As a young boy your father is a mighty super hero who knows everything and can do all things. You rely on him for everything, he teaches you things and he makes you feel strong. My brother, sister and I were cared for by an Angel of a grandmother while our biological parents struggled with addictions to crack cocaine. It was a difficult period of time and it was our normal, we were used to having no men around, we were the men but we had no idea what “man” meant other than we were supposed to grow into one. Me as a young boy didn’t have one of those super hero fathers until I was around 11 years old when my brother, sister and I were taken in by my Aunt and her husband.
That transition was pretty easy because I spent a lot of time there playing video games with my cousin so I was fairly comfortable. I hadn’t yet made the distinction between life without a father and life with one but that realization would soon come. With the new life came structure, discipline, and a sense of safety I never experienced. I was happy with my new life but I still hadn’t learned to trust my new Dad. He wasn’t like the men I was used to. He had a wife! What the hell was that? He cooked, He built things, helped us with homework, he talked kindly to us. I adjusted to the schedules, the chores, and going to church every Sunday because I had to. I adjusted to the rules of the house but I hadn’t adjusted to having a man around consistently directing my path, I just didn’t want to lose my safe place. I never felt like I needed him because I feared silently that it was only temporary, he would be gone at any moment. It was surreal.
It wasn’t until my fourteenth birthday that it became real to me that he was committed to being a dad to a boy that wasn’t his own. I, like any boy at 14 got a girlfriend and it just so happened that my birthday falls on the fifteenth of February. I asked him to let me go visit my girlfriend who stayed fairly close by for Valentine’s Day and that I would come home that night. I believe my curfew was at 10 but I never made it home because we fell asleep watching movies and I guess he did too. I was awakened to knocks on the door and it dawned on me that I wasn’t at home, I knew I was in trouble. I had to get home so I bolted to the door prepared to Houdini my way past whoever it was that was there but it was my uncle! I was paralyzed with fear but something amazing happened that day. The first words he said to me was “are you ok? You fell asleep didn’t you?”. I just nodded yes and he took me home. On the way home he never yelled, never threatened me with punishment, I think he saw that I knew I made a mistake and he understood.
That moment changed everything for me. It was that moment I realized I was loved and cared for and that I didn’t have to worry about being left again. It was then I realized what a man was and that I wanted to be one myself. I wanted to be a dad one day, a husband, and a phenomenal leader just like him because nothing felt better than knowing I had someone to follow that would come find me if I lost my way. From then on I watched him and learned all that I could about being a man. I’m still learning. I think about what he’d say when I’m making some of the decisions I make. I hear his voice when I’m doing something I knew was not right. I treat people the way he treated me, without judgement and with love. I can think of so many moments where I needed a dad but the moment I most needed a dad was when I decided to learn how to be a man.