Why We Need to Pay Attention to Men and Boys

Thank you to http://www.andyshelter.com.

JD Bannister wants attention.

Not just anyone’s attention.

He needs his father to care.

In the opinion of my character, Andrew Bannister, his son has everything. He provides JD with a big house, playroom, and expensive toys and clothes.

Thank you to http://www.xenu.net/archive/books/lampoon/lamp2.htm.

A main character in the manuscript, Sons of the Edisto, JD experiences another kind of desertion.

How is JD and Andrew Bannister’s Relationship Important? 

The story did not begin in 1921, when the book opens.

And, it has never ended.

Parental abandonment is more than the image of a woman or man walking out on a child. JD craves his father’s attention, and so do many children. Even if a parent is there, he or she still might not spend the amount of time his kids crave.

Neglect, walking out—or as I wrote about in my poem Legends of a Father—parental manipulation and alienation on the part of older children are some of the male issues about which I have written in nonfiction, fiction and poetry.

The Bannister family and others in Sons of the Edisto echo anguish: the need for change and relationships between fathers and children.

As a writer, I thought some men’s issues were pushed to the back.

Children come first.

Women deserve equal rights and equal pay.

What about men? Some feel trapped, isolated, and stay in a marriage for their children. Happiness is not an option. When a situation comes to light, they are condemned without understanding.

What about a man who lost his job? He knows how to work, but factories have shut down in his county. He is 45. Does he have the money to attend a community college and learn a new skill? Will someone help him? Is a company willing to risk higher insurance rates to hire such a man?

I realize many people are experiencing the same thing, but I can’t help but wonder have we forgotten the men and boys?

Don’t get me wrong. I write lighter stories, also, but here is what I propose. Send me a story, whether it is an article, short story, poem or a memory about a man who meant something to you personally or in imagination. Send it to my email: btinsleydickinson@gmail.com, and I will check it out. Over the next two weeks, I will share four of those stories as a guest blog.

Maybe more.

By Rebecca T. Dickinson

More about men, boys and the Bannisters:

Child Custody Sparks Debate, Part I

Child Custody Sparks Debate, Part II

The Family Owned

The Boy with no Mother

The Aftermath

Boys at War

Why the Perspective of a Child

© 2006-2012 by R.T. Dickinson. All rights reserved. No part of this blog post or material related to it may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of R.T. Dickinson.

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Write it Honest

Thank you to http://exodusinternational.org.

Take up the pages.

They belong to you.

It does not matter what the subject is.

The matter belongs to you, too.

Since the last week in July, my schedule has been abnormal. I chose to take one month off from writing to take time with the boys, John and Charles, and to train for a new job.

So far, so good.

I have written about some of our travels and cooking. While there is one more to come, I thought about what one month off of writing did for me.

 It is not something I do often. But, the choice made me think.

What can I write about? I have two novels to edit, but there is so much more to sketch and keep in a folder for future ideas.

Write it honest.

For the first time in one month, I wrote. A poem came out. The piece will be added to a current poetry chapbook I’ve stored away.

~*~

Legend of a Father

They could not understand their father.

The grown children did not want to.

What kind of man lets his first wife

play tricks on his daughters?

What sort of man allows

another to step in as dad?

It cost him one daughter

and her two children—

Two grandsons he never expects to see again.

 

“He was not a good father,” the grown children would say.

When the clouds turn gray,

it is easy to see him

as nothing but a man cast in black.

“You can’t make a father

out of a man like that.”

 

The bad father’s daughters chose the paths for their lives.

They picked and sorted from their parents’ lies.

Far away, far away one daughter would stray

to keep herself safe from an unhappy home.

 

What kind of father would leave such a mark—

that his child would choose to run so far?

 

Ten years free, he chose to live as he never did

with bartending, parties, and learning to dance.

Women came. Women went,

except for the one

who stayed around.

 

One wedding ring later and a precious boy,

The father said his son

 was something more

than a boy to carry on his name.

He was his best chance at fatherhood.

 

A second son entered the world

when the father questioned

his second marriage.

He’d fallen out of love

by their fourth year together,

But, the bad father chose to stay in fear

he would lose his sons like he lost his daughters.

 

How easy it is to fill

a child’s head with lies.

How long they stay,

or for life reside.

 

The father stayed in the marriage

so this time he was the man to raise his kids.

No other man would ever step in.

The boys would remember the father he is.

 

Love long dead and sweat to survive

the long twenty years when the father

began to believe he would die alone

after a hoped for divorce when the boys

left for college or another future they chose.

