About the Author Marc Pittman is the owner of a construction firm in Shreveport, LA where he lives with his wife Annette and his son Chase, a freshman football player at the University of Texas. He dedicates much of his time to speaking locally and nationally about his relationship with his sons. Mark Wangrin is a senior write at the San Antonio Express-News covering Texas sports. His work has appeared in Sports Illustrated, the New York Times, and many other publications. Read more Excerpt. ? Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. My Son, My Son, My Son Nineteen months after we married, on January 26, 1980, I fulfilled what I thought I was brought in this world to do. Actually, Judy did the hard part, enduring eighteen hours of labor without any painkillers to bear our ten-pound, eight-ounce son, but at the time I felt the credit was all mine. I held my boy in my hands in the labor and delivery room at Natchitoches Parish Hospital and said, ?My son, my son, my son,? a song of awe and reverence. I thought those were the most profound words anybody had ever uttered. I still feel that way, although I know now millions of people had uttered them before me, and a few million more since.My brother Edward had already named his son Edward Pittman III so I was unable to honor my father that way, but I knew another man whose name was well worth carrying. When I was nineteen I played in some area basketball leagues. Through those games I met a young man who was basketball coach at Glenbrook Christian Academy. Jerry Brandon, whom everyone called ?The Blond Bomber,? was a tall, lean former player only a year or two removed from Louisiana Tech. One time when we played his team, he was late getting to the gym. We were up by what seemed like forty points before he arrived. But when he walked in, the team responded to him, played harder and wound up beating us. He had an uncanny knack of relating to the kids, knowing how to push their buttons. They simply idolized him. I did too. I was so insecure and so taken by his ability to be such a tremendous father figure that I decided then and there that when I had a boy I would name him after Jerry Brandon. When our first son was born I talked it over with Judy, and we decided to name him Brandon Cole Pittman. A few years after Cole was born, I heard Jerry had been killed in a one-car accident near Minden. Jerry left behind a three-year-old son and a wife who was seven months pregnant. He would have been a fantastic father, I?m sure. He, not I, was the kind of man I wanted my son to be like. I set my sights on providing for my family, just as my daddy had done. That meant a roof over their heads, food on the table and, when events required, a whipping for my boy. The price for that meant working long hours, though unlike my daddy I was making good money. I didn?t need to work so much, at least not in a monetary sense. For the next year-and-a-half I worked eighteen hours a day at my job as a millwright and precious little at being a father. Work was my excuse for not spending time with my son. I left the loving to his mother, who had plenty of love to spare. I?d smile at him and pat him on his little blond head. Love him? Yeah, I loved him like my daddy had loved me. Just like my daddy had loved me. When I looked at Cole, as we called him, I didn?t see a little boy wanting a father to show him love and affection, like I had secretly wanted my daddy to show me. Cole wanted that, of course, just as all little boys do, but what I saw was a pain I didn?t want to revisit. The less time I could spend with him the better, because I knew the more I was around him the closer I?d get. I was scared, deathly scared, that I?d lose him. Sure as I?d get close to the boy, he?d die just like my daddy did. Even with the money we were making, Judy and I hit hard times. We overreached and built a nice house, but interest rates soared from 10.5 to over 20 percent, and we were in a bind. We couldn?t sell the house, but couldn?t afford to keep it. We lost everything. My financial bottom line wasn?t the only one that showed a net loss. Self-esteem was still a problem, and I still reacted to those insecurities by not taking any guff from anyone. If I couldn?t feel good about myself emotionally or spiritually through interactions with other people, I?d at least get the physical satisfaction of beating them up. When Cole was a toddler, I was still helping build that paper mill in Campti, Louisiana. Like at any other work site, there was a rivalry between the construction crew and the mill crew. Each side had its designated tough guy. I was the construction crew?s hooking bull. Whenever a challenge came up, I was expected to settle it. Some mill worker would say something, one of my construction buddies would take offense, and the next thing you knew we?d be hunched over a table, arm-wrestling for an eight-hundred-dollar, winner-take-all pot. One day I was headed into work when I stopped for coffee at a little restaurant near the mill that was a favorite hangout of the workers, the Little Chief CafT. Some of the mill crew and their tough guy, a black fellow who ran the supply room where the construction workers signed out magnetic drills, saws, whatever equipment we needed, were sitting around. I starting razzing him about something, I can?t even