If you read my blog post back in March, you know that Mario Puzo’s book and movie, “The Godfather” turned 50 earlier this year and is pretty much my favorite movie of all time. Not just for its great story, action and iconic lines, but because of the continuous underlying theme of family love and loyalty.
I can’t remember my exact age when I first saw it, but I know I was very young. I remember watching it with my family, seated next to my father, just as I did during Chicago Bears, Bulls and Cubs games. Dad was my hero and I wanted to be just like him in all things.
Being that young, I didn’t quite understand everything that was happening in the movie, but certain things stood out. Like youngest son Michael’s unwillingness to join in the family business. And the rivalry between families. I also took particular notice of eldest son Santino’s violently short temper, particularly when it came to his sister Connie. I quickly realized was that it was an extension of his (“Sonny’s”) protective nature and allegiance to the Corleone family.
But what I found to be most admirable was my how the patriarch and main character, Don Vito Corleone, loved his family and his community. So much so, that on the day of his daughter’s wedding, he spent much of the reception in his private room, entertaining and honoring the requests of “people in need” for one reason or another. It was a well-known Sicilian tradition that no man could refuse the request of another on the day of his daughter’s wedding.
As he offered solutions or promised his assistance to each requester, he noted that one day he would call upon them for a service, if need be. If he did, his expectance was that they answer the call without hesitation or refusal. He never required or accepted payment, as he considered that in insult; he required loyalty. And if you saw “Godfather 2”, you may remember in the flashback that this was his first official act as “payment” for getting his partners in crime out from under the extortive thumb of crime lord Don Fanucci of The Black Hand. By assassinating their tormentor, he obtained their loyalty (and servitude, asserting himself as the leader, later making them his caporegime).
And that was the way of MY father, “Don” Ken Davis.
Not only was “Poppa” insistent that everything be done as a family, but that no one was ever excluded, or even excused, from anything family-related. Remember my story about dad taking us all out of school, just to drive to La Porte, Indiana for an impromptu family picnic?
Whenever extended family needed something done, they often consulted my father either for assistance or his guidance. You see, he was the cohesive factor of family; leader of his own parents’ offspring and their children.
To have my father as an ally was a blessing. To have him as an enemy, well, that’s an entirely different matter altogether. You never wanted to be on the bad side of “Big Ken” and his boys.
And don’t make him get up from his game and walk outside because too much noise was being made in the street (or if young women were being disrespected by their male counterparts).
But what I’m talking about today is Big Ken’s “office”.
Since there were four of us children (three boys and one girl) at the time, only two bedrooms were used. My sister, being a girl, obviously had her own. My brothers and I had a twin-sized bed on one side of the room and a set of bunkbeds on the other. And we joyfully shared that space, not wanting privacy until years later.
Besides the master bedroom, there was another room, which was the original location of the family jukebox (remember that tale?), recessed within a closet where the collapsing doors had been removed. The remainder of the room was set up as his private office.
Oftentimes in the evening and mostly on Sunday, my father had private meetings with neighbors and other prominent figures of the community. At times, I’d seen relatives, co-workers, local star athletes, civil service workers and even some “brothers from the hood” (I won’t come out and call them gang members) come through.
What I remember most were the parent/child combos who visited. They’d convene in his office for several hours, not to be disturbed, other than my father calling out for us to bring them something to drink and a glass of water for him. Always a jar of ice water.
When they exited, there were all smiles and laughs as he was thanked for his help.
I learned years later that he was utilizing his resources to help get many graduating seniors into college. Most of the parents began working with him while their children were Juniors in high school. Some were students that hadn’t planned or even considered secondary education. Thus, my father served as counselor, showing them the value and necessity of a college education and degree.
Big Ken helped many students find scholarships and financial aid through avenues they didn’t know existed. In several situations, he was able to get them money to get started their first year, with the understanding that they would have to do what was necessary to stay there (maintain their required GPA, find a local job, etc.).
Daddy was indeed well-known for his assistance but, like Don Corleone, would never accept payment. At least from what I remember. Consequently, he amassed a wealth of favors (It’s probably why I was released from the police station so quickly when several of the officers immediately recognized me. I know I’ve aroused your curiosity, but that’s a tale for another day. If you’re on my email distribution list, you have nothing to worry about, it will be sent to you.).