 

Who would eat stale, molding bread?

Those who starve and see the loaf is still food.

The father’s marriages turned stale in early years.

Not made of love, romance, or the things that last.

He needed a few more years to survive,

and he prayed his sons would love him still.

 

 

The father committed the greatest sin.

How could his sons forgive him?

Forgive they would not for they were embarrassed and ashamed.

The bad father once again lived up to his name.

He knocked up a girl.

Age: 24.

Nothing could be as it was before.

 

The father faced a final decision:

To keep his sons’ loyalty,

or leave for an infant son.

 

His one present daughter dismissed the father.

He was rotten and wrong.

Nothing could fix him.

 

On a Father’s Day, he bowed his head and cried.

His older sons sat through a sermon about fathers.

They did not call or text him at all.

No family called the father when his second son

earned his Eagle Scout.

 

Why would they call the bad father of all—

who’d broken enough hearts and did not deserve

his four children’s ears, conversations, or love?

 

Did they blame him for the scars of childhood,

or for the day their grandmother died?

The bad father’s mother could not take the shock.

 

There was an uncle that father loved dear.

A man name George,

So tall and strong.

A woman out marriage gave birth to his son.

His wife said, “If you leave,

you’ll never see

our girl again.”

Uncle George stayed, and saw his son in secret places.

He never called the boy by name.

 

A two-year old giggles and cheers

when his father lifts him high

to see the band playing on the street.

He was the father who washed his onesies, changed his diapers,

and put him to sleep.

 

The father who loves the boy’s mother—

not because she is some  girl—

but a woman with discussions

of classic movies, French Revolution, architecture, and mountains.

But, no one believes such things.

Not when the world is drawn

on the surface in black and white.

 

The father’s fifth child will know nothing of

 older siblings or bad fathers.

The boy will call

the father the best of all.

 



By Rebecca T. Dickinson

Boys at War

Boys went to war.

My great-uncle was one of them. His plane was shot down over the Mediterranean Sea in World War II.

Saint Paul’s  Cathedral lists his name in the American Memorial book in London.

My great uncle’s name in the Saint Paul’s Cathedral American World War II Memorial.


Now women serve, and I thank men and women for their dedication, training, and sacrifice that is beyond our imaginations.

But, I did not think it was fun to be a girl. Not the kind of girl I was.

The girl I was got picked on. When I escaped into the adventures of my imagination, I turned into anything I wanted.

Most of the time, I was a boy somewhere else kicking ass in basketball or war.

In reality, I had two left feet, and the only good hand I had was the one with which I wrote.

A great song and storytelling in the video below reminded me of why I originally wrote my book, Sons of the Edisto.


The video shows the emotion poured into the song. The main singer stands before a Union troop to rally them.

Drums make you feel you are marching right into the center of battle.

“This is it boys. This is war.”

There is that vulnerable moment.

“Oh, Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for.”

In the American Civil War—as shown in FUN’s video—violence exploded on boys’ faces when they killed. Trenches were dug. Cannons shot. Boys became the type of men they never imagined.

What does the face of a boy who takes life for the first time look like? Can you save him?

The song, like one of my favorite shows Hell on Wheels, captures that violence and vulnerability.

You are now reading the words of a woman, who was told by friends and family she would make the perfect mother to a family full of boys.

Right now I have one boy in life.

I have two boys on 370 plus pages.

Despite influence of the strong-minded women in my family, I envisioned a book about two boys going to war literally and in their reality.

That alone—I believe—crosses every generation.

Owen Alston and JD Bannister had to go to war with town politics, their fathers, and each other.

I began in June 2006. In the years since I decided once I finish editing Sons of the Edisto, I will start the sequel.

Alright I confess, I have already started composing some scenes in the spring and early summer for the second book.

I believe in well-written women empowerment novels and stories.

As a writer, I still enjoy writing about boys who cannot help finding mischief.

What wars or turmoil do your characters face?

What carried over from your childhood into your stories?

By Rebecca T. Dickinson

Through the Mountains, Part I: When Hope Rises

Two campers light a fire using a propane backpack cook stove.

Light rain trickles from the sky. Drops touch toes, hiking books, stone, and extinguish fire.

Prior to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, the same men hiked 15 miles up a mountain to an inn. They also carried dinner they wanted the inn cooking staff to prep and serve that night. No luxury accommodations. No food provided except for what they brought.

Just weary feet, raw meat, and picture perfect proof that you hiked to the top of the peak.

The men, like many hikers, went on an adventure for a few days or one. The weekend became more than a short excursion to the Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smokey Mountains.

