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Father’s Day Remains An Emotional And Passionate Holiday: Remembering Dad’s Story, What He Taught Us, And How He Raised 4 Boys In Poverty

My late father was a man of few words.  Most of the time when he communicated to me and my brothers it was with a stern look. There was never an open discussion because my father’s house was a total dictatorship. He worked hard long hours and retired home with his family daily without fail. Dad hated noise and you could always tell when he was around, because all of his kids became very quiet. Any child in his home that wasn’t compliant was dealt with swiftly and harshly. He didn’t care whose child it was, if they didn’t listen he would literally knock them out. Needless to stay, dad was firm, a disciplinarian, and was present in the home my entire childhood. I don’t even recall a single instance where dad stayed out overnight. His kids were his life and mostly as a result of the childhood he endured personally. My father’s mom died before he was even a year old, and with an irresponsible father of his own, he would find himself passed around, left at homes with woman his dad simply dated, resulting in him hanging in the streets, and eventually he ended up living with old Ms. Hattie Johnson who knew his family. Hattie Mae is what they called her. By the time Ms. Hattie took my father in he was practically caring for her because she was very old. They say my grand father worked the railroads in those days and would be gone for months at a time. As dad matured, he became too much for old Ms. Hattie to handle, and he began to run the streets again. Most of what dad learned in his youth was taught to him by a man name Joe. Dad said Joe was a Hobo (homeless man) who lived beneath the Jones Falls Expressway in East Baltimore. The way my father tells the story, is that he befriended Joe out of compassion for him. He would often bring food that Ms. Hattie prepared for him and give it to Joe. Mr. Joe took dad under his wing and taught him survival skills, and how to cope with the mean streets. Dad said the truant officers would chase him on a regular basis. In those days children weren’t allowed to roam the streets of Baltimore during school hours. They would never catch him though. My father said he would climb the metal siding of the Howard Street Bridge and throw rocks at the truant police, and after a while they would simply leave him be. My brothers and me used to find those stories comical, but to dad it wasn’t a laughing matter. He was intelligent enough to understand that Ms. Hattie wasn’t his legal guardian, with his mom deceased, father absent from his life, he knew he would end up in some foster home, and besides he was worried about who would look after hobo Joe. In all reality, Joe was the only real father that dad ever knew. As time went on the local police that patrolled the neighborhood became familiar with dad and would either make him go home to Ms. Hattie if they caught him in the streets after dark or they would take him there themselves. When the street lights came on Ms. Hattie could be heard yelling Sonnie (her nickname for dad). Dad said that old woman would stay up a many of nights standing in the doorway of the house where he lived with her on Howard Street waiting until he arrived home safely. Dad’s father would have his friends bring money over to Ms. Hattie’s place to give her for his care. Dad said that always troubled him and he wondered why his father couldn’t come by himself. My father later learned that his father was living with another family in the Lafayette Projects in southeast Baltimore. He went by there one day and approached his dad about not being man enough to come bring money himself. That exchange culminated in my father throwing a brick at him and being chased through the projects by my grandfather. When my grandfather sent money my dad would through it in the streets out of retaliation and resentment for him. Ms. Hattie eventually passed on and my father would live with hobo Joe under the Falls for a while (a couple of years they say) until my grandfather finally convinced his wife to allow dad to come stay with them. Dad and his step mother never got along. She would have a fit if his father spent money on him and didn’t provide for her children who were not biologically my grandfather’s. The conflict between dad and his stepmother forced him back into the streets, and it wasn’t until he began dating the woman who would become my mother, that dad gained any stability in his life again. Her name was Adel White, they would eventually wed, and rear four boys. My late mother began to impact my father in many ways. She was able to convince a family friend to give my dad his first job, and mom said she began to manage his earnings for him, making sure he had under clothe,s and other essentials that he wasn’t getting from his stepmother. Mom told me she met hobo Joe too, and they both provided for him before he passed away. My parents became inseparable, as some of my relatives tell the story, mom would often break curfew, and stay out in the streets for days at a time just to be with my dad. I have heard stories about how my great-grandmother (who’s last name was also Johnson) would beat my mother viciously and tirelessly for her conduct and running the streets, but mom would still stay out pass curfew to be with my father. At some point grandma Johnson gave in and even allowed my father to live with them. So, my parents, in their mid-teens began living in the home of an old fashion christian woman who had 9 daughters and a son of her own. The rest was history. A few years later, my parents who were both uneducated, had their first child. When my father learned that mom was pregnant with my brother Gary, he proposed to my mother and they wed a few weeks later. They raised us with literally nothing, and for what they lacked financially we received in wisdom, their life experiences, and their love. Dad fostered a lot of pain, sadness, and depression all those years. Dad never overcame his childhood, it hurt him until his very last breath, it was obvious, and he was determined that we would never endure such strife in our lives. My father was a very honest man with strong convictions, his guidance was predicated on our eventual ability to survive on our own. In short, he provided his kids with intangibles like examples of work ethic, loyalty, courage, compassion, and manhood. “Be a man, be your own man” was the most consistent message he gave us all. It’s funny though, realizing that we are all alive today, we could never collectively be the man who my father was, and he left this earth having completed his work not having asked anyone for a damn thing. Dad’s story has always been a motivating factor in my life simply because I felt his pain, I lived through it with him, and he constantly reminded me that failure wasn’t an option. Thanks to my father’s guidance I have always been able to identify with good men and listen to them. There have been many such men that helped me along the way. However, it was having a practical example of a good man for me to be able to make the distinction. In my early adult years when I began to have children of my own, I ran into obstacles and sought my dad’s advice.  My father knew my passion and my mentality, and the advice he gave me seemed odd considering the full brunt of his life. He made me promise him before he passed on to be patient, remain distant, and wait on God. I believe my father was concerned that I would do something that resulted in my death or incarceration, and I continue to keep his promise at tremendous personal loss and pain of my own to this day. They say you should never judge a book by its cover, and unless you have walked a mile in a man’s shoes you should never pass judgement on him. I am grateful for having been taught to understand the plight of others, having compassion, and the desire to make a differences so that someone less fortunate may prosper. My dad’s stepmother’s kids all went on to become educated professionals while my father remained in poverty. Dad never allowed that to deter him. He simply did what he had to do, the best way he knew how,raising his kids himself, and for that I envy him for having the courage and desire to be a good man. On this Father’s Day I pay homage to my dad, thanking him for teaching me to be a champion for people, and to be a man. I love you dad and I miss you. Happy Father’s Day!

