In New Orleans, seafood is as much a part of life as changing tides. I was raised between shrimp etoufee and fried catfish, learned to walk on crab legs, & was baptized in a pot of crawfish before I ever knew what one was. Still, I was always disgusted by the oysters. But my dad loved them, said that the zinc in the meat was good for your hair and that if I had seen the hairlines of the men on my mama's side of the family—I'd better start eating up. I would later learn that an oyster's pearls are formed from foreign parasites that have breached the boundaries of its shell. To protect itself from the danger the oyster cocoons the substance in coats of calcium until the very thing that was trying to destroy it becomes the thing that makes it most beautiful. Mother nature has a funny way of teaching us. Last summer while visiting home, I went to check on my dad to see if he knew the score of the game. When I opened the door to his bedroom, I saw him lying on the ground like a broken promise genuflecting in front of a prayer. My father held his stomach, as if he had been stabbed by the very person entrusted to protect him. Betrayal has never been so silent. There is no treason like that of your own body turning against itself. Benedict Arnold with a bayonet in your bloodstream, Judas kissing your kidneys goodbye for 30 pieces of silver. Chronic kidney disease is deep sea diving with no oxygen. Drowning underwater waiting for a transplant to bring you back to the surface. But my father is an oyster, wears a shell hardened by growing up in a place where the expectations never rose above low tide. He was raised by a coral reef of a mother, who had echo of an unborn ocean on her breath. Taught him that when the waves of this world try to wear you down, it's okay, we are all a little bit weathered. If an oyster can turn a parasite into a pearl than it is no surprise that my father can turn a kidney into calligraphy. When I was thirteen and he was first diagnosed he wrote me a 15-page letter saying that if anything happened, I had to be ready to become the man of the house. Clint, though it hasn't always looked like it I've always put God first. I know you complain because Clinton Ward Smith, III makes it sound like you're the heir to a British monarchy, but never doubt you are a king. Understand that I gave you your grandfather's name because the most sacred things I have ever known come in trinities. Clint, love you mother like a stained gla** window in a war zone. She can be both shield & shard, both weapon & protection. Treat every woman like you would want a man to treat your sister. This ocean already has enough sharks. Clint, don't be another shark. My father is an oyster. He clasp down tightly on the things that he loves the most – his family & his God. He has a calcium-encrusted heart cradled tightly in his chest, bears scars worn from waves that have tried to erode him of this world. My father is an oyster. I pray that when he is pulled from this ocean, those who live above the surface see the brilliance of his pearls.