Fathering: A Short Story

When I was asked to write something about my father, I first thought to myself, “That will be a short story.”

See, there isn’t much I can tell you about my old man because I never really knew him. I don’t remember him as a child, and I only saw him once or twice when I was around five or six, when I lived in Kentucky with my grandparents. There was no great love story to tell; I knew about as much about him as my grandparents and other relatives told me — and that wasn’t much or really all that great.

I knew he was born in North Carolina. He moved to Massachusetts at a very young age, until his parents divorced and he moved to Kentucky with his father, where he met my mother — and the rest, you can say, is history. According to whichever relative you listen to, he was a player, a “Rolling Stone type,” or a saint who never did anything wrong.

I know he had nine children by three different women — he was there for some of his kids, but not all of them. My mom never had a word to say about him good or bad, and all I know is that he was never there for me or my little brother. But I don’t use that as an excuse for how I turned out, and I don’t carry a grudge against him. It’s difficult to carry a grudge against someone you never really knew.

He passed away a long time ago at a young age, end of story. What I can tell you is based upon what I knew of my father — and what I saw of my two stepfathers — influenced what type of father I wanted to be. I couldn’t promise if I would always be there for the mother, or as it turned out mothers of my children, but I would always be there for my kids no matter what. And for the most part, I kept that promise.

My oldest son will tell you how his dad was there for his 6th grade graduation half in the wrapper. For many of the big events in his young life I was either high, drunk, or on the run, but he will still proudly tell you I was there. My younger kids were a little more lucky, as I was somewhat more together. I was there even when I didn’t want to be as my youngest child passed away in my arms — there is no greater pain than burying your child. Those promises I made to myself carry on to this very day.

Today my life is full of both grand and godchildren, I make an attempt to be there for each and everyone of them as well as my own. My oldest son and I try to make it a point to meet every weekend for coffee by ourselves and just talk. He’s turned into a great person, and is a great dad. I like to think I had a part in that. Maybe my father wasn’t the father that everyone expected him to be, but I’m the father I wanted to be.

–James Shearer

James Shearer

James Shearer is a writer and co-founder of Spare Change News.

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