The week following my ex-wife’s funeral introduced me to a new challenge that I wasn’t quite prepared for, raising a thirteen year old. Harlem’s presence in the home prior to his mother’s untimely death was sporadic, because he was living with her and Jensen on the other side of town. His visits weren’t a choice for him; they were assignments by the court, and because of that he always had an attitude when he arrived every other Friday to stay until Sunday evening.
It was a painful dilemma for me too, because I knew that the only thing I could do, as his father, and an adult, was to be patient and understanding – after all he was only a child in the middle of a tug of war between the two of them and me. It’s hard to reach a child who is being given every material thing he asks for by a trifling mother and a crooked ass boyfriend, but I didn’t let their irresponsible actions sway me from trying to instill in him the morals that my parents had instilled in me.
Any respectable caring parent wants their offspring to have a better chance at life than they and their parents had, and me being the product of ones who wove this moralistic fiber into my mind as they raised me is why I couldn’t submit and go along with Natalie and Jensen’s method of give more and expect less. Some of the most heated discussions and arguments she and I had were about Harlem.
“Natalie, by the time he gets into his teens he will be uncontrollable at the rate things are going,” I’d tell her.
“You’re just too damn old fashioned, Jackson Young!” She’d spout off, using my first and last name as a way of assuring me that she was not pleased with my questioning of her parenting skills.
“There’s nothing old fashioned about wanting our child to be a better man than that fowl ass motherfucker you decided to leave me for and shack up with,” I’d say, reminding her that her that Jensen was no role model.
“Jackson, miss me with all of that outdated bullshit you’re talking. There is nothing wrong with a young boy having the finer things in life; hell, what the fuck can you do for him, huh? Sit him on your knee and tell him about Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, or Malcom X? Well, in case you didn’t get to read the headlines, all of those heroic ‘nee-grows’ are deceased,” she said, during this particular argument.
If I was ever going to hit a woman, it would’ve been right there at that moment. The way she discounted those three Civil Rights pioneers without batting an eye had me wondering if she was on drugs or something. How in the hell could any black person turn their noses up and speak in such a disrespectful way about the African Americans who risked their lives and lost their lives in the battle for equality.
I’m telling you something right now, and I know that this might sound cruel, but with Natalie out of the way, perhaps I can undo the damage that she and Jensen had already done to my son. I knew it was going to take a lot of patience and time to correct Harlem’s thinking, but he was worth every ounce of effort I could muster. There were already too many black men selling drugs, smoking blunts, fathering children that they aren’t taking care of, sitting in correctional institutions by the numbers, and I didn’t want that future for my seed.
No way, not my son.
Being a man has nothing to do with how many women you screwed, or how many professional sport statistics you could rattle off, or how much liquor you ccould consume, no, it has more to do with character and your willingness to be a positive role model for the children you helped bring into this world. Jensen has at least five children by three different women already, children that he buys things for all the time, but none of those purchases included things to elevate their young minds.
I mean, give me a break, why do children need cell phones and video systems that cost hundreds of dollars? What about giving them some time? What about encouraging them to get involved in activities at school and after school that will benefit them in life? What about participating in their educational development, and discussing with them their plans for college and life after school?
Natalie Barnes was a whiz in mathematics at school, and she excelled in just about every subject she took, so I didn’t understand why she felt compelled to forfeit the scholarship she qualified for and skip collage. She always had this sassiness about her in school, and because of that hour glass figure she had, even back then, she was pretty popular with her male classmates, but she never gave them the time of day. She was always about getting to class on time, and studying.
What the fuck happened?
“Daddy,” Harlem said, interrupting my reflective thoughts.
“Yes, son, what is it?” I said, as I hit the mute button on the cable television remote.
“Some of my friends are going to hang out at the mall, and I was wondering if it would be alright if I went?” He asked, looking at me sheepishly, with his hands tucked inside the pockets of a pair of black, sagging jeans he had on.
“Harlem, how many times do I have to ask you to put a belt on and to pull your pants up over the back of your ass, son?” I asked him, flaring my nostrils. I always flared my nostrils whenever I was agitated.
Because he had just lost his mother, I edited what I would normally say to keep the peace for as long as I could. I told myself that these bad behaviors weren’t learned overnight and they weren’t going to be resolved over night, so I was giving him a bit of a grace period before I became the strict disciplinarian that I’d become if necessary. As a parent, you sometimes have to step back a bit and use corrective directives several times before a child got it, but if he continued to disobey me, then he would see the other side of me.
