The Momentary Dad

12 08 2018

I’ve spoken in the past about being raised by a single mom and the problems and Rock _nobstacles both of us had to overcome. It’s never been easy for any unwed mother, but back in the 50s a woman could be stereotyped and black-marked by society harshly and often ostracized by their own family. Fortunately for Ma and myself there were ones of our kinfolk that loved us enough to help as they could, and of course one type of help was to give advice. The thought was that if mom didn’t find someone to marry, the authorities would step in and take me away from her, so they encouraged her to find someone quick as possible. Enter Arlen, my just-for-a-moment, stepdad.

I don’t remember a lot about old Arlen, but I liked him. He was always nice to me and would take me lots of places while Ma was at work. My favorite was this old “restaurant” that smelled funny but where folks always seemed happy and music blared from the jukebox constantly. My favorite part was I could eat all the peanuts and drink as much ginger ale as I wanted. (I’m having a Canada Dry right now in his honor.) But at night when we returned to the apartment and Ma would get home from work, I’d be rushed to bed so they could have a little talk. A loud talk!! I couldn’t hear all that was said from my room as I laid still in the dark and stared at the light that shown under the door. The talk would go from loud angry words to fever pitch screaming, then breaking of things and at times Ma crying. In her haste to take the advice of some she married this seemingly kind, gentle and happy individual, only to find out later he suffered from substance abuse addition. In those moments a different man would appear; one that was angry, hateful and abusive. This Jekyll and Hyde lifestyle with Arlen went on for some time until one night Ma came in my room, wrapped me in the blanket from the bed and rushed us out of the apartment into a waiting taxicab that took us across town to my Great Aunt Pearl. I was taken to bed, but the next morning is one I’ll never forget. The two of them were sitting at the kitchen table and Ma had a large black and blue mark that encircled one of her eyes. The sight sent me instantly into hard crying, but Ma was there to pick me up, hold me close to her and say, “it’s going to be alright.” That was the last I would see of Stepdad Arlen for many years; Ma never married again and as time passed I had to wonder how this man who was so nice to me could be such a monster to my mother. I also pondered, was Ma so broken after that short time she could never trust another man again?

Rick Warren wrote; “God has a purpose behind every problem. He uses circumstances to develop our character. In fact, he depends more on circumstances to make us like Jesus than he depends on our reading the Bible.”

Ma was no Bible scholar, in fact she could barely read. But she knew the One she trusted would be there for her. Even though for a short moment in time her life was living hell, she recognized it didn’t have to be that way forever. Thus, she put a forth a life dedicated to caring for the one man/child she loved more than anyone, to teach him the right ways to live. She might not have used the most orthodox approach in raising me to honor my life by honoring God. Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”

Ma might have been happy to have a helpmate in her life, but the little woman from West Virginia, with little education and a sever hearing handicap was strong enough, with the help of her Lord and Savior to be content in her life role. She took great pride on how her son turned out. It was years before I realized what her faith and sacrifice did in shaping the direction for this “Traveler of the Rock Road,” and I feel like the luckiest man in the world to have a Ma like I did.

It was some ten years later I was riding my bike and as I crossed the bridge in my hometown I noticed this very old gent sitting against the outside wall of a local tavern. As I started to pass him you can imagine my surprise when he called out in a gravelly voice, “Johnny!” Breaking to a stop I looked back at him not having the foggiest who he was. “You don’t know me, do you?” I shook my no and then he asked, “How’s your mother?” Arlen. It had been ten years since my young eyes had seen him but he looked every bit thirty years older. He started to say something else, but I cut him off with, “She’s fine,” and I peddled for all I was worth to get away from him. At that moment even though he looked like he couldn’t get off the ground, I was scared of him and I hated him for what he did. In the fifty years since that day, I’ve thought of Arlen periodically, for I’ve seen all too many just like him. Substance abuse has clouded their minds where they don’t realize the damage they do to others as well as themselves. All I can say is God can help you bust out of that death trap if you’ll truly let Him. And if you’re not interested in what I or someone else can show you of the power of God in restoring a life, then for goodness sake get help somewhere before it’s too late. Friend, whether you want to believe this nor not, you’ve been made too special to do this to yourself. Okay I’m done.

See ya next time!


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One response

14 08 2018
Beverly Crane

Thank you for sharing your childhood memories. Once again it touches home. I do hope in sharing this someone out there will take your advise John. You’re a wise and very blessed man. See ya next time!

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