Updated: Dec 7, 2019
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THE LAST FATHER FIGURE
"Without the guidance of our fathers, what do we know?"
THE OLD MAN
After being shot in the head, then in his back, I was left fatherless at 5 years old. Killed by a bartender of all people. The dickhead told the cops that he shot'em because he thought my old man was gonna rob'em.
The faggot police new the reputation and extensive record of armed robberies of my father. I heard the prick spent all of three days in jail.
I will keep his abuse of my mother brief. Only to say I witnessed the brutality and physical scars that a man can inflict on a female. But I do not hate him. Although he was not there for her or us kids, I love my father.
At the age of 10 I had a stepfather. But I didn't like him. He was strict and abused my lil bro. Plus he took my mother's attention away from me. Him and I were constantly at odds. Things only got worse as I got older. And bigger. But my mother did not want my attention at all. So she got rid of me and my step father stayed.
12 years old. Sent away from home. Then I'd be gone. Sent away by the same mother whom I loved so much. Banished me from home. At times, far away from home. The next county, city, or state over. Sentenced by a judge to be a ‘ward of the state’. There were periods that I'd go without seeing my home or family for months, even years at a time.
Once children are sent away from his parents, the state is now responsible for the juvenile. His housing, safety, clothing, food, the whole nine. A social worker is assigned to the kid and they are responsible for finding placements anywhere within the state where there is room to accommodate them and their needs.
Whichever the circumstances call for. These places can be near, or far away from where the child is from. For some reason I feel the need to mention that either of these situations are extremely hard on an adolescent.
It was with-in these different counties and cities that I found myself unknowingly looking for someone to look up to. To guide and advise me. Like a father. At first, it was the male staff working in whatever group home i'd be in at the time. But even during this phase of my young life, nothing that I say from these guys impressed me enough to want to grow close to them. Let alone look up to them. It was obvious by the way the male staff ignored us, never listened, or cared about our feelings, or shown any interest in us. That they were simply there for the paycheck.
For a time it was the big kids who guided me. Well, me and the other younger kids like me. But of course the big kids taught us cuss words and the best way to get over on staff. None of us. Big or little were trained on how to be young men. Usually I learned more than they did on my own. By watching adults, listening, Then added the valuable characteristic to my own personality. How to conduct myself with kindness and understanding. In a word, I learned to be more mature than the other kids.
Making this change forced me to act differently around the other kids. Eventually, I'd grow tired of dealing with their antics. Then, eventually they grew tired of my change. Mostly the fact that I did not want to make fun of people anymore. After more time. They grew annoyed with my perceptiveness and intellect. Something that they didn't understand. That intimidated them. And at times, I was the one being picked on. And given a hard time. But I could handle that. During my time with them, I had garnered a reputation for fighting. So they took the talk only so far. Besides, I was able to keep a few of those close friends that did not turn against me. I was not alone wanting to better myself.
Kids raising themselves in a juvenile institution. This went on for a season. During my adolescent years. Just me and the big kids. Battling it out mentally and physically because that is the only way we knew to settle a disagreement. I did well on both ends.
During this stretch. I'd come to rely heavily on that same intellect and perspective They comforted me. Molded me. I learned to trust these qualities. Far more than any person I was around. But the qualities also revealed the terrifying reality of my circumstance. And amount of work and time that will be required to make it out of these places and go home.
But for this technique to work. I had to withdraw inside my head. And because of my lack of guidance, I resorted to remain there. For long, then longer periods of time.
But there's an awful downside to this. I soon began physically isolating myself. Which led me to be very apprehensive around my peers. Nervous, and maybe worst of all, deadly, deadly quiet.
As one can imagine. This made making friends extremely difficult. Soon. each home after the next. I quickly became known as, 'the tall quiet kid'. By my peers and staff alike.
But the few friends I did make under those enigmatic circumstances, turned out to be divine examples of character, and possessed several of the fine qualities decent human beings have to offer.
Therefore. I taught myself by watching and listening. They all inevitably became lessons, that I've never forgotten. Perhaps, learning these lessons so harshly and without warnings or guidance. Made an even larger imprint mentally for me to remember these periods of teaching. So as not to make the same mistakes. For myself, these are the seeds to knowledge and wisdom. Attributes no father figure can teach.