remember what. It was something we had done hundreds of times before, and I thought this time was no different. But the man was hurting inside, racked by family problems. His marriage was falling apart, and when I verbally pushed him, he did more than push back. ?If you come outside,? he said, his voice cracking, ?I?ll kill you.? He went outside and headed for his truck. I wasn?t going to back down. I followed him out. The guy pulled a .38-caliber revolver out from under the driver?s seat. Tears welled in his eyes, and his hands were shaking as he pointed it at my head. I?d been in that situation before. First you get an adrenaline rush, the feeling that you just may be fixing to die. Then you feel like you?re going to wet your pants, but that feeling quickly passes. You don?t want to die like that, showing fear. You want to die like a man. ?You have three choices,? I said sternly. ?You can shoot me. You can drive off. Or I?ll have to take it away from you.?Sobbing, he lowered the gun, tossed it back in his truck and drove off. I stood there, feeling foolish and lucky and mortal. I realized I didn?t want to die like a man just yet. I didn?t want to die, period. I thought of my son, how he depended on me. I thought of what my father meant to me and what a father means to a boy. A few days later, I was at home when I looked up to see my eighteen-month-old boy toddling around a corner. Cole was a dressed in a tiny taupe jogging suit with green stripes down the side, a huge guileless smile on his face, and all his innocence and needs and wants registered at once. My son, my son, my son sounded pretty hollow to me right then. I have to be a daddy to this boy, I thought. In my heart I knew I already had the secret to being a good daddy. All the repressed feelings and hopes I had about what I wanted my daddy to say to me, how I wanted a hug or nod or kind word, just came bubbling up. I would be the kind of daddy I always wanted to have. It didn?t take long to realize that the epiphany was the easy part.For nearly all my life, I was secure in an underlying belief that fate would have me father two sons. For almost as long, I had steeled myself against the prospect of having any kind of close relationship with them. Changing my thought process, thinking of their needs and wants instead of mine, would take work. I was used to hard work, but this job would also take time and patience. It may have been the hardest thing I?ve ever done. I wanted to be the kind of father I had wanted to have. I had wanted a father who would show me and tell me he loved me. I had wanted a father I could talk to. I had wanted a father who would discipline me when I needed it, build me up when I was low and reel me in if I went too far. Now I just had to figure out how to make myself into that father. I quit my job and convinced Judy that if we moved back to Minden everything would be okay. We were still struggling financially, trying to pay for a house we had started building and weren?t even able to live in. Fortunately, Judy was able to land a job as director of nursing at a Winnfield nursing home, which included the use of a house. We struck a deal with the mortgage holder of the house we?d bought near Natchitoches that we?d pay them off when we were able to sell. They agreed, and we moved to Minden. Cole became my shadow. I took him everywhere, except when I was on my new job as foreman of a construction crew. If I went hunting, he rode on my back. If I was working around the house, he was right there beside me.Working. When he was two years old, I taught him how to stand up in the driver?s seat of our Jeep, strapped a seat belt around him and taught him to hold the wheel steady as we pulled a big float wagon. He?d drive it through the field as I loaded hay on the wagon, daring him to run over a bale.At first it was the work that bonded us, just as it did my daddy and me. My daddy had never told me he loved me and certainly had never kissed me. My relationship with Cole was starting out the same way, and I assumed that was pretty much the way it was between fathers and sons. We had what at the time seemed to be the perfect basis for a relationship. I needed somebody to help me around the house. He was always right there underneath my feet. So I just used him. Worked him like a slave.I could tell he enjoyed being around me, and I loved the time we spent together. When his friends and cousins were around, instead of playing with them he would rather stay with me, even if I was cutting firewood or plowing. No matter what I was doing, he?d rather stay with me than play with his friends. Watching him made me reflect on how I had felt about getting my daddy?s approval. So I began to pat him on the head and hug his neck. More and more I began to kiss him and tell him how proud I was of him. Those were the things I had wanted my dad to do so badly. The more I patted his head, hugged his neck, kissed his lips, the more he wanted to do things for me and show me he loved me. I was hooked. ?2004. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Raising Cole: Developing Life's Greatest Relationship, Embracing Life's Greatest Tragedy: A Father's Story by Marc Pittman with Mark Wangrin. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442. Read more
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