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Fatherhood: Reflections on my Own Experience

Let me be clear: I have failed as a father. In fact, I have failed twice as a father. Some would label me a two-time loser. I wouldn't argue.

The only measure I have for true, or relatively successful, fatherhood is that of my own father, Charley C. Croomes, Sr.

Born to sharecropping parents in rural Oklahoma, my dad never really knew his own dad and I suppose that is what drove him to attempt to be a dad to his own children. He would, often like a parrot, say, in his thunderous voice, "Boy, if you gonna do something halfway, don't do it all!"

Halfway. Incomplete.

Two adjectives that accurately describe who I have been to two young men who have stubbornly referred to me as "dad", one at his own urging, based off his experience, or non-experience, with me, the other via the ruse of his mother.

Fatherhood's checklist is endless.

What began as a journey in idealism culminated in hard knocks. I have learned lessons, tough lessons. I have learned that you can't go back and repair the damage of fathering or the lack thereof. You can try, but at most you will only apply a band-aid to a gulping wound. And that wound stays with you for eternity; for it will always be visible in the heart of the wounded.

I failed in fatherhood because I did not offer my boys a "roof", a community, from which they could divine wisdom, perspective and ideas about who they are and who they are becoming.

I failed because I did not hold them close to my bosom. The tragedy is the hole left in their soul and the emptiness I feel as I pen this essay.

In many ways, I have always identified with the father in Luke's parable. The father, in my estimation, was prodigal, just as much as the son. That is if I am to abide by the definition of prodigal: "a man or boy who has left his family in order to do something and has now returned home feeling sorry for what he has done".

It's not that the father never left "home", but rather what he did when his son left the abode, and what I strive to do, indeed, to become, in spite of my furtive glances into the rear-view mirror of my experience with fatherhood: leave the porch light on.

Heal. Hope. Restore.

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