There were father figures who have disappointed me. Like any relationship. Things start off well. An you gradually get to know the person, the more time the two of you spend together. Overtime, some would constantly ask me for money, others would exhibit a form of hatred for ideas, or races of people that we found ourselves constantly arguing about. Outside of these conspiracies, there was nothing to learn.
A few let me down by being so self absorbed that they had no interest in my life and often looked to me for advice and guidance on some of their most sensitive issues. And when I'd try to give my perspective on their problem, anything I'd say would be met with, 'You still don't understand.' Followed by anger and frustration. GLWT.
But I would not be angry at them. I knew how to walk away. And how to distance myself. Guys like that who ended up not up to snuff, I never erased them completely out of my life. I remained resolute with them. And was appreciative of the things they did teach me.
But. These same personality traits I'd developed, caused a few potential fathers figures to let go of me as well. Extracting themselves from my life in the same subtle way I had others. Once I became aware of this, it hurt. Which made me wonder if I'd hurt the men who I had so tactically extracted from mine.
If only they told me why. Sat me down. Explained to me. Maybe I would not of been so hurt, or confused. Yes. Talk to them. Don't just gradually phase them out. But first, tell them the issues you have with them. Express yourself. Maybe that could save things. Or at least save feelings from being hurt. Yes. Another lesson learned. But without advice or guidance on how to navigate situations like this, severe damage has once again been done.
There were hopefuls. Good people in particular who had a knack for making a positive impact on ‘wounded’ adolescents. Like Miss Harris. My teacher in grade school. Heavy set white woman. She was drawn to the quiet ones. Who just happened to be me. She was not the father figure I was looking for. But she gave me hope. That in itself was a catalyst. She made me think that I can push through the obstacles. And that I am doing something right. She saw the qualities that I aspire to achieve. I used to draw. That's how are relationship started. She gave me praise. She was patient with my awkward, withdrawn demeanor. And with my deadly silence. When she introduced the ‘mess’ to her family. On several occasions she brought her kids around me. Introduced me to her husband. She spoke for me. Boasted about how bright I was. Even with my inability to communicate socially, she made things comfortable. And with that. She forever cemented a special place in my heart. These things drew me closer to her. And pushed me to open up to her in ways that I did not deem others worthy to see. Ms. Harris was not a father figure. But she made me realize that I also craved the warmth of a mother as well.
In a place called 'the valley'. A psychiatric treatment program for adolescents. There was a social worker named Mr Wayne. He was a hippy from the Vietnam era. I don't recall if he had serviced. But he kept the flower child persona of the time. Always wearing blue jeans and blue jeans jackets. Kept a 'high' laid back demeanor. As well as utilized the lingo of the era. With his 'Mans', and 'Ah it's cool daddy-o', 'no sweat', and our favorite, slappin low fives he called 'skin'.
Mr Wayne had a tan that would make Snooki jealous. And the short bouncy blond hair of a 20 year old. Although he had to be at least in his 50s during that time.
He always had a story for us kids. The most memorable one being the time he got shot. And the time he got stabbed.
When Mr. Wayne took off his shirt, he was tan and ripped for his age. But there were two horrific craters. On his abdomen and another upper chest.
The scar on his midsection was round. It looked as if he had hit with a baseball going a thousand miles an hour. All us kids jumped up ran our fingers through it. The hole was so deep, half of my finger made it inside before it finally hit skin.
Mr. Wayne laughed at our enthusiasm. 'That ones from a AK-47.' He explained. 'While the guy had a gun pointed at me, being an idiot, grabbed the barrow and tried to yank it out his hands. Never try that one kids.' he said smiling.
He then pulled up his shirt higher fous to see the full damage of the second scar. 'And this one right here.' He said with a bit of pride. 'Is from a machete.'
The scar had carved its way from one breast to the other. Rising upward as it along. The wound was so long, deep and rigged. That It looked like he had been bitten by a huge shark. Of course all us kids wanted to touch this one too. Us boys ran our hands and fingers all along the wound. Making sounds that signify our awe and amazement at such an awesome, gruesome
The females on the other hand. Were much more cautious. And less willing to touch any of the deep lacerations. They'd poke at a scar, let out shrieks of fear, then quickly pulled their hand away.
