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Learning to be Communal…R.I.P Pop

September 21, 2009

Father & son in Fort Greene Park

Father & Son



There are a great deal of lessons to be learned in the big city, with a curriculum so vast and teachers of varying degrees, it’s a given that a lot of these lessons will not be learned at home. Ideally though, the most important lessons will be learned at home particularly when it comes to core values. This is the case with me when learning about not only thinking communal but being communal.


Growing up in the 80’s, there were a lot more single parent homes than in previous generations. Even in the cases of single parentage in earlier generations, it was usually supplemented by a strong extended family unit consisting of the grandmother, grandfather, uncles and aunts. But in the 80’s these type of family situations were waning and the ones that did exist no longer had the stability of previous eras ( For reasons I won’t get into here but if you were in NYC during this period you can take a guess).


The nuclear family unit becoming a rarity in Mayor Koch era NYC was not on the mind of a seven year old Brooklyn boy nor was being the offspring of a rare breed given a thought. This kid’s favorite pastime, like many before him, for all of the seven years he’d been on this big blue marble was to spend time with his father.


It was one of those clear sunny autumn days. You know the kind of day when you look out your window and it looks like it could be eighty degrees? It was one of those days except it was actually 45 or 50. Father and son are walking in tow down Dekalb Avenue headed to Fort Greene Park. It was a familiar stretch for the two, not an uncommon sight to see the pair with a ball, glove and baseball bat, basketball, tennis racket or football on their way to the park. Today it was football, for the son this was to be a special day. He was planning to show “Pop” how he perfected some of the routes plus other tips passed on in previous outings throwing around the football. It not only worked on classmates his age in school but the older kids too!


After some light stretching, the father crouches down in front of a dirt patch, grabs a stick and draws a line in the dirt:


Father: I want you to run this far and gimme a button hook


Son: Got it, no problem Pop!


Running at full speed, with the sound a speeding car going in his head (puh..YOOOOM!), he runs, cuts, and then stops at the drop of a dime, to turn around and see a crisply thrown pass coming above his head. He jumps arms extended. Got it!


Father: My boy! Good hands son, you’ve been practicing, huh?!


Son: We play at school and at the after-school program in the gym.


Father: Alright, this time I want you to run the same route but I’m going to throw the pass a lil different.


Sonny boy runs it to precision once again this time catching a spiraled bullet to the chest.


Father: Nice catch kid…you alright?


Son: Umph…Yeah Pop I’m cool.


The father then looks to his left to see a kid probably about 3 years older than his son staring at the two. He motions the kid over.


Father: Hey kid, what’s your name young man?


The kid’s name is Jimmy, the father then asks if he would like to run a few routes. Jimmy says he would, the father is now in front of the dirt patch giving Jimmy the same instructions previously given to his son. Jimmy runs about half of the distance the son ran then awkwardly turns around. A softly thrown lob headed his way it looked like an easy catch to the son. Got it…Nope Jimmy’s hands barely make contact with the pigskin. The father runs over to whisper some instructions to Jimmy before they do it 3 or 4 times when finally he catches the ball like he was holding a basket of laundry.


Father: Great job Jimbo! Way to go!


By this time four more kids had begun to watch, the father motioned them over as well. What began as father/son time was now instruction for any kid who came around and wanted it. In the sons mind, he now has to wait five times, sometimes more before he gets to get a pass from his father while also displaying what he’d been practicing. Strolling back up Dekalb, he silently pouts eagerly wanting to see his mommy, from daddy’s little man to mama’s boy in a matter of hours.


Of course at home the mother notices something wrong, gets right to the bottom of it then confronts the father. She tries to explain that the son just wanted it to be the two of them. The father will hear nothing of it.


Father: I can’t believe you and bk would be that selfish. He has me as a father all the time, 24-7; most of these kids don’t have that! Me, giving them time doesn’t take way from bk. He not only has me all the time but he’ll have me when he needs me most…most of these kids don’t and will NEVER have that!


The mother let it go but the son was dumbfounded. You mean all kids don’t have their fathers living with them? They don’t have anyone to pitch a ball around with? Since it was his job to protect mommy when his father wasn’t home, was it these kids job to protect mommy all the time?! How could he pout about sharing his father when his parents taught him to share, especially to others with less? These were the type of questions in the mind of a conflicted seven year old. Gradually the son was able to accept sharing his father, for it was a given that anytime they went out to do any sports together, other kids would come around. It was just one of the many ways the father has looked out for kids in the neighborhood. Now grown, many of the kids have never forgotten but still have to be corrected by the son when they state “Man, you had the coolest pops in the world!”  The reply by the son has remained the same over the years:


Son (bknesto): Yeah well you don’t have to live with him!!


