Tribute to my father

When I was not yet three years old, John Richard and Grace Elizabeth Ingram adopted me from an orphanage in southwest London. At the time, my dad was the minister of a thriving church and I was the fourth (and youngest) adopted kid in my family. My heritage is of African descent and my adoptive parents are Caucasian. When I was four, a stroke left my father paralysed down his left side; he died when I was 18.

Due to the stroke, it was difficult for dad to speak so we spent countless hours communicating by playing games of dominoes. Dad would rest his paralysed arm on his card table and play a ferocious game of dominoes with his “good arm.” Invariably he won. Ironically, my dad’s nickname for me was “Topsy.” Even if I didn’t win against him at dominoes he expected me to come top of the class in all my school subjects. I did my best not to let him down.


If I quiet the voices in my head I can still hear the cranky squeaks of his wheelchair. The clicking made by the calipers that were attached to his
legs below the knee. The incessant wheeze from the asthma that attended the paralysis. His body was his burden.

As a child there were times when I longed to pick him up and carry him on my back. Far and away from his wheelchair and back to the fleeting memory I had of him as my able-bodied dad. Now that I’m an adult, I believe there are no accidents. My dad is my role model and I have found my dream job improving the lives of persons with disabilities in Sierra Leone, West Africa.

Thank you dad! Happy Father’s Day.

64 thoughts on “Tribute to my father

  1. My father who was originally of African/Egyptian descent passed away in England when I was a very young infant and my grandparents took care of me back in Scotland until my mother furthered her career in Nursing. My grandfather was in fact like a ‘father to me’ until I was 12 and we played draughts often, went for long walks and talks. These memories are etched forever in my mind. My maternal grandmother took me for walks and sang to me every night and she had Irish descent. Great post of interest to those who can connect…

  2. Thank you for sharing that touching story. It’s wonderful that you had him in your life. I was remembering my Dad today too. He made happiness by making people smile with his quirky sayings and practical jokes. He was a man of peace and loved Nature. I see myself in him and it makes me proud that he was my Dad. My first memory of him was him carrying me in his arms out in our yard and he would sing, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.” Every time I hear that some it brings back that memory for me. Miss you!

    1. Thank you so much for sharing such a beautiful message about your father. There are few better ways to feel the warmth of a loving father than him carrying you in his arms and singing “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.” Amazing.

  3. Thanks for that wonderful glimpse into your relationship with your Dad. Sadly my Dad has passed away as well. He was my hero, it sounds like you had a hero to.

  4. No wonder you have such a wide open heart and want to take care of others so much…no doubt, having a dad with such health challenges increased your capacity for compassion. What a sweet remembrance..

  5. Shelley, that was wonderful. I don’t think I knew that about your father. In fact I wondered who at first you might me writing about. The father you never knew or the one I slightly remember discussing with you — your stepfather. Perhaps you did tell me long ago and I forgot. After reading this I don’t think I will forget again. Topsy–how marvelous. You certainly have not let him down. I too believe your compassion and drive to assist disabled people SL is connected to your long ago desire to release your dad from his prison. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for him. You must have been a joy and blessing for him. Thank you Shelley. Love you.

  6. Tragedies are just that …but we can grow and be inspired from the lessons we’ve learned and even from the pain.
    I can relate to losing a father so young. It changes your life.
    This was a beautiful post. 🙂

    1. Thank you for your touching words. It saddens me to hear you lost your father so young. If we choose it … the pain to make ourselves stronger is always available. Wishing you a beautiful day. Many blessings, Michele

  7. So much of who I am is because of both of my parents, and while I am blessed that they are both still with me, my father will soon be 91 and is battling ill health. I truly can’t imagine the pain of losing either of them. Your post and the way you are living your life are beautiful tributes to your father, Michele. Thanks so much for sharing.

  8. Bright white light from an ebony face is astonishing beautiful, was my first thought I read your comment on John Coyote’s blog. I thought she is secure & right into more & more light. I’m a fool for light. Your words here are transcendentally charming in truth & great love. I bow to you this day. Thank you. Scott Utley LA-CA-USA 4th of July 2014.

  9. Such a poignant and beautiful story.- My favourite lines… As a child there were times when I longed to pick him up and carry him on my back. Far and away from his wheelchair and back to the fleeting memory I had of him as my able-bodied dad.

    1. I’m deeply touched that you were moved by this post about my father. It was very difficult to write about him. His life was filled with suffering and it has been a journey to see his life in a different light.

      1. I can imagine the journey within you went on to write this and how you then pulled out the strings of light that touches and moves. You chose love beyond suffering. That’s what moved me. You are a beautiful soul.

      2. Hanne, my heartfelt thanks to you. Your beautiful words move me in a way I can barely explain. I cherish your beautiful soul. “You chose love beyond suffering.” Yes.

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