Do you know the part in the movie when the music plays faster?

The drum sounds like a heartbeat.

The actor is about to make a life-changing decision.

Earlier in the day, the phone blared as John and I drove past Mount Pisgah. He pulled over. Lawn mowers made noise in the background. The woman on the phone offered me a job.

Not just any job, but one I’d hoped for. The idea of a job had become like a fantasy. In the past two years, I have sat through many interviews. I did not receive one primarily because the place of work was one where no one had a child.

As I looked past peaks, a future lay ahead of me; one I had sought through struggle and multiple freelance jobs. I would become a teacher assistant when I returned from vacation.

No one wants to think about work when they are surrounded by mist, and lime, garden, and ever green colors.

At that moment, my husband and I continued through the mountains with hope for what would come.


~*~

 After thought: Where have I been?

If you have noticed my usual bi-weekly posts have gone down to one, do not worry. They will return to two this week. One week of road trippin’ and two weeks of job training have taken away time from writing and reading.

As always, thank you for reading.

Words and Photos by Rebecca T. Dickinson

Coming Back – What Does it Mean to Return Home?

I am back.

Back from road tripping and one week of training for a new job.

I return to the keyboard, as I have many times before, to write.

Ideas came to mind as I drove past peach trees and a restored house constructed either in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century.

 New peach trees grow in an open field—the ones so small they are held in the ground with the assistance of rope or strong string.

Photos from my walking trails.

What does it mean to come back to any place?

Novels are written about the boy or girl who leave town. The character swears he or she will become someone and return only when necessary.

I felt that way about my hometown, so I followed the Dick and Jane story.

You know the one:

Jane goes to college. Jane has one wild year. Friends think Jane is crazy, and Jane swears she will never go home. Jane goes to England. Jane works as a journalist all over North Carolina.

But, the day came when Jane had to make a hard decision. All the simple sentences in the world could not translate that into a children’s learning how to read book.

Two years ago, I was ashamed to come back to my hometown. I thought I lost some sort of battle. It was nothing but a loss of pride. I had yet to realize plenty of time existed for me to become an author and, yes, a teacher.

In 2012, I began to look at my home with new eyes.

The town was no longer the place where classmates teased me because I did not wear clothes the right way or misunderstood the most basic concepts of teenage social life.

My home county became the place where old friends opened their arms wide when college friends slammed the door.

I received an email that announced I would become an author in my home county.

As I wonder down the best walking paths and continue upcoming blogs about the mountains, I remember why I live in that town on the border of the Carolinas.

Photos and Words by Rebecca T. Dickinson

Under Exposed: The South Carolina Upcountry

The twenty-first century fades on the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway. Known for the Gaffney Peachiod, early American history, and the Blue Ridge Mountains and foothills, automobiles drive past landscape seemingly unchanged with exception of the road.

Before you pack up for Orlando or California, consider what you might find on roads less explored. There are foods you’ve never tried, or names and words you never thought went together such as Peachoid. What is the Peachoid?


The Peachoid stands as a statement that South Carolina produces and ships twice as many peaches as Georgia, and it is a starting point on the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway. Photo Courtesy of Gaffney Board of Public Works.

A common misconception is Georgia, the Peach State, grows the most peaches on the East Coast. The fact is the small state of South Carolina grows the most peaches in the United States after California.

Native to South Carolina, I know most tourist attention is given to Charleston and what is called the Lowcountry—anything below Columbia, SC.

What was forgotten, and why did writers and historians important to the Carolinas forget the Upcountry?

According to my former history professor and author Dr. Walter Edgar, the upper half of South Carolina was considered wild and a place where small time farmers lived before 1800. Native Americans—Cherokee, Catawba, and other tribes—also lived in what is now a scenic highway and part of the Blue Ridge Mountains/ foothills region.

History lesson over.

What else makes the Upcountry special?

The natural wonders of mountains, parks, and waterfalls. Or history, food, and character.

A lot of character.

Signs and names of stores caught my attention as my husband and I drove on SC 11. One billboard read, “Stop here. Try Peach Salsa.”

I experiment when I cook. I enjoy cooking apples, bacon, and pepper jack cheese together and stuff the mixture inside a pork chop. But, peach salsa? This is when we need Andrew Zimmern, host of Bizarre Foods.

Would you try peach salsa?

As we drove to Wildcat Branch Falls, we passed a cabin. The name of the store said If Its Junk Antiques.

