The Man the Boy the Bastard: A Fatherless Child

By Delbert H. Rhodes

A fatherless child is one filled with loss, one living with hurt, a child ever wondering why Daddy didn’t want me, why did he leave me. Still, the child grows, plays, laughs, and learns, until one day he learns to cry. He cries for an irresponsible Father, an uncaring man, and a man never his Daddy. This child lives to die never feeling his Father’s love.

I am that child.

The follA childs BFFowing is a story not created by me; but for me, because I live. Mine is a story shared surely by many, alas, if you are the weak of heart, or simply care never to know, then this story (as it develops) may not be for you.

My birthplace is in the Northwest coast of Florida, known as the “Panhandle.” My town is a small seaport town, and racially segregated, however, I have never known racial hatred, just discrimination and separation. The people of my town shop together, move about together, but are separate in the neighborhoods, the movie house and schools.

Early in childhood, my Stepfather informs me of the “hanging tree,” and then, one day, takes me to the spot. Near the Courthouse and in the town square, a select location is symbolic of historically hurtful memories.

My Mother is of mixed heritages. Physically, I am (more) my Mother than my male contributor, and yes, I did not write Father. Maternally, and Paternally she shares American and Scotch-Irish ancestry. Additionally, maternally, she is Seminole (Creeks). Further, paternally, her Scotch-Irish Great-Grandparents emigrated Ireland to immigrate the United States. Moreover, also, she is French-Ceole and African, Black.

I am about five years old; and usually my Mother calls me Del: however, whenever summoning me from the window she favors Delbert, stressing the ‘r’. “Delberrrrrt!” I strongly dislike it whenever she yells to me from the window. Later in life anyone calling to me from any distance disturbs me.

My Mother’s family is large. Her paternal family resides throughout the town, and at its center is “Rhodes Ville.” Rhodes Ville is a small compound of houses including a tiny store, owned and operated by my Mother’s paternal Grandfather, Thomas, “Papa Tom,” Rhodes. Robert Allen, an Educator and former Principal of Dunbar High School, and my Mother’s maternal Uncle, built Wallace M. Quinn High School, replacing Dunbar after fire destroyed it.

My Mother’s maternal family resides nearby, and on the opposite side of town. At the midline, is the most important family member of all, my mother’s Aunt Katie. She is the backbone, the storm’s rage and the sea’s calm. Aunt Katie’s word is final.

My first house of memory, is a tiny three-roomed structure, referred to as a “shotgun,” house. If one fired a shotgun from one end, the unimpeded projectiles travel straight through to the opposite end. The bathroom sits on the backporch. There I learn the finer details of littleboydum. Across the street is Holy Family Catholic School; and representatively a dynamic resource in my personal, academic and religious development. In the house next door lives a family whose oldest son, Lewis, becomes my first (human) friend.

My family is small, as tiny as the house; comprising my Mother, Stepfather, and one younger Sister. Later, another (baby) Sister arrives. Unfortunately, the baby’s stay is brief. Before leaving the house to play, always, I stop by her crib. I enjoy playing with her, she loves smiling, and I love seeing it.

I never play with my other Sister. Actually: Before she was placed at the foot of my bed, one night, I never knew of her. Sometimes we share the small rubber pool, relaxing in the refreshing cool water, but nothing else. My Mother says that my Sister never enjoys outdoors, preferring to  remain indoors, and seated in her little chair. The baby appeals to me, and I favor her, she is similar to my Mother.

One day her crib and my baby Sister are missing, and I could not find them. When asked of the baby’s whereabouts, my Mother’s response confuses me. Somehow, I realize that my baby Sister and I would play no longer. Saddened and feeling alone: I begin my day.

Sorry, I failed to mention another family member, my dog, “Blackie.” She is a beautiful black Lab, and my first friend. I love her very much. Before meeting Lewis, Blackie and I are inseparable. She lives beneath the back porch of the house, there she mothers her pups, and there is where we meet, each day. Always, she welcomes me with a smile and cheerful eyes. Her eyes are deeply dark. They are black moons glowing beneath the porch, brilliantly crystalline in sunshine. Often we play in the yard, and sometimes sneak off property, to learn more about the neighborhood. Surely, my dog is well acquainted with the surroundings; but yours truly is not.

The yard is home to me.