Mr. Wayne was a cool. A regular on our unit. He worked three to eleven shift. So all us kids were used to seeing him every day. He'd place his hand on my shoulder during the times when I was angry inorder to calm me down. 'What's goin on 'big J'? wanna go take a break and talk about it with ya ol buddy wayne?' And when I didn't want to take my medication. The nurse would call Mr. Wayne over and he'd convince me each time that it was it will make me feel better. I looked up to, and appreciated Mr. Wayne.
Once he sat me down and shared the stories of how he got those scars. 'I was wild. And had a real bad temper in those days. It took me nearly getting myself killed twice and a couple of stints in jail before I realized I needed to control myself. Not while I was angry or did somethin stupid. But before those things even came up. That's self control. Can you dig that man?' 'Yeah Mr. Wanye. I can dig it.'
But one day. Our relationship came to a crashing end. Me and a couple of buddies on my unit were goofin off. Horse playn, runnin around when we weren't supposed to. All of a sudden it was time to all of us to go to our rooms for our daily hour of 'Quiet time'. But the games didn't stop.
Mr. Wayne comes in. 'Come on guys lets go go go it's that time.'
We ignored him and continued running and playing around.
Mr. Wayne tried to corral us like cattle. Cutting us off in an attempt to get us running in the direction towards out rooms.
It worked for a couple of kids. He successfully herded them to there rooms nearby. But the three of us were let and weren't willing to give in so easily.
Mr. Wayne tried the same maneuver. But me and my guys were to fast and things changed into a game of keep away.
As I tried to run past Mr. Wayne, I twisted my shoulders so he would be unable to grab me. But he was quicker than I thought. And caught me by the collar of my shirt.
There was a small storage closet in the room we were in. It held stuff like balls, board games and other toys we'd play with during rec..
The storage door was open. When Wayne grabbed me. He threw me to the dack of the closet with both his hands still wrapped around the collar of my shirt.
Not only did he do that. He forced my body into the back of the closet as if he were attempting to push me through it. 'Are you listening to me?' He said in an angry voice. 'Cut the shit and get to your room.'
I didn't speak. He let up the pressure on my collar and allowed me off the wall. I walked out of the closet. Upset and scared. All the play had been literally squeezed out of me. I went to my room.
Once quiet time was over, we all went back to the day room. Wayne (What I called him from then on out), was there. Smiling, he walked up to me and said something that I do not remember. But I do know that it was an attempt to make a miens. I did not acknowledge him. 'He placed his hands on his hips. Still smiling he says, 'Oh your still mad at me?'
From that day forward. I avoided Wayne whenever I could. After a while. He took notice and realized that he had crossed a line that can never be repaired. The talks stopped. He never again came to convince me to take my medication. Now, with out his influence, If I didn't want to take my meds. I hid it in my mouth, spitting it out later. Or just flat out refused to take it at all.
I missed talking with him from time to time. Watched him 'buddy up' with other kids. We all make mistakes. And have character flaws. Wayne's is violent outbursts on children. Mine is holding grudges. For life.
But some relationships I ruined myself. At my elementary school, there was an after school program for 'troubled youth'. Only for boys. I was one of them. While there, I missed out on one of the best role models I could have asked for. Mr. Ross was the counselor there. The only counselor. He was a young white guy in his early to mid twenties. He got along with all of us boys. And he was our guy.
There were only about 5 boys In the program. Boys who had behavioral problems in class and constantly in trouble with teachers. Suspensions, detention, that sort of thing.
Most of us had mental issues as well. Bad tempers, fighting with other students excetera, excetera.
He was a young white guy in his early to mid twenties. He got along with all of us boys. He was our guy.
He took us on trips to the park. And scheduled activities for us like arts and crafts, basketball games, field trips to the arcade. And my favorite. Water gun fights at Panther Creek park. A huge Fish and wildlife reserve in my home town of Kentucky.
We could split up into teams and hunt each other down in military style play.
After each of these activities , he would sit us down in a circle. And gave us each a chance to explain what was going on in our home lives. And gave us encouragement and advice on how to handle are anger and what it took to be a man.
Mr. Ross had a good relationship with all us boys. But Him and I clicked especially. He would take me alone to get ice cream. Or go to the movies on off days. He really took me out of my she. And I felt comfortable around him. And after several months in the program. He even introduced me to his fiance.
That's when things started going downhill for us. I treated his girlfriend like a pariah. Unbeknownst to Mr. Ross, I have always had issues with females. I ignored her when she tried to me conversation, never made eye contact and tried everything to stay away from her.