What I found so awesome was that whether or not he called in those favors, many a family showed their gratitude in gifts, or rather blessings, in food. Yes, food. Notably, in the Latino community.
As I’ve shared on many occasions in my blog, my neighborhood was predominately Black and Hispanic. And what I remember vividly are those scrumptious trays of tamales!
Pork, chicken or beef tamales.
I’m not talking about that garbage you buy in the little can or what you get from some of these restaurants, half-assing the recipe, portion size and presentation. I mean the authentic ones that take over a day to make, so they’re produced in great quantities. Good old-fashioned homemade tamales from somebody’s Abuela (Spanish for grandmother)!
It wasn’t long before this delightful dish joined the ranks of my favorite foods, equaled or surpassed only by Chicago-style deep dish pizza, my mother’s fried pork chops & sweet potato pie and my Aunt Dee’s chili.
Is there any wonder why March 23 is marked on my calendar? That’s National Tamale Day.
So between his days as a star athlete at my same high school, his church activity, youth coaching, my grandparents’ store, even his days as a member of the Carey street gang “The Caddy Daddies”, there were few places where he wasn’t recognized, acknowledged and well-received.
And in some circles, feared.
Pretty much until the day he died in 1997. 25 years ago on this day.
And his funeral? Wow.
As sad as I was to lose my personal hero, I was nothing short of elated at what I witnessed there.
My father’s funeral took place at my home church, St. Mark AME Zion in East Chicago. And for the first time in my life, I saw a homegoing service that was so packed that you couldn’t sit comfortably in the pews. In fact, there were so many attendees that people had to be rotated in from the lobby and outdoor areas.
It seemed that the viewing line never ended.
For us, it was like watching a holiday parade as we marveled at the family and friends who came to pay their respects and say goodbye to someone who meant so much to so many. I saw people who I vividly remembered but hadn’t seen since my childhood years.
It was beautiful.
So I didn’t weep. Not a single tear.
All I could do was smile (and whisper a few inside jokes to my siblings).
Because as our world confirmed to me just how much they all respected, admired and loved Kenneth Davis.
“Big Ken” Davis. Our father.
The Don. The Dad. The Dude.
I miss and love you, Dad. I’ll see you soon.
Like what you read? Did you know my father? Leave a message in the comment section below! And be sure to sign up at the bottom for email notification of future posts from Kenny’s Camera, Cooking & Crazy Confessions at ZootsBlogSpot!
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Here I go tearing up again, Little Big Ken Davis! That was a great tribute to your Dad! As always, when you give us a clear picture of how the people in your life influence you to become the person you are now, I now understand why you have such a kindred spirit! You make person feel what you lived. I can’t wait fir the book/ the sequel movies and TV series come out! Like Issa Rae’s Insecure series stemmed from her YouTube series called, The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl! She turned her Mole hill into a Mountain!
We See You and those who matter are your #1 Fans! #Be Blessed #BeenBlessed
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Thank you and thanks for reading!
It wasn’t my intention to bring you to tears *evil snicker*. But seriously, I thank you for your beautiful expression and words of encouragement, Lisa. I’ve always felt that my father’s story was one worth sharing with the world, since so many people in my life today never met him.
I actually wrote this back in March and scheduled it to post last night. I forgot about it while writing the next post, which goes up in two days. And coincidentally, it’s about “Don” Davis as well.
More tears coming. lol Thanks again and thanks, as always, for reading!
What a beautiful tribute to your father Kenny. He has made a home in so many hearts. I think that’s the highest achievement any one can attain. To make the whole world your family because you love everyone as your own is what being human is , isn’t it. My salute too to such a precious being.
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Written words is the only way we get to meet some people and that’s a boon. I am so glad to get to know such a wonderful human . My deep respects to your father Kenny. That was a beautiful tribute.
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Agreed. You can’t imagine how many people I’ve gotten to know along the way. Being blessed to spend time with people on the job is something I also cherish. Meeting and getting to know you has been a real joy and for that I am truly thankful!
Thanks, as always, for reading, Jyotsna!
I thought I replied to this. Yes, he set the standard for me in many ways. Whether it was selflessness, acceptance of all colors and cultures, guidance, you name it. He was a wonderful man and my greatest hero.
Thanks for reading, Jyotsna!