John Fountain: Goodbye to a father who chose me

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Eddie B. Clincy, 70, who raised John Fountain since age 7, died Oct. 22 and will be buried Oct. 29.

I am Eddie’s son.

Eddie’s son. Adopted into the Mississippi Delta blues. Land of King Cotton and tobacco chew. I am son to the son of sharecroppers. Grafted unashamedly into “Mama Ada” and “Daddy Luther” Clincy’s legacy. I am a son by choice. Because their son Eddie chose me.

Sipping on Southern hospitality and family pride. Cock crowing. Scent of life on the farm flowing at sunrise. Shotgun house. Catfish fried. Molasses biscuits with eggs on the side.

Barefoot walking blacktop heat. Fishing poles bending in the creek. Bobby Blue Bland sangin’. B.B. King guitar twangin’. Reborn a son of the blues. My daddy taught me how to spit-shine shoes.

I am Eddie’s son.

Son of a laborer. With no fancy formal education. A simple man who worked hard with no public fanfare or celebration. Who formed with his hands, heart and mind anything by imagination.

His skin a sun-kissed coffee-bean-brown. And the man within fit for the task God chose in His infinitely wise plan. That Eddie should be the one to help me become a man.

The one to choose me to be his son after I had been rejected by one who deposited his DNA and his name then vanished like a flame, flickering in the wind. Leaving me to someday forgive him of that sin. And after all had eventually been said and done, I was no longer his but Eddie’s son.

Eddie’s son. And yet, I can still remember hearing it said: “He must be Gwen’s son instead.”

Not Eddie’s. Not really a Clincy. Not with that last name, “Fountain.” If not by birth or blood, then how? It just doesn’t make sense. Must be by pretense. How else could he really belong to Eddie?

I used to wonder back then how some people could be so petty.

I am Eddie’s son.

Reborn in the image of him who held the hand of an abandoned boy. In the scent of his Old Spice and English Leather. In the sound of him singing, “…the eagle flies on Friday…” and “Stormy Weather.” By the gentle touch of the man who cupped a little boy’s head in his hands those countless Saturday afternoons he cut my hair, while I sat in a kitchen chair, without a care.

Reshaped: Into the image of him as I watched him shave and man-behave. Stand his ground. Speak his mind. Be a man. Rather than be a slave.

Redeemed: From fatherlessness. By his arms that lifted me some nights when I had fallen asleep as a boy. That hoisted me upon his shoulder like I was his joy.

Renewed: Like fresh morning dew over my wounded soul. Made to feel less broken as a fatherless child-more whole-each time he introduced me to someone as his one. As his boy.

Eddie’s son.

With toolbox in hand, Daddy was a fix-it man. Suave and soft-spoken, he taught me

to stand. When to hold ’em, when to fold ’em, and when you just might have to get the gun in your hand.

Bid whist-playing. Trash-talking, saying: “Too late for the camel ’cause the pig’s got his eyes closed”-while laying down the Big Joker and “Ode to Billy Joe” played into the night. While he and Mama slapped cards with Miss Edna and Mr. Charlie, until the morning light. And everything seemed right.

Eddie’s son.

For my father blessed us. And he and Mama never let Christmas miss us.

He never judged me. Always loved me. So glad I had a father who chose me.

I am Eddie’s son.


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