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James T. Harris

A Moment From Four Years Ago

Inauguration Day

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Four years ago James T Harris wrote this story about his father and the first inauguration of Barack Obama.

A Moment...
My father has Alzheimer’s disease, and for the umpteenth time, I found myself in the emergency room of St. Joseph’s Hospital after receiving “a call.” They know us there. My father can’t communicate any longer. His eyes are dull, memory gone, he mumbles instead of talking, and rarely if ever does he make sense.

Two years ago my father was still driving. This disease is devastating.

The latest stage of Alzheimer’s disease has introduced my father to seizures. They wreak havoc on his system, causing him days of drowsiness in their aftermath. Today, I was called because he fell out of his bed and gashed his arm. Stitches were needed.

When I entered his room at the hospital my father looked at me with big eyes. I said “Hi, Pop!” but he just looked at me. I don’t think he knew me. I sat down beside him and held his hand. We just sat like that for a while waiting for the nurse to arrive. 

I had managed to avoid the inauguration coverage all day long (which was my stated goal), but now, there I sat with my incapacitated father watching the inauguration parade … I hate parades. 

That’s when it happened.

As we were looking at the new first family, the new black first family, my father took his gaze from the tube and stared right at me and said, “Son? What’s the score?” “What did you say?” I asked. He just looked at me. Later I said, “Dad, the game is over.  The Democrats won. That man is our president.”

It was an odd moment.

My Dad is of the same generation as Bill Cosby, Colin Powell and John McCain. He would have been so proud of the moment and so furious with me for not celebrating it.

Generations.

That’s the thought that was in my head as I looked up, and by complete and utter luck, caught the most powerful image of the day. 

Marching across the bandstand on Pennsylvania Avenue was a regiment of Americans of African descent dressed in the uniforms of the Fighting 54th. My heart stopped as their heads snapped left and they caught the gaze of President Barack Obama.

Chills. I felt that! It lasted for a split second but it was real, a sense of awe that spanned a gulf of 144 years, 7 generations and 8 seasons of history.  It was a symbolic moment. Americans of African descent, marching in the uniform of their forefathers, eyes left to a son of Kenya, President of the United States.

“Son? What’s the score?”

I don’t know, Pop. But I’m glad we watched the game together.


James T. Harris
3-6pm on 104.1 The Truth

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