We drove by produce stands and smaller places in front of houses promising the sweetest and best tasting peaches and melons in the country. But, we had not reached our destination.

Wildcat Branch Falls sits off the side of the road. Stone steps lead to a higher waterfall.

Water poured into a small pool. We took our two-year-old son out, and let him walk into the pond. He cried at first, but a boy who prefers the big pool, got the hang of walking along the sandbar in the water instead of on rocks and sticks.

A woman dug rocks out of the water. At first I assumed she was a geologist. Fifteen minutes later a little girl, and four older boys rushed  down the stone steps. The mother of one or more of the boys handed them rocks.

“Have you skimmed rocks before?” one boy asks another.

“No.”

The boys lightly tossed the rocks so they skimmed the water.

A game once played by Tom Sawyer lives on in a generation where boys and girls’ fingers press video game controllers and iPod tablets. 

There might be something to those Upcountry foothills.

Words and Waterfall Photos By Rebecca T. Dickinson

Where Magic Lives

Legends say magic rises through winter mist; a mist so thick you must hold your hand two inches from your face to see it. The summer feels more like a South Carolina autumn. Humidity stays at the ground level, and river water is cool.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the first roads in the United States made for the sole purpose of a pleasure ride. The road through North Carolina and Virginia was constructed in the Great Depression for travelers who wished to get lost in the mist or dip their feet in the water.

The Parkway was made for those who want to step out of books and discover stories.

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At the rest stop near the Linn Cove Viaduct, my husband, John, and I meet a husband and wife getting out of their 1965 Ford Mustang. I am not sure what to think of the vehicle’s acid green color, but when I look at the owner, his eyes light up. He had bought the Mustang as a teenager. In his early twenties, he sold the automobile.

“He sold it before he met me,” his wife says and laughs.

“Yeah,” he replies.

I think everyone understands what, not who, first stole his heart.

“Luckily, the boy I sold it too kept it in the same [North Carolina] county all these years,” he says. “The car was rotting in the yard. I bought it back.”

In five years, the owner and his brother bought new parts, seats, and material to fix up his Mustang. She rides again on the Parkway.

Since 2009, John and I have escaped or visited the Blue Ridge Parkway and other mountains. We hiked Kings Mountain, and walked parts of the Carolina Thread Trail. Our story goes on like part of the Parkway. Something new is discovered around the next bend in the road.


John and I on the Parkway in September 2009.

Our History of the Blue Ridge

In 2009, I faced challenges in my professional and personal life. I knew what needed to change, but when I wanted to escape John and I returned to the mountains or tracked waterfalls. He introduced me to nature I had never tried to understand. I was always in a hurry to meet a deadline, or get to the next point. When I went away, I visited the beach.

But, much like life, my favorite escape destination changed. When we first hiked to a waterfall, I extended my hand to touch the spray of the water as it trickled over rocks. That September, I put my feet in the water. Toes dug into the sand.

What could replace such simple happiness?

Three Years Later

We pull into a picnic area thirty minutes after Linn Cove. John places our picnic basket on the table. Through tree limbs, I see a boy walk in the river. He wears white rain boots with red, blue and yellow circles. He casts a line. Wait for a pull, he brings it back in and finds a fish has escaped with his bait. The boy puts new bait on the hook. The next time he catches a small fish about the size of the average man’s hand. He throws it back.

Forget flat screen television with live cooking shows. I tune in for the story about a boy trying to catch fish, whether for food or to say, “Hey, I caught a fish.” The boy catches another fish around the time his teenage sister tip toes barefoot in the water and watches.

The perfect breeze. The perfect feeling, and the perfect food. I need nothing else.

From the picnic basket, John pulls out his sandwich favorites: mustard and mayonnaise. I take out my olive oil stored in a tiny bottle from Wal-mart. He cuts up fresh whole and Roma tomatoes. We peel and slice cucumbers. Habanero and soft cheddar cheese, off the wheel, are plated.

As we see other families pull out their boxes of chicken, we put together our sandwiches with our farmers’ market favorites. John puts pepper and salt on his tomatoes, but I prefer mine without extra spice.

We eat in our paradise; the place our hearts never leave.

Roma Tomato and Turkey Sandwich

Whole Wheat Bread

2 slices smoked deli turkey

1 Roma tomato sliced

4 sliced cucumbers

Drizzle of Olive oil.

Place turkey on the bottom piece of bread. Place tomatoes over the turkey. (You may add salt and pepper). Place cucumbers over the tomatoes, and drizzle about 1 teaspoon of olive oil.

Words and Photos By Rebecca T. Dickinson