Mr. Ross pulled me aside and ask me what is wrong. But I was not old enough to express myself in a way that he would understand. To him. I was just being mean and incredibly rude to someone he loved. Which of course did not sit well with him. Particularly after he told her that he had this 'real good kid' that he wanted her to meet. And that she would be impressed by my appreciation and kindness towards others.
Before the end of the get together, he told me, "This is putting a serious train on our relationship."
After that encounter. Things at the program began to change between us. We did not talk as much and the one on one trips stopped. I resented him for putting me in that situation. And he resented me for making him look bad in front of his girl. He did not realize (nor did i). That I had had issues with women all my life at that point. and to this day.
The last straw came on a day the group was scheduled to go to the park. I was playing one-on-one with a buddy of mine from school. The game was almost over. But the group was ready to leave and Ross had been calling for me to "Come on." For several minutes.
Finally I put down the rock and turned to join the rest of the guys. I looked where his car was parked and it was gone. I then turned to see the car pulling out of the school's parking lot. I gave chase. Screaming "Wait! Wait! Wait!" As I ran.
But he did not stop.
He continued down the road and I continued to run after them.
He hit the main road but I did not stop. And neither did he. Faster and faster the car went. So faster and faster I ran.
By this time, I knew Ross knew I was running after them. Because of the kids in my group had turned and looked at me through the back window. I became enraged. The road wasn't crowded. But there I was. Looking like a fool running full speed down the road attempting to catch up with this automobile flying down the road.
I was young then. 12, 13 years old. And one of the fastest kids in school. But even with my speed and youthful enthusiasm, I knew that I would not be able to catch up with a car. A couple of times I got close. There were stop signs that Ross had no choice but to stop for. But before the light hit green again, he would accelerate.
All the while. I would cry out. Screaming "Stop! Stop."
It was then I decided to change tactics. I knew exactly where the park was. So I took short cuts. Through fields. Ran at an angle. But instead of chasing the car. I ran straight for the park that they were headed.
It wasn't that far. But far enough for even a young kid with an abundance of energy and stamina, and most of all determination. Had to slow down and stop from time to time in-order to catch my breath.
I had no plans on what to say or do to Ross once I got there. But the motivation to confront him kept me going more than anything.
Finally. About 20 minutes later, I reached the park.
Sweaty, exhausted, angry, and ready for a confrontation. I looked around. But they were nowhere to be found.
I climbed to the top of a jungle gym. Sat down. And began to cry.
Things were even worse at home. The relationship (or lack thereof) with my mother, stepfather and siblings was strained beyond repair. My complete disregard for authority, as well as my ongoing disciplinary problems at school, only increased As I aged. So again. I was sent away. And again because a ward of the state.
Now that I am older (15, 16, 17), the state of Kentucky began to send me to stricter, more long term institutions. Like Juvenile Hall and work-camps. One of these camps was called the Ramey Estep Home.
Immediately after Id gotten there. I knew that I was in for a long, hard slog.
While speaking to the new administration's staff. He asked me standard questions that all these places did. About 'Where was I before coming here', How many brothers and sisters do I have'. But it was the yes or no questions that left a sinking feeling of dread in my stomach. Whenever I was asked a 'yes', or 'no' questions and said 'yes', or 'no'. Some dick head behind me would say, "Say no sir. Say yes sir. We say yes sir no sir, yes ma'am no ma'am around here."
That wasn't the worst of it.
In my old placements, whenever you did something wrong. The staff pulled you to the side. And explained to you what you did wrong. But here. Staff would not only berate you in front of everyone in your group. But the mistakes we made affected the entire group.
For example. There would be no recreation (what little we had). Extra choirs, and longer group sessions in order to ‘work through’ the problem you had.
Kids were split into groups with different names. Names like C Group, B Group, 3rd Meet, as well as a couple others. But the pride of the camp was 1st. Meet. My group.
While 3rd Meet was known for having rough kids from the hood. 1st. Meet was known being the best at sports, the brightest group. The hardest working group. The lead group. And the most winning-est group.
I say that because the camp held sporting events throughout the year. Pitting the groups against each other in basketball, softball, and triathlon type sporting events. Like relay racing, tug of war, and shot put.
Everyday after school. All the groups would go back to there respective houses, change into work clothes, and hit the fields.
