Tough Love from a Tough Dad

This week’s Story of the Week is one of the rare ¬†stories that is genuinely heartwarming¬†(though we’re sure there are more out there!). As librarians–as with any public service profession–we so often see the sad and traumatic family interactions. It is refreshing to witness powerful and positive relationships like this one. Thank you, “Diane”, for this great story!

I work at a small library in an area of town that tends to house the lower-economic demographic. It is not unusual for things to be stolen from our library on a regular basis–most frequently our DVDs. One day, I was at the reference desk when a man came in with a young, teenage boy. The man looked pretty haggard. He had tattoos everywhere (even a cross between his eyebrows! Ouch!) and lots of piercings. He looked like he’d had a pretty hard life. When he came up to the desk, he set a very tall pile of DVDs in front of me–at least 20 DVDs.

“I found these in my son’s room,” he said. “He didn’t check them out. He stole them.”

I didn’t quite know how to respond, so I (rather stupidly) said, “Oh. Okay. So none of them are checked out?”

“No, ma’am,” he answered. Then he knelt down on the ground so that he was eye to eye with me. His son knelt beside him, looking deeply humiliated and angry.

“Listen,” the man said quietly. “I spent the first ten years of my boy’s life in prison. I screwed up a lot when I was younger, and I’m not proud of the man I was.” He put his arm around his son. “I want so much more for my boy than I had. I want him to be a man of integrity. So I brought him with me today because I wanted him to be accountable for what he’d done. Son, do you have anything to say?”

The boy looked at the floor and mumbled an apology at me.

I thought things would end there, but I was wrong. The dad continued talking.

“I am really proud of my son, ma’am. You need to know that. I love him so much more than anything in the world. He’s a great kid. A really great kid. I just feel bad that I was such a bad example to him. He has made some decisions lately that reflect how much I failed him, and I regret that. But I love him. I want him to be a better man than me.”

He then looked at his son, who had tears in his eyes, and said, “I love you, son. I love you.”

Then, the boy who had looked so tough and stubborn when he’d walked in, put his head on his dad’s shoulder and cried like a child. His dad held him, and wiped away a few of his own tears.

It was the most powerful thing I’ve ever seen. I, too, had teared up and had to fight to keep my voice steady as I thanked them both for their honesty. I told the boy that he was welcome to come back and get a library card when he was ready, and I returned all of the DVDs. They left, and I have never seen either of them again…but I will never forget them.

-“Diane” from Colorado

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