When I was a little boy, my Dad told me that my very first words was “Daddy you bad”. When I was little, he and my mom split up. When he left, I kept everything he ever gave me in a shoe box. We moved around from place to place, and I’d always take that shoe box with me.
When I hit the age of 14 it was so bad living with my mom, that I had called my Dad to come get me and he did. All of the things that I heard about my dad when I was a kid, didn’t even seem true when I came to live with him. I didn’t see this terrible gang banging, running the streets type of guy. I saw someone else.
Dad enrolled me in school, but didn’t know that I had been held back by two grades. My dad fought for me hard and he didn’t quit until they tested me and put me in the right grade. That year, he encouraged me to play football. I didn’t think I would be good, but I was. I started as a Defensive Tackle and that year we went undefeated for the first time in over 20 years. It was a great experience.
When football season was over with, Dad offered me a chance to join his writing workshop. After attending Writing for the Soul Workshop™ for only a couple of months, my reading level increased by two grades. Writing about what I wanted to and getting the mentoring I did made me a better reader. The program did that for a lot of us. Signing my first autograph in 2011 in a real bookstore was crazy amazing. None my friends and I thought that it would really happen when we submitted our stories, but it did. We made money when we sold our books and I knew in my heart that what my Dad had created was really special. What I didn’t know back then was all the pain my dad carried around from offering the program. All of the guilt he carried around from his divorce.
Last year when I turned 18, my Dad took me out to eat. During our meal, he asked me, “Tyler, how many people in your life knows all of your secrets? How many people know everything about you?” After thinking about it, I said, “No one.” I was waiting for him to judge me or hit me with a lecture, but he didn’t. He said, “Son, I have men in my life that know all of my secrets. All of my triumphs and all of my failures. Secrets can keep a man sick. I been thinking. I want you to be one of the men in my life that knows all of my secrets. I want you to be one of the men that I can tell anything. All I ask is that what I share with you stays with you.” I was blown away and honored that he chose me for this. I promised him that he could trust me. Then he showed me what trust really looked like. I had never seen a grown man make himself so vulnerable. Especially a man as big and strong as my dad. As I listened to some of the things he shared with me, I cried at the dinner table. I didn’t care who saw.
I never thought about all of the kids that shared stories in the program of abuse, neglect, rape, incest, cutting, murder and bullying just to name a few. I never realized that someone had to listen to those stories, and help those writers to find healing, forgiveness, peace and sometimes a safe place to live or food to eat. Kids like me got to get what’s on the inside out, but it was my Dad that carried their pain around. That night, I saw a part of my Dad that not many people get to see. I saw all of him.
From time to time, Dad would pull me aside to talk about what he was going through. For some reason I asked, “Dad, how do you deal with it all?” He told me that he writes a lot and that talking to men like me helped a lot. He went on to tell me that smoking marijuana was his biggest pain reliever. He confessed to me that when he went outside in the evenings that he would smoke pot to have an appetite for dinner and to sleep at night. But mostly to help him hide all of the feelings of the guilt and shame of having to raise us in a broken home so that he could function with me, my brother and sisters after work. The divorce damaged him.
Dad knows that if I am to take command of TGIM as its new General Manager, that there can be no secrets. He knew my first post would be rigorously honest, just like the foundation that Writing for the Soul Workshop™ stands on. When Dad vetted me for a seat on the Board and the position of General Manager, he told me that I was the kind of man that he wished he was and that Operations deserved someone better to command it. I know he’s done some wrong in the past and I’ll never judge him for it. I forgive him and hope that someday he will forgive himself.
When I look at the legacy he’s created and how it’s impacted so many lives, I still can’t believe that the Board of Trustees chose me as his Successor. Everyone that ever told him that he would never amount to anything …all lied. His life will continue to impact and make the world a better place for millennia to come. I will make sure it.
My Favorite Testimonial From Dad’s Legacy:
You’ve been there to help me spread my wings and further my talent. You’re like the dad that I’ll never have. I wish I knew you before this but I guess that’s dumb luck. You’ve helped me with trusting those who really care. I really appreciate what you do because you give us everything and expect the same from us. I honestly wish I wasn’t leaving and that your weren’t leaving because I love you as a friend, dad and a brother. Man dude I wish You and your kids the best of luck because in my eyes you’re a real, true, humble and honest man, and that’s what I like about you. You better never give up on doing this with everyone else.