He sits at the table waiting for the meal to start, the heavy beard he now sports hiding any expression on his face. He has been a part of the community for many years so we have had many opportunities to observe him. Though no definitive cause was given to us, the death of his son recently made a mark on the whole downtown community as well as on the man now facing me as I worked.
When I spoke with this father, I empathised with him when he declared that his son was now in a better place, because he always believed that he would be. Both their lives on earth were a constant challenge and battle with drugs and the entrapment of the street life. Now the father faces it alone.
I met the son before I ever knew the father. Our daughter had befriended both the son and his girlfriend at the time that our daughter was working at the kitchen ten to twelve years ago. A few years later the girlfriend died and the son entered the harder drug scene. From a gentle mild mannered young man to a combative user of drugs, whose mind by now had been altered because of the use, still always (from what we could observe), had a close relationship with his father, and at the end they bunked together. The son was just over thirty.
Although I don’t know their complete history, I know that the son lived as he had observed the life of his father, along with his own adaptations. In no way do I lay the death of his son on the father, but the fact remains that somewhere in his growing up he early on made the choice not to work or be responsible for his actions. So the street scene was all he ever knew.
Recently we heard of another young man who died. His life was marred by severe depression which also led to drug use. Although his father had many years ago battled with drugs and alcohol, he did a total turn around and has become a pillar in the battle for the lives of all the folks on the street, not just his son. I cannot imagine the grief and turmoil the father and family is now facing; my heart goes out to them.
Again, I cannot lay the blame on the father for his son’s choice of lifestyle, but the fact remains that a father has a definite influence on his son. I have seen that influence in my own son. Although he has made different choices for work and lifestyle than I did, the influence is there regardless. I admire many of the choices he has made.
Everywhere I go and everyone I meet shows me that a father’s influence has a distinctive effect on the son. Most are good and strong influences, while others are a little less so. In each case, the son makes a choice for a lifestyle that often reflects the father.
So it stands to reason that if there were negatives in a father’s lifestyle that the son may have observed, that the son’s choices will also reflect that aspect. It is almost like looking in a mirror at times.
Although it is a daunting prospect as a father that not just my words but also my actions may influence my son’s choices, we have the advice and wisdom of many fathers who were before us to help us in our own choices if only we learn to accept them.
No father should ever lose a son; I can’t think of a more agonizing event in a man’s life. If nothing else, it should galvanize every father to watch how he influences his son.
Chris Salomons is the kitchen co-ordinator at Potters Hands.