The Men Of 'Tell Me More' Talk Fatherhood

Looking ahead to Father's Day, Tell Me More producers Brakkton Booker, Luis Clemens, Argin Hutchins and Lee Hill talk about being sons to fathers who were both present and absent. The men also talk about what Father's Day means to them as adults, and why it is bittersweet.

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And as we've just discussed, Father's Day can be a challenging time for men, especially in the minority community. Sometimes dad's there. Very often, he is not. Some of the men in the TELL ME MORE staff think aloud about the joys and difficulties of Father's Day. Argin Hutchins and Luis Clemens are already dads. Lee Hill grew up with his father. Brakkton Booker talks about being without his dad.

BRAKKTON BOOKER: Growing up, Father's Day was merely a blip on the calendar. I have had no contact with my father since I was 11. The last time I laid eyes on him, I was 10. I'm now 28. I often thought of making something for my mother on Father's Day, but never did. She would always remind me, I am no man. I cannot take the place of your father.

LUIS CLEMENS: This is Luis Clemens. I really want to say that Father's Day meant nothing to me growing up, but that would be a straight-out lie. I remember sitting in a second grade classroom and being asked to make a Father's Day card. The problem was I didn't have a father at home. I told my teacher this, and she suggested write a card to an uncle or a grandfather. I didn't have one of those, either. But I remember making that card and bringing it home. I hate that memory.

LEE HILL: This is Lee Hill. Father's Day was complicated because I had a father in the home, and I realized that I was blessed to have that. But I think that sometimes in minority communities, we think that because your father is present, then as a young boy, you're somehow absolved from any hardship. My father grew up on a farm in Louisiana, very poor, one of 13 children. And so when he was fortunate enough to have a family of his own, his concern was providing for his family. And so because he was so concerned and, dare I say, maybe obsessed with doing that, he wasn't always there. Now we have a loving relationship and I appreciate him so much, but that wasn't always the case.

ARGIN HUTCHINS: This is Argin. Father's Day meant a lot to me. As I was growing up, none of my friends had fathers, and so my father helped father them. I didn't understand this at the time because I didn't understand why he felt that he had a need to do this, but I say that it means a lot because now I understand how much love it takes to be a father and to love others.

BOOKER: This is Brakkton again. With each passing Father's Day, I get more and more terrified, actually. And it's a reminder that one day I, too, will become a father. When that time comes, I have no doubt in my mind that I will be a great father, primarily because I will try to do everything that my father did not do for me. But I still worry that not having that father figure on a daily basis in my life will somehow stifle me when I do become a parent. It really scares me.

HILL: This is Lee again. If I'm so fortunate to have children, it'll take lots and lots of prayer.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HILL: Really. And Father's Day, I think about it differently now. I saw what I would want to be. Of course, I want to provide for my family. And then I also know some things that I would do differently. So I have mixed thoughts about it. Sometimes I'm hopeful, other times, it's a challenge.

CLEMENS: This is Luis. Having grown up fatherless, I feel awkward about celebrating or enjoying Father's Day, even though I'm a father now. It doesn't feel right, somehow. I know it sounds corny, but it feels like Father's Day everyday when I come home from work and my oldest daughter runs to the door and screams, Poppy, Poppy. I love that.

HUTCHINS: This is Argin. Well, I just became a father, so all the things that didn't make sense when I was growing up, I'm starting to do, so they are starting to make sense. I thought I'd never say that. But as I said, I didn't understand the love that my father had for other children. But now that I have a child, now I understand what fatherhood is all about. It's about love.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: TELL ME MORE staff members Argin Hutchins, Luis Clemens, Lee Hill and Brakkton Booker.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

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