We did everything. Chopping down trees, weed whipping (the worst). Dug canals, and cleared fields. Dug up tree roots. My favorite was not chopping down trees. But the part after cutting the trunks into smaller chunks, we would throw all the debris in a huge hole we had dug months ago. Poured gallons of gasoline in it. Then lit that bitch on fire and watched it burn. These was especially great during the winter time. Cause we always had a place to warm our frozen hands.
Even though all the groups in the camp where out there working. We all worked separately. And were not allowed to talk to anyone that was not part of your group.
But the most important work we did was the things we did within the community. Ashland Kentucky. We would mow all the high-schools massive lawns in the town.
On these projects, it took several groups to pitch in. But on some, only 1 or 2 groups would be there.
Like the times when we'd go to some families huge residence and clear brush, rake leaves, and do whatever else they wanted. We would also go to local businesses and wash their exteriors, like the outside walls and driveways with power sprayers and scrub brushes.
I never found out if this was true or not but I suspected that the camp had some type of contract with these schools and businesses.
In these hash places I found harsh men who had to enforce harsh rules. Not all were father figures of course. But they all expected us boys to exhibit some type of innate idiosyncrasies of a man. And just in case you did not, the male staff would not only express their disdain in your mannerisms, but also informed us on how you should go about changing that.
Every house had their own staff and a house manager who worked with one group in particular and worked with that group every day. That's When I met Mr. Dillian. He was part of our 1st. Meet staff.
Mr. Dillian was a big white dude. He messed around with one of the ladies who worked at the camp. Soon the three of us began hanging out a lot and became a sort of a team. Mr. Dillian the father. The chick the mom. And me the teenager. She worked in a different house. But she always made sure she would ask about me. And Visit me from time to time. The two of them made me feel very special. Almost like I had a family.
It took some time but eventually, Mr. Dillian and I hit it off. He was cool. In a big bro kind of way. Let little infractions slide which other staff wouldn't. And was very proud work with 1st. Meet. Stoking good nature rivalries with staff from other groups.
He would always remind us who was the best. He loved competition. And knew how to encourage, and get the best out of teenage boys. He worked the second shift. So he was out there at work with us everyday. Supervising the projects that the director of the camp wanted done.
The first incident that happened which made me like him was the time the group was heading back to the camp from a job we'd just finished in town.
One of the boys in my group popped in a tape before Mr. Dillian had gotten in the van.
It was the rapper called 'Too Short'. Who was known for rapping about pimps and hoes. Needless to say the entire album was filled with profanity. Sexualized lyrics, and heavy, heavy bass lines.
When he got into the van and started to drive, he turned on the tape player. He listened for a while. And when he reached for the controls on the tape player, I thought for sure that he was gonna turn it off and chastise us for putting in such vulgar music. But instead. He hit the volume knob and turned it up. Way up. I was in the front seat at the time. And when he did that I looked over at him and thought 'This a coo muffuckn whiteboy!' We jammed all the way back to the camp bumpin 'Ain't nothing like pimpin. Just let it roll!' It made me feel like I was back home with the squad riding through the hood.
Another time. One snow filled winters weekend, while Mr. Dillian was on the clock. We were all playing playing video games, listening to music, writing letters home, just chilling.
Until all of a sudden, we hear a loud chant from outside. ‘1st. Meet! 1st. Meet! 1st. Meet!’.
We all jump up from what we were doing. Including Mr. Dillian. Who was the only staff there at the time. It was 3rd. Meet. Standing in OUR yard. In the ankle deep snow, Each with two fist fulls of snowballs.
All of us teens just wanted to run out and confront these jealous, insolent fools, head on, and with no plan. But Mr. Dillian stopped us at the door and said. “You guys gonna run out all at once, out the same door, head on and get destroyed?” So he devised a plan.
“Some of you will have to be sacrificed by coming out of the same door. But that will give your group time to go out the back door. Make their snow balls. Then divide the rest of the team in half, and go around both sides of the house, catching 3rd. Meet on the other side with no snow balls left. From then on. It's all out war.”
It was a great plan. That we worked to perfection. Chasing 3rd. Meer back to wherever the hell they came from. With 1st. Meet cheering as they ran.
