Happy Birthday, “Big Ike” …

Happy Friday, World …  I know that it’s hard out there, but TGIF anyways!!!  Thanks again!!

Well, it is also “The 4th of July (Independence Day) Weekend” in the States!  Yet, I always acknowledge my Dad’s birthday about this time every year!!  Join me in sending a spiritual message to Mr. Isaac Henry Cook for his birthday, July 4th, 1907 … or maybe 1910.  The exact year is something that I was unable to ascertain since after Big Ike had passed, my Mother had been suffering from Alzheimer’s until she fell, bumped her head on the floor, and struggled with a brain contusion … until The End!  Isaac Henry was the third son of a manumitted slave named Robert Cook and a purported Seminole woman, Mattie Yhuman … according to some oral family history.

This guy taught me by example how to do some incredible stuff!!  The main lesson … “Believe in Yourself”.  You can imagine how proud he was to witness his baby boy, John Isaac, as he received his diploma in 1976, from Princeton University that at one time refused admission to African Americans. I had no idea that I was zooming across like three generations to rise as high as I could in American society.  Big Ike never graduated high school because there was none in the area where he grew up on the farmlands of North/Central Florida.  So for him and Mary to see their youngest child accomplish this feat was absolutely incredible … perhaps unimaginable!  Now, trust me on this one … I still had my ups and downs but I always remembered something he would say to me to encourage me to believe in myself and never doubt myself nor look (fall) backward. “Once you get it in your head, nobody can take it away from you.”

So, my only grandson from my ONLY daughter has been with me pret’ near a week now in Costa Rica since we met up in Ft. Lauderdale, FL last Friday at an AirBnB that my daughter had arranged and paid for so that we could meet and exchange the “precious cargo”.  We had been talking and planning for him to stay with me in Cocles near Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, for a month.  We’ve had our moments of tension, the most recent one on deciding to wear newer cleaner underwear or wear the same ones he had on after he showered the night before.  As we both toyed with what was “right”, he decided that he was going to follow the way things were done at his home with his Mom in Connecticut.  After a brief struggle with me as I tried to remove the underwear, I realized how important THIS was for him and decided to call his Mom.  She wasn’t too happy with me as she confirmed that he was “right”.  Caleb Isaac is only 6 so this was a challenge for him to handle, not to mention how interestingly challenging for me as I did my best to “stand my ground” while I humbly accepted the FACT that I was wrong …  After some back and forth with his Mom, her Mom, and a family friend of theirs, “he” decided that he wanted to go back to Florida.  My daughter and I agreed to let him sleep on it and see what comes next!!  I had to get up early to write my blog post and organize my thoughts … and emotions.  One lesson I learned through my journey is: “Take NO hostages!”  Again, I credit Big Ike for showing me this personality trait … “Let Go!”

Here’s another tidbit of a true story which involved the utilization of my enlightened intelligence!  Yep!  There … I said it!!  So, I was invited to listen to a friend and an acquaintance from the States who, last year or so, decided to call me “boy” as I sat with a female friend from Croatia.  She and I were having a conversation and this character approached!  I was like … “What did you call me?!?”  He quickly replied, “Okay … man!”  I grabbed a chair and offered it to him to which he replied negatively.  I tried to limit contact with this expat.  So, as I listened to this jazz improvisational duo, I heard someone faintly saying, “Hey boy!”  I wasn’t sure if the WAITER was calling me that, so I kind of ignored it, choosing to enjoy the moments of music.  A week or so later, I returned to the same restaurant to get one of their delicious croissants-to-go as the co-“owner” is French and his lovely new wife is from Italy.  They both were on their honeymoon for a few weeks.  As I entered the restaurant, I heard a familiar voice … It said, “Hey Boy!”  It was the table cleaner/waiter AGAIN.  I looked at him, clearly from some Central American country, if not … Costa Rica.  I said, “Hey Man!” which is my usual response to social ignorance.  I smiled and extended my hand and said, “My name is John!  What’s your name again?”  He said his name as he looked at me with a mild expression of contempt coupled with non-enlightenment.  I might add here that it is customary for the locals of this Jamaican influenced culture to call each other, “my boy”.  But “boy” was unacceptable!  I told him, “My father would be upset if he heard you call his son “boy”.  I followed up with a well-known quote: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!”  He thought that was funny as did some of the local males who also worked at the establishment.  I went on to tell him that the only reason he said that to me is because I am an African American male.  I continued by suggesting that he would NEVER say that to a white male patron so why me?!?  He and a friend of his, also a local Central American male, tried to convince me that they say that to white men, too!  Realizing that I was up against “complete and total ignorance” not to mention lies, I retreated … as would “Big Ike”.  I promised not to return until the newly happily married couple returned.  When they did, and I was approached by the new wife who asked me if I wanted to talk about it, I agreed and we walked a bit closer to the ocean and away from the restaurant.  Soon after, her young husband approached us and the whirlwind began.  After all was said and done, the male had said that he didn’t like diplomats anyway and his wife had accused me of being belligerent.  They asked me if the waiter had apologized, which he didn’t (why would he if he hadn’t done anything wrong!) and I told them so.  The young gent said that the other employees had told him that this table cleaner had apologized to me.  The young man asked me if I wanted to have a drink as the employee who had called me “boy” approached the restaurant for his shift at work.  I declined … and took my talents elsewhere for the moment.  I thought, “Big Ike would be proud of me!”  What thinketh you?!?  No worries … I don’t need anyone to agree with me as I count my blessings and MY birthday rapidly approaches … July 13th!!  That’s my story and I am sticking to it!!

In closing, I just want to restate that one should believe in oneself, especially if you’ve worked so very hard on yourself as I have and will continue to do!  #HatersSuck


John I. Cook, Director

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