i knew you before i knew you.

There are certain bold names that I associate with my Dad. Sidney Poitier. James Taylor.

ali in Ghana2
Image courtesy of here.

The Beatles. Milton Berle and Lucille Ball. Aretha Franklin. I associate these people with Dad because growing up, his appreciation of their art and talent was long discussed in our household, and he never shied away from showing us kids visual (and audible) examples of why he thought they were so cool. And what I love about that, among other things, is that it opened the window to generations and people way before us. We fell in love with music, film, performers, etc., of another time and I really treasure that. One of those bold names I grew up hearing about was Muhammad Ali. I knew his bio from early childhood, it seemed. Before I saw his face, before I heard his voice. That he was Cassius Clay before he changed his name to Muhammad Ali, following the change in his religion. That he floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee. That he called himself The Greatest. That he fought this guy and that guy and won. And above all, that Muhammad Ali came to Ghana in 1964.

Ali in Ghana
Image courtesy of here.

My father spoke so many times of Ali’s visit to Ghana in ’64 that I imagined I was there. Never mind that I was hardly a twinkle in anyone’s eye in 1964: my father was a swinging single then, and wouldn’t meet the lady who would bring me into this interesting world until 10 years later. But trust me that the man could invoke excitement from a story: how he saw Ali, how the crowds were going wild, etc. I would observe the grin on his face and his wide, luminous eyes, and wish, so much, that I could have been there to see this larger-than-life man that had whipped my Daddy into such a frenzy. Needless to say, watching his interviews and marveling at his bravado when I was older was always a treat. I knew this guy. We had been introduced so many, many times.

Hearing about his death on June 3 was so sad. I thought about his children, his wife. I thought about how that confident, cocky, and cool man became slower, less mobile, less vocal as he bravely dealt with the effects of Parkinson’s syndrome. I thought about the grief that comes from losing a man of stature, of such significance, especially in the family unit. So many parallels that hit close to home. I thought about those, too.

Ultimately, however, I’m glad I knew him. Even though I didn’t.


2 Replies to “i knew you before i knew you.”

  1. Hi Shirl,

    But really, here I am busy being a lazy blogger and then I come over to your zone and see 8 new posts (I counted), Aaaargggh! Writer’s block I compel you to leave! Oh well, all the more for me to read and enjoy your wit. Lol

    I know what you mean, funny how we know them even though we don’t know them. I suppose that’s what happens when one lives a life of relevance. I’ll always associate the word “Boxing” with Mohammed Ali, he really was the greatest.

    Funny, how nostalgia sets in as the heroes from our childhood memories start to pass on, I felt the same when Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston died. I remembered the innocence of years gone by, I felt the ache of loss that comes with the passage of time, I felt happy that I lived in a time when their stars shone so brightly.

    Well-written heartfelt post. 🙂

    1. Hi Ms. N,

      LOL, I didn’t realize that 8 posts had come out of these fingers. Thanks for reading and for counting. 😉

      I felt the same with Michael and Whitney, especially those two: equal parts nostalgia and racing right back to my childhood/my moments with them, equal parts of sadness and that ache you mentioned that comes with loss and the whittling away of time. Agreed: there won’t be another two like them.

      Thanks again for reading. 🙂

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