 

 

The People’s Champion

I’m David Adams

David Adams

Self proclaimed geek, Advocate for the homeless, Social Change, Crime Blogger, and mobile technology enthusiast. A recognized Journalist and Human Interest Writer championing the plight of the masses whom are without a voice of their own.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
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My late father was a man of few words.  Most of the time when he communicated to me and my brothers it was with a stern look. There was never an open discussion because my father’s house was a total dictatorship. He worked hard long hours and retired home with his family daily without fail. Dad hated noise and you could always tell when he was around, because all of his kids became very quiet. Any child in his home that wasn’t compliant was dealt with swiftly and harshly. He didn’t care whose child it was, if they didn’t listen he would literally knock them out. Needless to stay, dad was firm, a disciplinarian, and was present in the home my entire childhood. I don’t even recall a single instance where dad stayed out overnight. His kids were his life and mostly as a result of the childhood he endured personally. My father’s mom died before he was even a year old, and with an irresponsible father of his own, he would find himself passed around, left at homes with woman his dad simply dated, resulting in him hanging in the streets, and eventually he ended up living with old Ms. Hattie Johnson who knew his family. Hattie Mae is what they called her. By the time Ms. Hattie took my father in he was practically caring for her because she was very old. They say my grand father worked the railroads in those days and would be gone for months at a time. As dad matured, he became too much for old Ms. Hattie to handle, and he began to run the streets again. Most of what dad learned in his youth was taught to him by a man name Joe. Dad said Joe was a Hobo (homeless man) who lived beneath the Jones Falls Expressway in East Baltimore. The way my father tells the story, is that he befriended Joe out of compassion for him. He would often bring food that Ms. Hattie prepared for him and give it to Joe. Mr. Joe took dad under his wing and taught him survival skills, and how to cope with the mean streets. Dad said the truant officers would chase him on a regular basis. In those days children weren’t allowed to roam the streets of Baltimore during school hours. They would never catch him though. My father said he would climb the metal siding of the Howard Street Bridge and throw rocks at the truant police, and after a while they would simply leave him be. My brothers and me used to find those stories comical, but to dad it wasn’t a laughing matter. He was intelligent enough to understand that Ms. Hattie wasn’t his legal guardian, with his mom deceased, father absent from his life, he knew he would end up in some foster home, and besides he was worried about who would look after hobo Joe. In all reality, Joe was the only real father that dad ever knew. As time went on the local police that patrolled the neighborhood became familiar with dad and would either make him go home to Ms. Hattie if they caught him in the streets after dark or they would take him there themselves. When the street lights came on Ms. Hattie could be heard yelling Sonnie (her nickname for dad). Dad said that old woman would stay up a many of nights standing in the doorway of the house where he lived with her on Howard Street waiting until he arrived home safely. Dad’s father would have his friends bring money over to Ms. Hattie’s place to give her for his care. Dad said that always troubled him and he wondered why his father couldn’t come by himself. My father later learned that his father was living with another family in the Lafayette Projects in southeast Baltimore. He went by there one day and approached his dad about not being man enough to come bring money himself. That exchange culminated in my father throwing a brick at him and being chased through the projects by my grandfather. When my grandfather sent money my dad would through it in the streets out of retaliation and resentment for him. Ms. Hattie eventually passed on and my father would live with hobo Joe under the Falls for a while (a couple of years they say) until my grandfather finally convinced his wife to allow dad to come stay with them. Dad and his step mother never got along. She would have a fit if his father spent money on him and didn’t provide for her children who were not biologically my