I Met a Man

More often I seem to be asked where my good qualities come from. I've never known how to respond, and honestly it's probably been because I didn't believe I really had them.

Certain life events caused me to doubt myself. I mean, how good could I really be to have co-created three children I could not love more than I do, fallen in love with two others (step-daughters), yet after two failed marriages, go to bed and wake up without any of them?

"It must be me. It must be me. I don't deserve to have them."

This all changed by certain positive events that began happening at the beginning of 2007, and culminated with my recent trip to Illinois (see "Renaissance Man"). And because of this I have changed how I see myself. I am, exactly as I am, and it's pretty darn good.

So how did I get this way? It's because I met a man....

I met a man who fathered and loved four children of his own, took on two foster children, got laid off from his factory job more than once, and even became a garbage man to take care of his family.

I met a man who called me one night, asking if he should take on a two-year old who was being beaten by his alcoholic mother. The state had nowhere to place him, and knew he already had two foster children that he and his wife were caring for and loving as their own.

Being in business school and being trained to be a "realist", I responded with a flat out and very confident "NO!" I told him he was already getting into Heaven and he had no more to give. He would bury himself and his family if he took this burden on. He said "OK", and we said goodbye.

He took the two-year-old into his home anyway.

I raced to his home and came in without knocking. I was angry. I was upset. This was a good man, but he was being a fool. As I called out for him a little kid I didn't recognize came toward me and bashed his head against my thigh. I looked down at the top of his dirty-blond head of hair and pushed him away. "This must be the kid. And he's screwed up to boot", I thought.

I looked down and realized he had left snot on my pants. "Arggggghh." Now I'm really upset as the man I came to tell off came into the room, with a peaceful and happy look on his face.

"I see you met Jamie", he said.

"Yes, I have. And his runny nose. Why did you do this?" I glared at him incredulously.

The man looked back into my glare, and said softly, "Because we have more than he does", his eyes suddenly becoming wet.

"Loving man, but a very, very stupid man", I screamed in my head as I walked away before saying it out loud.

Knowing I didn't like this "new addition" to their family, this man and his wife asked me to stay with "Jamie" while they went to work. I very reluctantly agreed, dropping onto the couch, still angry, still confused as to why this man did the exact opposite of what I had advised.

"He's not as smart as I am. That's why. He didn't even go to college. He can't even spell and never reads. I don't like this man very much anymore. He is very little and he will always have very little because he gives what little he has away to 'people who have less'. What a fool! I hope I never become like him."

As I was sitting there lost in these thoughts, "Jamie" had climbed up beside me and was staring at me, accepting me completely even though I had yet to say one word to him. He pointed at some books on the coffee table.

"I'm not reading to you kid. I have plenty of my own reading to do from school. You think I'm going to waste my time reading to you? I'm sorry your mom beats on you. I really am. But you're taking this man and his entire family down. Don't you get it? I can't believe no one else was willing to take you. The agency knows this man is a sucker. They probably didn't even call anyone else."

I said this all in my head, while just looking at this kid and being disgusted by his still runny nose.

He pointed again, and began trying to grab one of the books and give it to me. I pushed it away. But he persisted until it was finally too much, and I broke my silence as I reached past the children's books and picked up the thick Sears Catalog.

"Fine! You want me to read to you? I'll read to you. Ooohhh. Look at the yellow dress. And Wow! Would you just look at this spectacular lawn mower. Holy cow! I don't think I've ever seen a pair of more boring-looking plain black men's dress shoes."

"This will teach him", I thought. I didn't know why I was mocking him, but I was. I turned my head expecting to see his little devastated face, realizing that he didn't deserve to be here. That he didn't deserve to be putting such a financial and emotional strain on this man and his family.

But as I looked over and down, I saw a smile. I saw eyes bright with wonder. I saw concentration and excitement on his face.

"Oh my God! This kid has never been read to. He has no idea this isn't a children's book. He's totally happy just being given attention."

I couldn't continue "reading". I could no longer speak, the lump that had formed in my throat hurt so bad I couldn't even swallow. I fought hard to fight back the tears.

"Because we have more than he does", sounded in my head.

"Because we have more than he does", the words drifted down to my heart, allowing me to really hear them for the first time, allowing me to really understand everything that they meant.....

"Because we have more than he does", made me turn away from Jamie, my father's words making me realize I'm not even half the man he is, and now unable to stop the tears from coming down my face.

"My father IS a MAN. My father is teaching me what it means to be a REAL man. I can only hope to be the man he is, but I will spend the rest of my life trying. I hope I can become the man he is."

I put down the Sears Catalog and picked up a children's book. I don't know what it was. I don't know what it said. All I know is I put my arm around Jamie and pulled him close, and read past my tears and in my best story-telling voice, which was now full of loving emotion. I read to him like a man.

This is for you Dad. And if you ever find yourself wondering how I became what I am, go look in the mirror and say:

"My son met a man."

I hope I make you proud.

*And yes Ryan, I cried as I wrote this. I cried because my father taught me to be a real man, and as you said, "Real men shed tears"(see "Memories Made on Friday").

Copyright © 2007 by Adam Stuart
All Rights Reserved


Anonymous said...

this story made me cry

Anonymous said...

This is the best honor we can give our parents, to become what they want us to be, which is good, kind, decent human beings, capable of opening our hearts and giving to our children and to whom ever needs it the best in us, to make a difference in the lives we touch.

Yes Adam, you are your father's son and I'm sure he must be so proud of who you are, the man you've become and who you are yet to be.


Anonymous said...

Adam, you cried when you wrote this, I cried when I read it...you touched my soul, thank you. I wish there were more fathers with kids like you and your dad, keep speaking your heart and touching souls.....