A few months in. I found myself going to Mr. Dillian wherever I had a problem or something I needed. Or when someone was pissin me off. In which he'd usually take my side. "Leave me boy alone!" He stayed callin me his boy. During work.He stayed close to me. Watching and teaching me to make sure that I had everything that I was to do down packed. While also breaking my balls whenever the chance he got.
Surprisingly. It is in these difficult places that a young man can find men worth looking up to. Many of these men have families. Quite a few of the staff had served in the military.
Camps and juvi weren't like the group homes and psych places I've been to. There. They'd ask you to do things. Or pulled you to the side after you did something wrong. Then talked to you in private. So the other kids wouldn't be in your business.
Here at the Ramey Home. These guys were like drill sergeants. Everything you said or did was called out in the open by the staff. Not only that. Your actions could affect the rest of the group. We could miss what lil rec. we were aloud. Do extra chores, longer work hours, or worse of all, be put on 'Group stick'.
'Stick' was were everyone in the group could not be more than an arms length apart. Even while working. Or around the house.
But aside from those difficult situations. There were periods of fun. One of those times were the camping trips the facility used to take us on.
Building tents, grilling over an open flame, and swimming gave all of us the chance to bond. Staff and teenagers alike.
It was during these times that Mr. Dillian and I bonded even more.Pretty soon we were taken solo rides with him and I talking to each other in a father son manner. Dropping jewels on me and setting examples. I thought our relationship would never falter. Until out of the blue, Mr. Dillian was transferred to 3rd. Meet.
Each mentors tenor ended after different lengths of times, for one reason or another.. As a juvenile, my time with anyone, a friend or mentor, would usually end abruptly. Being a ward of the state. I had no choice in when I was to leave these group homes. So the father figure relationship cultivated for several months or a year, could end at any time.
And when the end did come, there was nothing either of us could do.
I remember that night before leaving the Ramey Home. After 11 months. At the age of 17, still not knowing how to express myself verbally. Doing the only thing I could think of. Like a child. I jumped into his chest with a bear hug. A tall, 140 pound, 17 year old baby. And exchange goodbyes.
Then were the father figure relationship which i was forced to end myself. One of these instances came after I was taken under the wing by dread.
His real name was Author. But Like many in the black community, a lot of us had nicknames. His came because he was Jamaican. And did have a head full of long dreads.
Dread was a cool laid back Jamaican cat in his early 50s. We met at a homeless shelter here in New York. And like my other relationships with older men. It took some time to get to know him. A couple months or so. I'd see him from time to time. And noticed that he and I were a lot alike. He did not hangout at the shelter all day. Drinking and talking BS all day with the other men who lived there.
Instead. He would stay gone all day. Taking care of business and working his way out of his current circumstances. He did smoke bud tho. But he did so by himself well past the entrance of the facility.
On my own way out. I would see him and we would exchange nods of recognition and appreciating.
I was having issues with my roommate in and after talking to the powers that be was moved to a different room. Low and behold, I was moved into Dreads room.
Things started off quiet for a few days. Saying our goodbyes in the morning and greeting each other when we returned. But once we recognize that our personalities were similar and compatible with one another, we began to open up to one another and spoke often.
We were both quiet, did our own thing, and most importantly, respectful of one another's privacy, and of each other.
Soon after, In the morning times when I saw during his usual routine, even tho I didn't shmoke (which i'm sure pleased him because he would always complain about people asking him for a hit). In the morning times when I saw during his usual routine, I would walk over and talk to him until he was finished. Then we would walk together to the subway.
We would discuss our actions which got us in such a place, our families and before long became very comfortable with one another other. Laughed with one another. And found out that we were both level headed guys that could take a joke and with no hard feelings.
Plus. Dread thought since was older, he knew much more than me. So like any old bird taking a youngin under his wing. Much of the conversations turned to teaching moments, advise, what happened to him in his own life and how not to make the same mistake, and a lot of laughs.
Dread and I got off at different stops on the train. It became a ritual that before we went our own separate ways. We'd exchange pounds. And told each other, 'see you back at 'the spot'. Our code word for the shelter that we lived in.
I found out that Dread was in a band. He played drums for a group which had steady gigs at a live music bars around Harlem. The main one being 'The Paris Blues' on Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd,.
He invited me to his events and I always had a good time.
Thing about Dread. Ge would always ask me for money. It went on like this for months. Usually every 1 or 2 weeks. One day I was at the library when he texted me and asked for more money.