Blankets of beautiful light brown almost white sand cover every yard. Sunlit for long periods,  the sands are hot, making them uncomfortable to bare feet. Yes, often, I walk and play without shoes, after-all, I am a child. My yard is large, and I make it my (little) boy business to become well acquainted.

Later in childhood, I realize the sand to have three different layers. Below are rust brown, black, and silver. The silver layer, by far, is my favorite. Rubbing it between my fingers, or, toes it feels smooth, silky. Also, and even at midday, the lower layers are cooler.

To the rear of every yard are the Alleys. These connect two separate and adjacent Avenues. Naturally, I did not know it, but the Alleys are fire lanes. Should fires occur, emergency crews have quick access to residences. Additionally, the lanes permit easy collections of stored garbage. During my childhood, and brief stay in Florida, I never witness a burning house, or building; however, and to my great displeasure, I do witness a small bush fire. I deny responsibility for the act and inform my Mother of the guilty person, yet she accuses and spanks me. The misfortunate events do not linger in my mind, other interests easily replace unwanted memories.

My favorite area to play is along a sidewall of my house. This side faces Lewis’s house, and during the earlier part of the day, is sunnier. The opposite side hosts a fence, separating my house from the house of an unfamiliar neighbor. Later, and because of this neighbor, once again, I am to feel sorrow. After the rains, water dripping from the roof creates tiny holes beneath the overhang. Here I engage exploration.

The shiny rocks peering up at me mesmerize my little boy eyes. Excited, I move along the column, from hole to hole. Stooping closely: eagerly, I probe and dig with my fingers. Moving the sand, the tiny rocks, each its own color, shape, and size beam up at me.

I love the sand it provides me a home where even my shadows feel welcomed. Daily, making my way through an unfamiliar chasm, the sand delightfully fills, teases my curiosities. The sun moves to a higher place in the sky and as though applying parental guidance my shadows call to me.

Yes, the boy searching, probing, investigating and thrilling from the mysteries of wonderment, soon learns a new lesson. He becomes disappointed by a newly found hole in his world. Within this hole he quickly and joylessly realizes that he is never to be the same; that he is ever to suffer mentally and emotionally from a hurt following closely, a pain (always) waiting and watching. He is never to out live an everlasting joy permitted others, and not him.

Mine is a tiny world.

During my childhood, I play, laugh and even love. The world around me blossoms as it avails opportunities of further exploration. Together: Blackie and I walk through a neighborhood that although strange, soon becomes our playground. Quickly, I learn that the neighbors and my Mother are friends, and then Lewis and I begin bonding. Somewhere in my mind’s eye, in my heart, I also know, I also feel something that I cannot explain.

Throughout my life, this thing harangues me; it bends my shoulders, wrinkles my pillow, slows my pace; and then as if not enough, it arguably disrupts my conversations. The thing formulates my dreams, and distract as I must, as I do, still the demon haunts, and chills and taunts and grins; it thirsts, and then appallingly lusts for a most cherished part of me, my thinking.

Thinking offers me solitude, it avails a light inside a darkened tunnel, it is the knight advancing with outstretched lance deflecting every foe. Yet this hole, this chasm, this labyrinth, this hurtful thing chokes my screaming soul.

Aging cast me into school and the 1st grade. At six years old living becomes more complex.

I sit in a classroom of many children, and before us, a Nun, Sister Mary Louise Richardson, instructs our young minds. Previous to entering the halls of Academia: I soon realize other family members. On the near corner is (my Cousin) Joe’s family, my Aunt Katie and Uncle David.

Life has its woes and mine forever haunt me.

Although school never poses reasons for sadness, and by 2nd grade, I have extra-curricular activities to cherish, I remain haunted by this thing that I cannot visualize. School is fun, learning intrigues me; and I learn competitiveness and the feelings of accomplishment, yet, never quite shake the weight from my shoulders.

Boys (sometimes) flourish from preoccupation, enjoying the fulfillment and distractions of play, ignoring feelings; better dealing with the world as they know it, although the world (too) is strange. Playing in my yard, and Blackie content beneath the back porch, many times, I walk in a stooped posture. For reasons unclear to me I never want to grow (up). These feelings are powerful, they are emotional needles deeply penetrating me. Repeatedly while stooping in stride, I chant, “I don’t want to grow-up.” My feelings call out to me; however, effectively, the boy is unable to hear them: alas, as I age and mature their echoes resound, clearly.

