The more I learn about my late father Les Green, the more I want to know. “He’s a walking contradiction. Partly truth and partly fiction” is a line from a Kris Kristofferson song. His life was very complicated.
Did he know that the Reverend Raymond Cone was his biological father? Surely, the pastor was not in dad’s life. What kind of teasing did he have to endure?
Or was his lineage hidden from most people? In the 1930 Census, when he was three and a half, he was listed as the son, rather than the grandson, of Samuel and Eugenia Walker. And he was mistakenly listed as Wesley Walker, an error that wasted some research time and money by my sisters and me.
Agatha Walker and McKinley Green were married in April 1931. How and when did they meet? And why were they separated for the latter half of the 1930s? According to the 1940 Census, Agatha Greene and Leslie Greene – the surnames were misspelled – were back with Samuel and Mary.
There is a picture of a group of Boy Scouts and their dads in a 1942 Binghamton newspaper. Les and McKinley are included in the group. But it wasn’t until 1944 when Les was 18, he got a new birth certificate, with McKinley listed as the father. It notes McKinley’s age in 1944, rather than in Les’ birth year of 1926. But Agatha’s age is properly 24, her age when Les was born.
I’ve mentioned my father’s ambivalence about serving in post-war Germany. It was due to the racism, not of the German people but of the white GIs. He also experienced colorism from his future in-laws, the Yates, since he was much darker than they were.
If he was a bit of a standoffish father early on, could it have been a result of the miscarriage my mother experienced in April 1951? It would have been a boy. Maybe it’s why he made sure that I was named for no one else. Yet he named his first daughter after himself.
He may have been the most gregarious person I’ve known in a public setting. Yet, sometimes at home, he was dubbed by my sisters and me, as the “black cloud” who seemed to suck the oxygen out of the room. This was true mostly when we were growing up, but we experienced it as late as 1997.
Some people are who they are almost all of the time. I think our mom was like that. Then there was our dad, who was…complicated. We wish we could ask him questions about all of these things. But the items about his youth, for instance, we really didn’t understand until he passed.
Les Green would have been 94 tomorrow.