Guest Blogger: Steve Harris, Program Director, Radio One Cincinnati and Adult Adoptee
It was a very good Father’s Day this year. I had a chance to go home to Cleveland, see my Dad and spend Father’s Day with him. I’m blessed because James L. Harris IS a magnificent Father. I was adopted into the Harris household when I was a baby and grew up as the Harris name I proudly carry today.
My Dad was warm and tough. He was dignified and confident. He was Dad. He made sure I knew I was his son and I was loved. There were many issues that come with being adopted and I think my Dad understood that and went out of his way to make me feel a part of the family.
I was really a Momma’s boy until about the age of six or so. Dad was patient with me and if he was disappointed with me being a Momma’s boy in the early days he never showed it. Eventually, I got big enough for him to play catch with and we started doing Father/Son things together. Dad wasn’t very verbal in my youth but as I got older and became an adult he began to bear a little more of his soul. His thoughts and dreams, hopes and even disappointments.
We went to many Indians baseball games, my favorite being the Friday night we went to the ballpark and saw Luis Tiant strikeout 17 batters. My favorite Browns memory was taking Dad to the stadium as an adult and sitting in the Dawg Pound as we battled the Miami Dolphins. The game went into overtime and ended when Reggie Rucker caught a touchdown about ten yards from our seats sending everyone home happy.
Dad was determined to expose me to everything. We not only went to baseball, football, and basketball games when the Cavaliers came to town but, he took me to a hockey game when I was about ten. There weren’t many African-Americans in the Arena but he thought it was important that I go to see hockey as well as anything else.
One of my most vivid memories of Dad was the day when I was around nine years old and got beat up by some local bullies. It was winter and snow was on the ground. The two guys said something to me which I didn’t quite understand and the next thing I knew I was being punched and kicked and when I finally got away, ran into a house with a bloody nose and bruises. My Dad who was in shorts and a t-shirt, ran outside into the 10 degree weather, grabbed a snow shovel and chased the boys down the street. I felt so loved and protected. Dad never caught the boys which he said was a good thing because he would have beat them in the head with the shovel.
When I ran track in high school he was at almost every track meet. He would never come in the stadium but would park outside on the street in the brown Pontiac Catalina, stay until I ran and then pull away. When I saw that Catalina I would always smile, because I knew Dad was there.
The most touching experience I had with my Father was taking him to see the movie “Dad” with Jack Lemon and Ted Danson. At the climactic moment in the movie when Jack Lemon’s character passed on and they were having his funeral, out of the corner of my eye I saw my Dad reach for his handkerchief and wipe away tears. I had only seen him cry once before and that was when my Grandmother died. It was another one of the moments when no words were exchanged but we grew closer as father and son.
The biggest gift my Dad gave me was permission to search for my birth family. I went to Mom and Dad and told them I wanted, no I needed to search. My mother was upset about my search which I understand totally. It really tested our relationship, but she settled down. My guess is she thought I wouldn’t look at her as my mother since I found my birthmother but over time she saw that never happened. Dad never said, “I approve, you have my blessing”, but he had his own way of letting me know he was ok with whatever decision I made. His words were something like “you’ll always be a Harris” and he was so right.
I eventually found my birthmother and later my birthfather but that’s a story for another time. I eventually got to have a pretty decent relationship with my birthfather after a bumpy start. I look just like him and we have several traits that are the same. I found out a lot about myself from being around my birthdad, but no matter what James L. Harris is my father and I will always be a Harris.
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