“Damn!” He uttered under his breath.
Okay, he was really testing me, but I remained calm and asked him if I heard him say what I had just heard him say. After asking the question, I rose up from the plush, ivory-colored leather couch, and walked over towards him in a non threatening manner. When I reached him, I crossed my arms, then looked down into his eyes, waiting for a response.
“I said, shoot…that’s all I said,” was his response, and lie was plastered all over his face.
I snickered in a disappointed tone. I remember getting some of the worst whippings from my father and mother for lying and now here I was standing in those same shoes they were standing in. Instead of calling him a liar, I bit my bottom lip lightly to keep from saying what I wanted to say, turned around and walked back over to the couch without saying a word.
When I sat back down onto the couch, I un-muted the television, and started watching the baseball game that was on. He stood there for about a minute before he turned and walked away, disappearing down the hallway walking towards his room. He just didn’t know how bad I wanted to let him go with his friends, but with that attitude he had, he’d be missing several more outings if he didn’t straighten the hell up.
When he slammed the door to his room it startled me, and caused me to jump up from the couch swiftly. If his little spoiled ass didn’t come to the light soon, I was going to do what should have been done long time ago…
WHIP HIS YOUNG ASS!
Instead of giving into my anger, I punched the air and let out a humongous sigh. Looking upward I said in a hushed tone, “Father, please give me the patience and understanding to deal with my son…” I prayed, then added “…and Natalie, I rest assure you, he will be something in this life, you can count on that! Rest in peace, Ms. Barnes (Her maiden name), rest in peace,” I said.
“Jackson, Jensen is at the front door to see, he says that he still wants Harlem to live with him,” My mother said, wiping her hands on the front of the apron she had on.
I had almost forgotten that she was here, and when she said that bastard’s name, I got back up off of the couch and left the den on a mission to make it clear to Jensen Adams that his parental services were no longer required.
By the time I made it to the front door, Harlem had already made it there before me. Jensen had him in a fatherly embrace, but you know something, he wasn’t Harlem’s father, I was. When I got to where they were, I grabbed my son by the hood of his navy blue sweat jacket, and yanked him out of Jensen’s arms.
“Harlem, get your ass back into your damn room, now!” I said, looking back over my shoulder.
“Dad..” he said, but I cut him off.
“Now would be the time for you to not undermine my request, little nigga,” I said, using the N-word out of sheer anger.
Without another peep, he exited and did as he was told.
Jensen stood there with this sheepish grin on his face, shaking his head the same way he did at the funeral when they pulled me off him, but this wasn’t the funeral, and there were no ushers to stop me from getting off into his ass.
“Jackson, whatever it is you got on your mind, I’ve got one reason right here in my inner pocket that says, don’t be a fool,” He said, patting his chest area, where his steel courage was obviously positioned.
I was angry, but I wasn’t a fool.
“Get the fuck outta my fucking house, and stay away from my son you son of a bitch!” I said, snarling like a rabid dog.
“Oh, don’t worry, he’ll come to me, I won’t have to come to him,” he said, tipping his hat, before turning to leave.
The devil has many disciples roaming this earth, and one had just left my house. I knew that he was trying to recruit my son for his own reasons, but that wasn’t going to happen. Before I allowed Jensen to turn my son out, I would kill his ass and go to prison for doing so, but rather than using brute force, I decided to beat the devil at his own game.
My younger brother, Quincy Young, knew the streets very well, and had many connections he associated with. Instead of doing something rash like murdering Jensen, I was going go another route so that my son wouldn’t lose his father too.
“Baby, what is going through your mind?” My mother asked, with a concerned look on her face.
“Mom, please let me handle this,” I told her, giving her a warm hug.
“Jackson, give it to God, son, give it to God…” She said, burying her face into my chest, lovingly.
No, not this time mom, I love God and I love my son too, I said to myself, squeezing her tightly. When faced with this type of adversity, you can go to church on Sunday, but after services let out, you had to deal with the real world on its terms.
I was going to do just that.
Author G. D. Grace reserves all rights and reproduction without written permission is not permitted. If found, legal action will be taken against the person(s) or company(s) that have cut or pasted (Plagiarized) any portion of this written document. Author, G. D. Grace; Published © 2010 October