A singular moment recalled with the passing of Maya Angelou, sees me accepting a copy of “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” from my father, who tells me as he hands me the book, “You should read this.”
My father was a career cop, serving as Denver’s police chief during those dark, and dangerous years from 1968 to 1972, a time when it seemed America was precariously close to the abyss and quite ready and willing to topple into it. He was a hard-as-nails bear of a man, a cop’s cop; considered by many folks of color to be their enemy. That he had read Maya Angelou before I had, that he had seen the worth of her wonderful words and wanted to share them with me, still impresses me with wonder and a lasting wish that I had known him better than I did.
That Maya Angelou had touched something in his heart, or his soul remains to this day not a mystery, but an incongruity that perhaps I will never understand.
I still have the copy he gave me. I often pull it from the shelf, and flip through it to the one and only sentence he underlined: “Bailey was the greatest person in my world.”
I do not know, and I will probably never know why he underlined that sentence.
Again, I wish I had known him better. I wish I could have asked him, “Dad, why did the caged bird sing?”
Godspeed Maya. If you run into the old man, please sit with him for a while. I believe he would enjoy that, and maybe he would share the part of his heart with you that he never shared with me…or anyone else.