I’m Glad My Father Spent His Last Days in the Age of Obama and Not Trump
It would have been appropriate to wear crème colored personal protective equipment while visiting my father at the hospital.
“The PPE will protect you from contracting an infection,” is what the nurse said.
He was still my father, the man who’d raised and protected me. And I was his only son. I wasn’t about to hug my dad with hands covered in gloves, a mask pulled over the front of my face, and a gown draped over the length of my body. I didn’t want to be disconnected from him in such a way.
I threw the mask and gown over one of the chairs and went to embrace him. He was still handsome, just a few wrinkle lines were embedded in his caramel colored skin. But the cancer had ravaged him until he’d lost about fifty pounds. His clavicles protruded from beneath his skin.
I sat on the beige chair to the right of his hospital bed. Dad reached down to grab the remote control from on top of the sheets and hit the power button. Dad watched the television, riveted.
The talking heads of the MSNBC network were screaming at the television cameras. The government shutdown, spearheaded by the republicans in congress, was barreling towards its second week of existence, and everyone was wondering when it was finally going to run its course.
The cameras cut to the White House press briefing room, and out walked President Barack Obama to the podium. He was dressed in a dark gray suit, white shirt, and a blue patterned tie. His face was serene as he addressed the gathered members of the Washington D.C. press corps. Of course Obama was in command, of the facts and of himself. Even a paranoid, anxious, person like me felt more at ease. I turned my head to the left to look at my father. His eyes were rapt, and there was a huge smile spread across his face.
“They’re always trying to trying to get him,” I said.
“Huh?” replied my dad.
“The republicans. They’re always trying to trip up Obama, but they never do.”
Dad laughed. “Yes, he is never angry because he’s always two steps ahead of them. Fools.”
“When are they going to realize that?” I asked.
Dad clicked his tongue. “Never. They never will. They keep on thinking that Obama is stupid. That’s why he will always beat them.”
It warmed my heart to see his spirits rise.
My dad had been born in Africa (Nigeria), just like Obama’s dad (Kenya). Dad was so proud that a son of an African immigrant could grow up to be the president of the United States of America, even if he was Kenyan instead of Nigerian. The rise of Obama, against all odds — a mixed race individual like Obama would have been illegal in some states at the time of his birth, — to prominence gave my father confidence that his first generation American son could make something of himself one day.
“I love you dad,” I said.
“I love you too, Eze. My Eze.”
Dad died exactly one month after that.
Six years later, I thank god that he wasn’t lying in that hospital bed dying while Trump was President.
With the help of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men’s group, my dad left war ravaged Nigeria for Colorado in 1974. He lived in an apartment with several other Nigerian countrymen before my mom arrived a year later. Soon after my mom and dad were reunited, they were married at the Cathedral Basilica Church in downtown Denver. I was born at Denver’s Exempla St. Joseph’s hospital in 1976. None of this would have been possible without Chain Migration, the federal immigration program that Donald Trump and his racist gorgon, Stephen Miller, is trying to shutter.
If Trump had been president of the United States in 1976, I probably wouldn’t be a natural born American citizen.
Mom and dad produced two siblings in the six subsequent years after my birth. The five of us started off in a tiny apartment on the east side of Denver, before moving into a small three-bedroom, one bathroom house a few blocks north of Colfax, the preferred avenue of gang members, drug dealers and addicts, and prostitutes. Of course we didn’t have much material possessions, but that didn’t stop my dad from fostering big dreams. He went on to secure his master’s degree in Finance from Regis University — also my alma mater — in 1986. And although he was not able to land the job of his dreams — he settled for a job as a floor coordinator at Continental Airlines — Dad expected a lot from his three American born children. My sisters and I were able to more or less meet our father’s expectations, as the three of us were able to attend college and earn undergraduate degrees before the midterms of 2006. Both of my sisters would go on to earn their master’s degrees in the thereafter. I sort of bounced around from job to job while I tried to get my head straight.
