Rise of the Ronin

Amidst the Fall of the Empire

Finding A Home For His Son

Posted by on Mar 31, 2014

Finding A Home For His Son

As I work on my book, I am recalling the stories of my life, and I intend to share some of them here although they won’t all make it into the book. I find it powerful to find ways to share stories of my past in ways that restore a tradition of honor to my family. This morning I’m reflecting on a time in my life that was difficult for me, and getting curious what it must have been like for my father.

My father stood for me that year. I, his eldest son, was 17 and more or less homeless. I’d left the house of my mother who was raging against men, including my father, her father and the patriarchs in the church who were taking my father’s side in the divorce. Then I’d stayed with a friend for a while, and I was temporarily now holing up at my stepmother’s small place, where I had no real space of my own and did not feel welcome.

I imagine on one hand he may have felt he’d mounted a successful coup against my mother. But I wonder what it was like for him to see his son lost and without a real home. I imagine he must have felt some shame at not being able to provide a safe and welcome space for me. And my step mother didn’t seem to really honor or respect him. We were both living under her roof.

I imagine he was already facing a lot of shame and guilt for the divorce which had already been going on for three years at that point and was only getting uglier. It wasn’t supposed to be this way for our family. “Families are forever,” was the creed of our people, and he was the leader, the one most responsible. And his family was in shambles.

He had mentioned the idea of me going to live out West with an uncle and his family. I didn’t really know them much at all, they had never had a kid my age and they were very religious. It didn’t sound so hot to me, especially as I was just claiming my freedom, had just gotten my own set of wheels and this was my senior year–party time.

One day he came to me one day and told me that he and his buddy were going out West to go skiing in a few weeks, and that I should go with them. He suggested that I should bring all my stuff just in case I liked it out there and wanted to stay. Looking back I wonder if my father booked that trip for that very reason–to help find me a home.

I went and we stopped my my uncle’s place. They seemed nice enough, but here was another house run by a dominant woman. And they’d be expecting me to church with them. Surely, part of my father’s plan here was to have me reengage with the church. I’m sure he felt this is what would be best for me, to live in a stable home environment and to have the support of family and religious community.

He’d arranged to compensate my uncle to cover my expenses. It was clear that this was the plan all along.

I knew my father was calling in a favor here, because my aunt and uncle already had five young kids to care for and he was asking them to take in his most difficult child.

I’ve often thought of this story in terms of my own point of view, courageously leaving home and going out West. I don’t know if I’ve every fully recognize my father’s stand for me at that key turning point in my life. In the face of everything he had going on already. He risked further animosity from my mother and took on additional financial liability to help set me up with a new life.

The first day of school as I sat down by myself at the empty lunch table, content to be a loner at the new school as I had been at the old one, only to moments later be joined by the entire varsity cheerleading squad led by the head cheerleader who was hitting on the new guy, I realized my father’s plan wasn’t all that bad after all.

Nine months later after partying at the beach all summer on the East Coast and having made no decision about college, it was his invitation again to go West with him that I needed. He was moving West and I hitched a ride with him. A year later he was making the move to Arizona. I went with him then too.

Ultimately I would decide against the path he’d raised me to take. I left university and walked away from the religious path. I didn’t need him to agree with the path I took, and he didn’t. And even though it must have broken his heart to see his son go “astray,” I never felt pressured from him. The fact that he was simply there at key decision points, giving a fuck about me, made a big difference.

I don’t know if the details of this story will make the cut of my book. But it made a difference in my life and my coming of age as a man. And so this short story of my father is worth writing down, and worth passing on to my sons, grandsons and nephews.

Thank you father.

CHALLENGE: What’s a story you may have of your father (or another man who gave a fuck about you) standing for you in a difficult time? What was he facing at the time? What was the impact of him standing for you? Writing these stories and sharing these stories with your sons and among your people is a beautiful way to restore father-son-brother bonds. Why wait until your father’s funeral to share these stories? And even if your father has already passed, it’s never too late to tell these stories.

CHALLENGE: Who is a young man in your life who is facing a critical time in his life, who may not have any men in his life who really give a fuck about him? How can you stand for him? Or simply stand with him?

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