The truth is I couldn’t imagine living without him.


Thanks for the jewels Pop!!


This was originally posted on February 9th, 2009.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. kyle permalink
    February 4, 2009 1:53 pm

    Another wonderful story and an awesome pic.

  2. Peyso permalink
    February 4, 2009 3:07 pm

    My dad was the same exact way and I felt the same way for a little bit too

  3. February 4, 2009 4:50 pm

    great post nesto.

    PS. your pops still got that puma shirt?

  4. bknesto permalink
    February 4, 2009 6:38 pm

    Thanks guys…Kyle, Notorious review coming soon, I just saw the movie last weekend. Alittlehoney, that t-shirt is long gone, I had a sweatshirt w/ the same puma logo which can be see here:

    I wore that sweatshirt until the sleaves were up to my elbows! lol

  5. la duchessa permalink
    February 4, 2009 7:58 pm

    what a lovely and thoughtful post.

  6. MyrtleJ permalink
    February 4, 2009 11:18 pm

    Love the story and the accompanying pic!

  7. MBN permalink
    February 5, 2009 1:10 am

    What a heartwarming story and valuable lesson. Your parents seem like wonderful people. This is my favorite post to date.

  8. February 5, 2009 12:59 pm

    Awesome story, and photo! Does your dad still have that hat?

  9. M. Corbett permalink
    February 12, 2009 6:28 pm

    Wow, that was a wonderful story. Very lovely content and writing. Thanks for sharing.

  10. MyrtleJ permalink
    September 22, 2009 3:46 pm

    Sending thoughts and prayers to you and your family. Thanks for sharing your dad with us.

    His spirit will continue to live on through your and your family’s memories…

  11. bknesto permalink
    September 23, 2009 1:15 am


    Thank you for your kind words.

  12. April permalink
    September 23, 2009 8:48 pm

    Thank you for sharing this story with us. Your father was a diamond in the rough. He’s one of the staples of the community. They say “it takes a village to raise a child” and your father was definitely a player in the Clinton Hill Community. He always made everyone feel like family and always looked out for others. He had such a sincere zest for life, and he will always be with us in spirit. I

  13. Diana permalink
    October 15, 2009 3:52 pm

    Your father sounds like a wonderful person who had a very positive influence on those he touched. You and your family are in my thoughts. Thanks for sharing.

  14. October 19, 2009 10:42 pm

    I hope you crank this Blog back up! You write well and the community need to hear your voice. I got your back!

    The What (Thank you for visiting my Blog)

    Someday this war is gonna end..

  15. K Mayo permalink
    July 2, 2010 2:48 am

    I can’t stop going through all of your posts! I’m so glad you put me on. If I said I wasn’t fighting tears right now I’d be lying. So many of your thoughts, concerns and impressions about the steady gentrifying BK, mirror my own to the tee. In my “modern, sophisticated life/world” I often suppress such feelings (maybe as a matter of sanity). This is such important work!!! You are a historian in the spirit of so many, daring to speak truths that make so many uncomfortable. What they don’t know is that the truth doesn’t make them more uncomfortable than it makes us. We are the ones sharing space with so many who clearly walk with contempt for all that existed before they “discovered” the borough. We are the ones being pushed out, priced out and punked.

    I enjoy a nice cafe as much as the next fly girl. But not if it means my sons (4th gen brooklynites) will have to be total strangers, to put it nicely, in their own neighborhood. One wishes it weren’t an all-sum game, but the signs aren’t encouraging at all. I imagine Pookie Revere riding through the hood on horseback: The investors are coming! The investors are coming!

    Is it an oversimplification to say this is black and white? Perhaps. But the white folks who are here with a certain innate respect for the cultural vibration and roots of this place, a. know who they are, and b. know they are in the minority. (None of this is to suggest that there aren’t new black people in BK who couldn’t also use a history lesson that goes a bit deeper than the Notorious one.) Even my Hasidic Jewish neighbor, herself a Brooklyn native, has commented to me about the so called hipsters flowing like a river from the train station down my block, “they don’t ever speak,” she says. If they give her the cold shoulder, then my boys don’t stand a chance.


    Now, your pop. I did not know him, but I KNOW him. As on original Brooklyn girl, I know that we are town with many neighborhoods filled with hard working black people and other people of color doing for ourselves. Despite the decades of economic and environmental racism and exploitation, and the precincts filled with imported white boys with so much disdain and fear of black men (in particular), despite the reagan 80’s crack epidemic, despite Koch and Giuliani and yes Bloomberg, despite all the despites, we been that. Families and communities with roots and values. I’ve always known the brothers who cared, who stayed, who stood up. So thank you for sharing your story about your father. It’s our story. Thank you for repping so hard. You clearly come from a cut above.

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