. I could see why the young gun was in awe. The atmosphere was different. Even though there were a couple of guys that gave me the head nod, no one approached either of us for an autograph or a picture. For the first time in a long time, I could just be Kenneth Bailey. It seemed that Simmons’ suggestion was going to work in my favor after all! I couldn’t imagine anyone coming unraveled here! Between the music and God’s sunset, I felt a little more at ease. I took my seat and stared at the Uptown sign across the street. I must have gotten lost in my thoughts as I felt a quick nudge to my side.
“Dad, are you okay?”
“Yeah! Why? Did I miss something?”
“The waitress asked if you wanted some rolls and you didn’t respond, like your mind was somewhere else”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Just trying to take the evening all in. Praying for the best”
“Praying for the best? Are you worried about grandpa?”
“You know how he is, son. Hopefully after I tell him that your mother is at work, he’ll drop it and bombard you with questions as to why you didn’t attend a HBCU like he did”
“But should he really be concerned about your life? You and mom are taking a break. If I understand and accept it, he shouldn’t have a problem either. And if he does, you can convince him otherwise. I mean you always find a way to get me and the team straight on the field! You can handle anything!”
Handle anything, eh? If only he knew.
“Now what I don’t want to happen is grandpa trying to lay his hands on me in front of these people tonight! You know how embarrassing that was the last time”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. Just think good thoughts cause here they come now”
We stood up as my mother and father approached. True to form, dad came overdressed in his black clergy jacket as if he were about to preach a midweek sermon. I could already feel the scrutiny hidden behind those tinted spectacles. I wanted to run and hide, but it was too late for that. In an effort to hide my distress, I put on my invisible cloak of confidence.
“Hey mom! Hey Bishop! How was the trip?”
My mother and I gave each other a fist bump while my father insisted on a hug and a handshake.
“You know I don’t do that greeting thing y’all do. Real men shake hands! And don’t tell me about no corona! I got my whole armour on! Jesus protects me from all viruses! I’m his son, son of Thunder!”
My mom could only roll her eyes while my son snickered to himself. After the greetings, we sat down and began to review our menus. I was hoping that I would have a few minutes of calm while the band played, but good ol’ mom got the conversation going.
“This is a nice restaurant, son. I’m sure that wife of yours had something to do with this”
“Actually mom, one of my coach’s suggested this venue”
“Oh, well he did a very good job! This place is very clean. I wish they would have had an elevator though. All those stairs!”
“It wasn’t that many stairs ma. Besides, you walk two miles every morning at the track. The stairs were just a warm up for you”
“I guess you’re right. So it’s just the four of us tonight?”
“Yeah, I wanted to have a small dinner to celebrate. We are still in a pandemic”
“That we are, but I thought for sure my daughter-in-law would be here. Is she away on business again?”
I had my half truth ready to go.
“Yes ma’am. Morgan couldn’t make it this evening, but you’ll see your friend tomorrow”
“That woman know she works! Mmmmhmm! I can’t wait to tell her about this new recipe I saw on the Food Network the other night”
While my mother continued to share her new cooking discovery with my son, I turned to my father who already had his eyes fixed on me.
“You know son, Morgan is gone a lot. Everytime we come to visit, she’s always somewhere else. If she was a good wife, she would be here to help us celebrate AJ. You did tell her that we were coming, didn’t you?”
How I wish I wasn’t sitting in front of this man right now! I knew that whatever I said next, he was going to raise his voice.
“Yes, Bishop, I did. However, she had other matters to attend to”
AJ stared at me confused. I didn’t want to make a scene so I attempted to handle things as politely as I could.
“Bishop, Morgan had other obligations to attend to and couldn’t join us tonight. Is that an issue for you?”
“Yes, because your wife is supposed to be here with you. You’re the man of the house, Kenneth! She’s supposed to obey you! That job she has comes before everything! You need to tell her to quit and find something else!”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t do that”
“Can’t do what? You are the strongman of your house, aren’t you? Or did you have someone infiltrate your fortress again?”
I shook my head in amazement. It hadn’t been fifteen minutes into the dinner and Mr. High and Mighty was already being judgmental of my life! This was the very reason I left Georgia after high school and came to the University of Minnesota. I didn’t want to answer any more questions. The couple at the next table over was already staring. In an effort to keep the peace, I looked to my mom for assistance. She complied, somewhat.
“Bishop, what are you going to order? The filet mignon looks good! And I’m thinking about having the chocolate cake too!”
My father put up his hand, motioning that he didn’t want to hear any more food suggestions. He kept his eyes on me, his pupils burning their way through my soul.
“Kenneth, where is your wife? Is she with another man?”
“Bishop, I don’t think this is the time or place to discuss my marriage. Can we just be happy for AJ and his accomplishments?”
“I’ll get to my grandson and why he didn’t pick a historical Black college in a minute. But you son, you’ve been running from my initial question”
Shock was colored all over my son’s face. He had never experienced an interrogation by the Bishop. And trust me when I say, the repetitive questions hurt more than a physical beating. So, to bring an end to the persecution, I answered truthfully.
“Well Bishop if you must know, Morgan and I are taking a break from each other. It was something that we both agreed upon for the betterment of our relationship”
“Betterment of your relationship? Are you trying to give me some mumbo jumbo that was conjured up in one of those self help books? I’m pretty sure that none of the apostles were in favor of what you’re doing now, son”
“Doesn’t 1 Corinthians talk about separation?”
“No. In chapter seven, verse ten, Paul writes that under no circumstances should you allow your wife to depart from you”
“But Bishop, verse eleven talks about reconciliation after a time apart”
The reverend gave out an exhausted sigh before he continued.
“Kenneth, what are you doing to make your wife continue to leave you for other men? I mean what kind of life are you living if your helpmate is helping others? She continues to leave and you allow it to happen”
I didn’t even have the heart to tell him that I was left for another woman. But I needed to defend Morgan, for AJ’s sake.
“Why would you say that? We didn’t take a break because of another man”
“Boy, I’ve been on this earth for almost sixty five years. I’ve never known any couple that takes a break just because. Nine times out of ten they want to sleep with someone else. So is Morgan out here being a harlot?”
“Bishop, no! Please don’t disrespect AJ’s mother in front of him!”
“See Ingrid, this is all your fault! While you were telling Kenneth to do his homework, he should have been going to church with me, learning what God has said!”
“Wait a minute! This is not mom’s fault! I got an education! I couldn’t be at every revival with you! I have had to finish my school work?”
“That’s the White man’s education. They are not teaching you the truth”
“And a written King James text is? That’s not the truth either! It’s just another way to enslave us”
“Son, I tried so hard with you. Tried to steer you on the path to righteousness. I wanted you to be a man and follow in my footsteps. But instead, you stayed here in Minnesota of all places! Of all places!”
I took a sip of water to calm my nerves. Several tables were taking in the show, watching my father and I trade verbal jabs with each other. I needed to change the tone of the conversation quickly.
“Bishop, you and mom did a good job. Sometimes, things don’t go as planned. I never aspired to be like you”
“But you aspired to be married and look what happened? You’re out of the will of God! Things won’t go right for you or your household until you accept your calling”
“Have I been talking to myself? Yes son, you are destined to be a minister”
Written by the Wednesday Gentleman