grandfather’s. The conflict between dad and his stepmother forced him back into the streets, and it wasn’t until he began dating the woman who would become my mother, that dad gained any stability in his life again. Her name was Adel White, they would eventually wed, and rear four boys. My late mother began to impact my father in many ways. She was able to convince a family friend to give my dad his first job, and mom said she began to manage his earnings for him, making sure he had under clothe,s and other essentials that he wasn’t getting from his stepmother. Mom told me she met hobo Joe too, and they both provided for him before he passed away. My parents became inseparable, as some of my relatives tell the story, mom would often break curfew, and stay out in the streets for days at a time just to be with my dad. I have heard stories about how my great-grandmother (who’s last name was also Johnson) would beat my mother viciously and tirelessly for her conduct and running the streets, but mom would still stay out pass curfew to be with my father. At some point grandma Johnson gave in and even allowed my father to live with them. So, my parents, in their mid-teens began living in the home of an old fashion christian woman who had 9 daughters and a son of her own. The rest was history. A few years later, my parents who were both uneducated, had their first child. When my father learned that mom was pregnant with my brother Gary, he proposed to my mother and they wed a few weeks later. They raised us with literally nothing, and for what they lacked financially we received in wisdom, their life experiences, and their love. Dad fostered a lot of pain, sadness, and depression all those years. Dad never overcame his childhood, it hurt him until his very last breath, it was obvious, and he was determined that we would never endure such strife in our lives. My father was a very honest man with strong convictions, his guidance was predicated on our eventual ability to survive on our own. In short, he provided his kids with intangibles like examples of work ethic, loyalty, courage, compassion, and manhood. “Be a man, be your own man” was the most consistent message he gave us all. It’s funny though, realizing that we are all alive today, we could never collectively be the man who my father was, and he left this earth having completed his work not having asked anyone for a damn thing. Dad’s story has always been a motivating factor in my life simply because I felt his pain, I lived through it with him, and he constantly reminded me that failure wasn’t an option. Thanks to my father’s guidance I have always been able to identify with good men and listen to them. There have been many such men that helped me along the way. However, it was having a practical example of a good man for me to be able to make the distinction. In my early adult years when I began to have children of my own, I ran into obstacles and sought my dad’s advice.  My father knew my passion and my mentality, and the advice he gave me seemed odd considering the full brunt of his life. He made me promise him before he passed on to be patient, remain distant, and wait on God. I believe my father was concerned that I would do something that resulted in my death or incarceration, and I continue to keep his promise at tremendous personal loss and pain of my own to this day. They say you should never judge a book by its cover, and unless you have walked a mile in a man’s shoes you should never pass judgement on him. I am grateful for having been taught to understand the plight of others, having compassion, and the desire to make a differences so that someone less fortunate may prosper. My dad’s stepmother’s kids all went on to become educated professionals while my father remained in poverty. Dad never allowed that to deter him. He simply did what he had to do, the best way he knew how,raising his kids himself, and for that I envy him for having the courage and desire to be a good man. On this Father’s Day I pay homage to my dad, thanking him for teaching me to be a champion for people, and to be a man. I love you dad and I miss you. Happy Father’s Day!

 

 

The People’s Champion

I’m David Adams

David Adams

Self proclaimed geek, Advocate for the homeless, Social Change, Crime Blogger, and mobile technology enthusiast. A recognized Journalist and Human Interest Writer championing the plight of the masses whom are without a voice of their own.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInGoogle Plus

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