In childhood: I neither remember my Father’s voice, the touch of his hand, nor anything of him connecting me, as a son. Life for me is my Mother, the day and play, learning, and then my Cousins on the near corner. School and Church quickly become important. I love learning. I love service as an Altar Boy. I anticipate the next day. Children cannot anticipate life delivering hurt, a hurt forever holding them. 

A man resides inside my house; I know that he is not my Father. This man I never call Daddy, but by his first name. I cannot remember a Dad, and never ask about him. I am a child happily fulfilled by-play. The following years permit me images of a man; my eyes framed by curiosity and questions, and even though I look at him, I see only a shadow.

Copyright © 2011-2017 Delbert H. Rhodes

8 thoughts on “The Man the Boy the Bastard: A Fatherless Child

    1. Hi, Joe. I know, man; but to complete this tale I must feel it flowing through me. I have attempted two or three times, since the first section, but the words fail to come as they should. I ache to complete “Bastard,” however, it must flow with the passion and intent and hurt as did the first write. Actually, and believe it or not, I began to feel somewhat sorrowful about the first section. That is, writing it.

      Though the story of my experiences is quite real and meaningful, I began to worry that (and maybe) I should have left the underlying theme, the abandonment, in my mind. I am an “honest” writer and feel and believe it to be important to convey my thoughts and feelings with sincerity. Still, I am human and suffer the ghosts of perception and sorrow. The end does not (always) justify the means. In other words, how do I profit from the tale of a lost father, life is what it is, and does anyone truly care.

      Hang in there, “Little Brother,” the tale is soon to be completed, one way or another.

      Love you, man


  1. Delbert, this is a POWERFUL story. . .you are a true Rhodes scholar. Your story is similar to Tyler Perry’s, but I don’t think he had a dog to be his friend. I too spent my early years underneath the porch. Until I was three years old, I didn’t speak to another soul except for my cat.

    I am white and female and grew up outside St. Louis. Still, our stories are painfully similar. The male who fathered me was in the house every day, but he was as absent as the male person who fathered you. I’m not sure which path is more cruel ~ they both are ~ male people who don’t have the courage and strength of character to be real men.

    Please write part two.

    May God bless,
    Anne Caroline


    1. Hi Anne Caroline, your message is ironic. After retiring I realized an error; I had sent a message to Ms. Marlow, but without acknowledging you. I encountered your message while beginning to send one to you.

      Thank you for the praise. I enjoy writing stories, and have been for more than ten years; though it’s been more than forty years since my first poem.

      Yes, in childhood many of my days were spent beneath the backporch. Though in the third house the cooler space was shared with a viper. For reasons unknown to me (now) the snake never harmed me. Often while I sat on the porch, the snake would crawl into the yard. I never feared snakes, but then children sometimes are innocent of dangers; possibly this innocence is what saved me.

      The Man the Boy the Bastard has been in the making for a long while; though part-2 is yet to be written, it would be and soon. Life without a father is difficult; especially for boys. The latter years require close male contact and instruction at home. Though Mom does all she can she cannot be a Dad. Surely this you know. Yes, some men are without responsibility and seemingly live careless and carefree of the children they have sired. Today I have no children, but love them.

      Anne you are female white and grew-up outside St. Louis, yet your experiences are similar to mine; that says it all. Children/people suffer similar hurts, and no matter the walk of life the pain feels the same.

      By the way: I think your hair is lovely! Tell me about St. Louis.

      Anne Caroline, I disbelieve that people meet purely by coincidence, there is reason: I hope our meeting would grow and develop into a wonderful friendship…even if it is remote.

      Be Well.


  2. Part-2: Great! I have yet to write it, permitting the “juices” to mingle and then flow. This story has been long in the waiting and finally is demanding attention. (As) you well know, we (writers) are subject to intuition and MUST heed the creative call. The theme notwithstanding, the tale must be told.

    Hang in there, buddy, the thing is manifesting, into what…(well) why don’t we wait and see.

    Surely, I would be as surprised as you, by the results.

    (A) Good day to you man


  3. I look forward to reading part 2. Um. I’m not sure if I should recommend this or not, but in the end I guess it’s your decision to make – check out “Daddy” on my page. It’s in the Deimon section, so it’s entirely fictional. It’s also… well. It’s not a particularly “nice” read, as such. I don’t know. Like I said, it’s your decision.

    You also answer the question in my previous comment here, too =P

    Take care man.


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