“I watched a small man with thick calluses on both hands work fifteen and sixteen hours a day. I saw him once literally bleed from the bottoms of his feet, a man who came here uneducated, alone, unable to speak the language, who taught me all I needed to know about faith and hard work by the simple eloquence of his example.” — Mario Cuomo
Father’s Day Message
Father’s Day has an interesting history. The holiday — often seen as an afterthought to Mother’s Day — was, in fact, actually born as a response to Mother’s Day. While Mother’s Day caught on quickly and became a national holiday in 1914, Father’s Day was not so enshrined until 1972.
Father’s Day is always an interesting day for me. Sure, like any dad, I enjoy the extra attention and notes of kindness and love I get from my kids. But, as the day moves on, I always end up more the son than the father, thinking about the times I spent with my dad growing up and the lessons I learned from him, hoping that I am passing on to my children the strengths and values he instilled in me, my brother and sister.
Eligha Ellis is almost 91. He worked for 30 years as a nurse’s aide for the VA. He was also a yard man, and in the sweltering Houston summers, I was the assistant yard man. I think often about those days I spent with my dad in the Houston heat, tending to people’s yards and making their little slice of the American dream look a little more stately; watching out for dogs and hoping and praying for the sun to go down just a little faster today so I could get home and hang out with my friends. It was hard, tough, hot work and it was out there that I learned the values of hard-work, self-discipline and fiscal responsibility.
Growing up, it was not just the things my father said, it was more his example. My dad (and mom) worked two jobs to make a better life for me, my brother, Elijha, and sister, Melody. Day after day, week after week, year after year, my dad got up, went to work and took care of his family. He didn’t complain, he just did what was right for us to have a future.
Don’t get me wrong, at the time I was learning those lessons, I didn’t always appreciate their importance or enjoy the experience. Back then, I felt the main lesson was that I did not want to be a yard man! It’s only looking back that I realize how important those days were in shaping my life and who I am today.
Eligha Ellis is still a strong, quiet man. He may be a little slower of foot and suffering from Alzheimer’s, but he’s still able to keep me in line and on the straight and narrow with a look, a gesture or just a few choice words. Everything I’ve achieved in life as a father, legislator, and a businessman is due to the teachings and example of Eligha Ellis. On Father’s Day, I am blessed to still be able to look him in the eye and say “Thanks, Dad.”
Happy Father’s Day to Eligha Ellis and all the fathers in Houston, in Texas and around the world.
I am blessed to have bright, talented and driven children, who see a world of possibilities and opportunities and reach out to live their dreams. And they grow up so fast!
Maria is preparing to head off to college on the East Coast in August, Leland plans to join the debate team next fall in middle school, and little Alena is getting ready for the 4th grade.
My daughter, Nicole, is creating her own path in life, doing a trip around the world and using social media to share her journey. Her website is a fun, creative expression of her life and aspirations. Of course, like most parents, it’s taken some getting used to, but I’m proud to share her love of travel, have come to enjoy reading about her adventure and pray for her safe return every night.
Licia and I have much for which to be thankful.
Father’s Day Talk: Health & Wellness
On this Father’s Day, I encourage everyone to talk with their dad and urge them to take better care of themselves. Men often pay too little attention to their health until a serious problem emerges. National statistics show that men have a higher death rate for most of the leading causes of death, including heart disease and cancer, and that is true in Texas as well. The numbers for African American men are particularly troubling.
Additionally, the life expectancy of men is approximately five years lower than the life expectancy for women. Maintaining healthy lifestyles and preventive efforts are fundamental to changing these statistics.
Men’s health concerns impact more than just men, they affect families and loved ones. This Father’s Day, start talking about healthy nutrition choices, staying active, and regular medical check-ups to catch problems early. Get on a bike, go for a run, put down that hamburger and have a salad. Make the right choices. After all, the best gift a father can give his children is to be there for them.