By this time. I had moved out of the shelter. But Dread and I still kept in touch through phone calls, text messages, him coming over to my new place, and and me still attending some of his gigs. And brought me around his friends and family.
That day at the library, made me feel some type of way. I had my own money problems at the time. Rent, bills, metro cards, food. I felt he should have at least considered that.
When I responded to his request, I tried to not let my frustration show. It worked well in the beginning. But at the end of my response I said 'Father figures are supposed to provide for their youngins not the other way around."
Whether Dread was offended by my comment or not. I've never seen nor heard from him again.
As I got older. Now in my late 20's. I began to realize that I was entering a 'post mentor' phase. An age where I was now expected by the younger generation to have answers, or advice about life for them.
Nearly time for me to be a role model or even a father figure to a youngin seekining knowledge. And the older I get, the more pathetic I thought of myself for still being so active in seeking one of my own.
I had learned a lot so far. But I still did not feel prepared to take on such an important role in influencing a young man's life. But I knew one day soon. The same answers that I still seek will be asked to me. Looking to me for guidance. While I was still searching for my own.
I got a job as a laborer at a construction site in Chinatown. This is the time in which I met slaughter. His real name was Anthony. He had earned the nickname the hard way by killing a man. Spending 25 years in prison for incident.
At the time I'd met him he was already in his mid-fifties and had been working at the site for several months before I got there.
For some reason I received a cold welcome from the crew that I was to work with. But slaughter welcomed me with open arms. We have a saying in the hood. 'Real recognize real. That basically meant that those other guys recognized by my demeanor that I had already been through a lot of hard times. That I wasn't the type to kiss ass or suck up to anyone just to feel apart of 'the group'. So for the first few months I stuck to myself, did my work and reciprocated the aloofness that my co-worker projected towards me.
But Slaughter had a lot of respect there. So once him and I started hanging out on the job (and soon after after). They had no choice but to at least acknowledge the fact that if a real OG killer like Slaughter would take me under his wing, Than I must not be so bad to deal with after all. And one by one they began to open up more with me. Simple but important thing. Like saying hello in the morning and goodbye at the end of the day. Gradually the crew began to initiate conversation, and became helpful in showing me the ropes' around the job site.
Because of this change in their attitude towards me. I made it a point to return the favor and warm up to them myself.
I don't remember the first time Slaughter and I spoke. Or the exact time we became so close. But I do recall impressing him with my work ethic, character of (keeping it real). my personality. And my willingness to speak for others when they were wronged by the staff, or anyone else. Even at the risk of my own job.
I do know that our relationship began as a teacher and his pupil. But over several months, evolved into a father and son.
Slaughter made it a point to introduce me to his family. Particularly his daughter and his best friend Joker. He and had ran the streets together back in the early late 60s, early 70s. And like Slaughter, Joker had spent most of his life in prison.
I am always honored and appreciative of individuals trusting me around their loved ones. And it increased the bond and respect that I had for him.
Even when Slaughter got switched to an overnight guard position at the construction site, I would visit him often. I was studying for my GED. So would bring my books and notes and study there while he watched a small color tv he'd brought from home.
In the end. I got into a physical altercation with the security guard who worked the day shift. I lost the fight. And could not let it go. So I waited for a couple of days before retaliating. The dude was big and strong. And I knew from experience that I could not defeat him in a one on one fight. So I decided to blindside him with a punch that was hard enough to stun him long enough for me to at least get some good shots in before he was able to recover and retaliate.
But instead of stunning the guy. The punch ended up knocking him out cold. I actually heard the guy snore.
Of course after that I was immediately fired. Even so, I continued to visit Slaughter during his shift at night. We talked about the fight. "Ya man woke up yet?" I joked. "Na, that nigga still sleep." Slaughter smiled in reply.
After passing my GED. I enrolled at a local Community College full time. Which caused me to see my friend less and less. One day. After not seeing Slaughter for several months. I was walking through Midtown and saw a friend of mine that work at the same company as we did. We sat at an outdoor cafe for a while in-order to catch up.
It was there, over a cup of coffee. My friend told me that Slaughter had passed away.
Many men that I looked up to and taught me the lessons of life, and how to be a man. Have come and gone over these many years. Good men. Men I loved, respected, and still appreciate to this day. But none more so than my last true father figure, Anthony.
Non fiction. Written by - jonathan 'deez nuts' riley