"There are two sides to every story." Father's Day is no exception.
The gloomy side of this Father's Day story is the number of pathetic fathers who cannot or will not shoulder their responsibility.
Numbers are debatable, but it is evident that far too many fathers get caught up in drugs, felonies and joblessness and move through life aimlessly without goals or plans for moving into the brighter side.
Some twisted thinkers try to portray those fathers who have moved up into wealth or upper middle class as "super dads" who live in exclusive neighborhoods and provide for their children in a lifestyle most of us dream about. But many of these fathers are on the "gloomy" side because they are so busy making money, little time is left to "father."
The brighter side of this story is about two fathers who moved from the "gloomy" side to the "brighter" side, motivated by their own minds not to fall into the pit of despair.
The bartender noticed me standing by the bar in rumpled work clothes. He rushed over to take my "to go" order. When the order came, he checked it out, smiled and told me he threw in a couple extra rolls. After my good tip, he smiled and said, "Enjoy your meal." Surely I didn't have the appearance of a good tipper, but Allen figured it out.
Allen Blanks, bartender/waiter, is intelligent, efficient, friendly, swift and a good hustler. As he hustled for the tip, I thought he knew me, but he didn't.
While I was having a "sit down" lunch, Allen stopped to talk a few minutes. I popped a question. "What is most important in your life?"
Without hesitation, he answered, "God, my wife and my children."
Allen, 35, as a child lived in a household with five sisters and a brother. His mother and father separated during his early childhood. Allen was bounced around from mother to father to relatives.
At 10, his mother became ill, and Allen found himself heading a household with six siblings. His father dutifully paid his child support, but it wasn't enough.
Allen augmented the family income mowing yards, cleaning cars and whatever else came along. He kept the family together. Allen states that they weren't at the end of the poverty line, but they ate a lot of canned ravioli.
Escaping drugs was a hard thing to do. As a teenager, Allen experimented with drugs briefly and was lucky enough not to get hooked.
Moving on toward maturity at 21, Allen applied for a restaurant job. The manager asked what could he do. Allen replied, "Anything."
With a few days' training, Allen found himself a bartender and waiter. Not only was the manager impressed but his customers also thought they were being served by a seasoned bartender.
With a good job at a place that won an award as one of the best places to work, a void still existed in Allen's life. Sports and "hanging out" weren't fulfilling.
At 30, Allen really got hooked - to Vanessa, his present wife. Then came the two girls, Cayen and Kynlee. After enduring his struggle with adversity, Allen's life was complete.
Allen was the perfect candidate to fall into the pit, but he turned it around by making good choices. His family is not only part of his life. His family is his life.
Allen turned down a manager's job with good pay. Spending more time with his children was more important than more money.
A quote from Allen: "Children measure their father's love by the amount of time their fathers spend with them."
n n n
A little fellow idolized his father and tagged along with him learning how to operate lawn mowers and mow yards. James Irving Sr. was tagged with the nickname "Spud." His livelihood was mowing yards, but his love was music.
Irving was quite talented, pretty much a one-man gospel band as he moved from piano to guitar to organ and wound up with drums. He was also his "own" vocalist.
Although separated from his wife, Irving remained a good father and a sincere, religious man. James (Jimmy) Irving Jr. credits his father for leading him to the Lord, and he credits the Lord for leading him through life.
Jimmy Irving Jr. encountered the most difficult period of his life when his father passed at age 51. His mother, Linda, was struggling to survive in a one-bedroom public housing unit. Jimmy was shuffled around from relative to relative and survived by doing any kind of work available.
Jimmy Irving came to me for advice on how to elevate his life from menial tasks with little pay to a stable job with good pay. My advice to him was to avoid the drug culture. Avoid all criminal activity. Be respectful, especially to adults and never be a crowd pleaser. Good things will come to you if you make good choices and are patient.
Jimmy came back. He wanted to rent an apartment from me. I asked, "How are you going to pay for it?"
He replied, "Mr. Humbles, I took your advice and found a job. I'm a security monitor at the halfway house."
I knew Jimmy was careless with money and let him know that his rent was a priority and added that I would put him out if he didn't pay it. He paid me promptly every month he lived there and was a good neighbor.
Jimmy Irving Jr. wasn't satisfied with his job. He wanted to move up, and he did. Jimmy took a temporary job as a refuse collector. He had faith that he would get a permanent job, one that offered security and benefits. Still doing odd jobs, he impressed Robert Coleman, then a city commissioner.
Jimmy nagged Coleman, and Coleman nagged the mayor, then Albert Jones, until Jimmy Irving wound up in the Parks Department.
Something nagged Jimmy. He came to me for advice again. He had borrowed $2,000 from an out-of-town legal loan shark, and the loan had escalated to $6,000. He wanted me to negotiate a settlement, but I had a better idea. An attorney wrote a blistering letter, and Jimmy never heard from them again.
Jimmy Irving didn't want to spend life alone and found himself in love with Nichole, a single mother with two children.
Jimmy didn't want to rent any longer. He wanted to own a house. So he came to me again. We looked at several houses. I pointed out negatives and advised him to wait. Then came the bargain. I thought about buying it, but I also thought about Jimmy. Jimmy needed it more than I did, so I helped him secure a loan.
Jimmy Irving and Nichole became man and wife, and Jimmy became the father of Amarion, 10, and Na-kaiya, 8.
Nichole got a good deal, a good husband and a good father. Jimmy got a good deal, a good wife and on-the-job training, learning how to be a good father. And a good father he is.
When baby boy Jerius arrived, Jimmy was ecstatic. He flagged me down, grinning from ear to ear, to show me his bright-eyed, smiling son.
Jimmy Irving Jr. is a proud and great father. He considers me a surrogate father, but he still charges me for mowing my lawn.
Gladman Humbles, a retired Paducah assistant fire chief, is a frequent contributor to The Paducah Sun.