Saturday, April 13, 2024

FAMILY FUSION: Extraordinary father

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IT WAS A RESCUE! A daring and determined rescue by a father of his “son” from the dirt path of delinquency and the jaws of jail.

He was not just a father; he was a phenomenal father who fought against the odds for his “son” of whom he is justly proud today. It is to this father and others like him that I salute on this upcoming Father’s Day. 

Many women and men alike sometimes have very sharp and insulting comments about fathers; unfortunately in some cases these comments are justifiable.

On a positive note, kudos to a growing number of fathers who understand their roles and rise admirably to the heights of their parental responsibility with a great sense of joy and satisfaction.

Today, I shall explain why I categorise Jack (not his real name) as an extraordinary father; in fact, a cut above many fathers.

Jack did not have any biological children but his journey to become a father as he said “was no planned decision”. Having worked hard and conscientiously in a demanding profession for many years, he had reached a stage when he thought he wanted to relax from his many years of labour. That dream was not to be – at least not in its entirety.  

He said: “One day from my house I observed a little boy who was about nine years of age wandering about the streets as if he had no sense of direction.” Apparently, that was not the only time Jack had seen him. “This time, however, I could not get him out of my mind. I was drawn to him,” Jack said.

After doing some investigation, Jack got to find out that this little boy, Erskine (not his real name), was living at a relative. He had lost his mother months before and did not have any knowledge of his biological father.

Strong bond

Jack told me it struck him that perhaps God was challenging him to take on the responsibility of being a father to Erskine. 

It was not long after that he began to periodically invite Erskine to his home where they would informally eat and talk together. With a smile, Jack told me that the growing bond between himself and Erskine became so strong that wherever he turned, Erskine was around. Little did Jack know that his life was going to change, and change radically for a long time to come.  

Challenging journey

Hailing from a close-knit rural district, Jack was well respected by those in his community and many individuals, young and old, looked up to him for advice and counsel. He could be described as insightful, wise, knowledgeable, opinionated, humorous and honest. He was also an active churchman whose Christian values governed his conduct both in and outside of the church walls. 

It was a call from the headmaster of the primary school where Erskine attended that started the long journey of fatherhood for Jack; a challenging journey that would continue unceasingly for many years. Erskine had got in trouble again at school, this time it was a little more serious than previous times when he was be sent home for bad behaviour. Jack was shocked when the headmaster told him that Erskine identified him as the person to call and not his guardian. 

“I dropped everything I was doing and rushed to the school and it was there that the gravity of the situation which involved another child was evident.”

 Jack told me he did everything that was necessary, including meeting with the parent of the other child, and got the issue satisfactorily resolved.

Jack, of course, made Erskine apologise to the boy and his parents. Erskine was relieved, but Jack now realised that the trust level of this primary school child toward him was so strong that it became clear that he must now give himself to fathering this child on a full-time basis. 

With the permission of the relative with whom Erskine was residing, Jack began the process of bringing this “troubled child” off a path of destruction and on to the highway of decency and respectability. He acknowledged that Erskine’s marks at school were far from anything near average.

“I began to work with him by helping him with his homework and began to instil some disciple in him,” Jack said.  “Within a short time his grades began to improve significantly. When Erskine sat the 11-Plus exam, his marks guaranteed him a place among the top ten secondary schools. At age 12 Jack fully took in Erskine to live permanently at his residence and did everything a good father would do to a son.  

Appreciation

While Erskine was at primary school, Jack fostered a healthy relationship with the principal and teachers. Jack told them not to hesitate to call him about any matter pertaining to his “son”. “This is the same approach I applied when Erskine went on to secondary school and made it my business not only to attend all the form level meetings, but also talked regularly with every teacher that taught Erskine.”

Jack’s hard work paid off. Erskine’s behaviour and schoolwork improved and he did well at CXC and then went on to a tertiary institution and also did well. Erskine is now gainfully employed. 

I happened to meet Erskine who spoke very highly of his “father” Jack and expressed sincere gratitude and appreciation for the significant role he played in his life.  He further remarked:  “Over the years I have become more focused because my ‘father’ has been both a father and mother to me.” 

What an excellent example of a concerned citizen who took on the role and function of a father to a youngster whose life seemed initially to have been destined for destruction, but who is now a productive member of society. What an extraordinary father.  

I wonder what society would be like if similar action is taken by men of wholesome character toward youngsters in our society?

• Haynesley Griffith is a marriage and family life consultant. Email: griffitharticles@gmail.com

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