I was working as a caseworker at the Mental Health Center of Denver when Senator Obama, before an adoring crowd of thousands in Springfield Illinois, announced his intention to run for the presidency of the United States. A co-worker, a black former football player for the Colorado Buffaloes, and I were skeptical.
“Do you think that America is ready?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe no. I’m thinking that maybe the dude from North Carolina could be good. What’s his name?”
“Yeah, Edwards. He seems like someone white people would want to get behind,” I said.
“I heard that he got a book out.”
“For real? You know what it’s about?”
“No. I heard that it’s good though. I might check it out.”
My baby sister and my father believed in Obama right from the very start. If fact, my sister, fresh off of receiving a master’s from the University of North Carolina, signed onto the campaign as a volunteer. Baby sister overworked herself — as is customary — to the point of exhaustion, but the hard work paid off for her. She was promoted to a paid member of Obama’s campaign staff. Dad was so proud of her.
When Obama won the Iowa Caucasus in the spring of 2008, I began to believe that a President Obama was possible. I read Obama’s autobiography, Dreams From My Father, not too long after that, and I was hooked on the man.
Eight months later, my dad and I were sitting in the living room when President-Elect Obama walked out onto the stage under the dark of night. He took his place behind the lectern and said, “Change has come to America.” The crowd erupted into cheers.
I looked to my father. “Can you believe it dad? He did it.”
Dad nodded, and then smiled.
In the waning hours of election night, 2016, as Donald Trump, no doubt feeling smug in his unlikely victory, lumbered his way onto the stage platform, I threw my tennis shoe at the television set. Then I hastily went for the remote control and pressed the power button. I wasn’t in any condition to hear him speak a word.
No too long after Trump was inaugurated, he instituted his odious Muslim Ban. Chaos subsequently ensued, spontaneous protests erupted at airports all over the country, and the lives of innocent people were being irrevocably disrupted. The passionate protests and the federal courts forced Trump to withdraw the ban; however, Trump would be undaunted by this setback. He had about four more years to institute and promote cruel and terrible policies.
We’re three years into the Trump presidency, and I’m still unable to watch Trump on television. Every time I see him getting ready to pucker his lips in preparation to spit out another lie, my stomach churns, and I have to switch the station. Nevertheless, I remain obsessed with politics, like my father was. So even though I eschew Trump’s ubiquitous presence on the news shows, I’m still engaging in the political news of the day. I read Dailykos.com, Talkingpointsmemo.com, Politico.com, Huffingtonpost.com, RealClearPolitics.com, 538.com, NYTimes.com, CNN.com, and MSNBC.com several times each day.
Each one of these internet newspapers publishes fresh evidence of Trump’s debased character. He’s raped dozens of women. He locks children in cages. He pollutes the environment. He defrauds his constituents. He colludes with Russians and he commits extortion against one of our allies. And all the while, some forty to forty-two percent of the country approves of Trump’s behavior. It’s soul crushing, but I guess it can’t be a surprising fact of life anymore.
I can imagine what my dad would be doing now if he’d been strong enough to survive the cancer long enough to see his last days end in 2019. He would be sitting on his easy chair, or lying in the hospital bed, watching the cable news anchors and talking heads report the news. He’d be putting his heart into watching news reports of the horror that we are living through, and it would break his heart a little bit more every single day that he ingested it.
My father was never under the illusion that America was a perfect country, but he still believed in the United States of America. And so, he was still somewhat naïve, thinking that truth, fairness, and progression would ultimately win out in the end. This was especially true after Obama’s election win, which was akin to seeing a bat signal imprinted across sky. After eight years of the Bush presidency reached its nadir with the collapse of the world economy, the election of Obama gave so millions people hope for a better tomorrow. And then Obama, the son of African immigrants, steered our country towards the realization of that promise as my dad lived out his last days. I’m so grateful for that.