Dedan K. Bruner
Updated: Mar 1, 2019
Father of 5
My name is Garfield, I am now 44 years old. I have been a father since the age of 19. Fatherhood has not been easy road, but early in the game I committed to making the most out of every experience. At the age of 24, I joined the US Army. I saw it as a way to provide a better life for my kids. I thought that the army would provide me the skills and tools and financial resources I needed to be a successful parent and a strong role model for my kids. I quickly learned that service in the military comes with its own challenges and I found it difficult to balance fatherhood, work and a marriage. I would love to tell you how I successfully managed it all, but that is not my story. My wife at that time decided to pursue a different path in her life and I found myself a single father fighting for my country while struggling to raise my kids and battling depression. I am Jamaican; we are a proud people who hold firmly to our commitment to family. It was my desire to do what was best for my children that pushed me to seek medical help to get myself back on track, and to give my kids the dad they deserve.
Today, I’m a proud father of 5 -Tyler 24 ,Aliyah 25, Jusiyah 17, Jasper 7 and Jah-kyur 4. Each one is different from the other; every time I think have this fathering thing figured out, life throws are throws me a curve ball. There is no rule book on fatherhood, but real-life experiences will give you all of the opportunities you need. Have your values in place, and be consistent and you’ll be okay. Be strong enough to get up when you have fallen and to fix what you mess up and you’ll be okay.
My oldest son Tyler now 24 has always been a positive kid and have grown into a respectable, well mannered young man. He is an upbeat person and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to his mother who is a great mom for him and a best friend to me. While we are not together, she always shown each of my children unconditional love.
My daughter Aliyah now 25, fills me with pride. Growing up, there were times that we bumped heads, but with unconditional love, consistency, and knowing that she can always depend on her family has always kept us close. She’s feisty but has a loving heart. One of my most cherished moments was at her high school graduation; she thanked me for being a best father ever and for always pushing her to be better.
My 17 year old, Jusiyah loves basketball. I remember one AAU tournament, his team was down by one with 10 seconds left in the game and the other team had the ball. As much as every parent wants their kids team to win, you could tell by the lack of energy in the stands, we all thought the game was over. On the in-bound pass, my son stole the ball and had the presence of mind to call a time out with 6 seconds remaining. I was on cloud 9! I’d coached him for years and I knew that he was ready for anything the moment had in store for him. I saw the coach looking at my son as he drew up the final play, I knew the game was in the bag. When my son got the ball he sprinted down court and made an uncontested shot as the clock ticked to zero. Two seconds later, he realized that he’d run the wrong direction and shot the ball into the other team’s basket. They lost.
I fought my way out of the stands and through the other team’s celebration slowly making my way to my son. I could hear some parents yelling, fans taunting, and as I moved past the coach’s wife, her yell, “WHAT WAS YOUR SON THINKING?” My heart ached for him. I was speechless. I knew I would have to say something to lift him, but I had nothing. When I found him, he was at the end of the bench, with a towel over his head, crying. The coach and members of his team were offering words of support (thinking back on that today, I remember how much I appreciated that). As I approached, they made space for me. I remember saying a quick prayer asking for God to give me the words to let my son know that he would be okay. I said something like, “sometimes you have to lose in order to win. And when you win you can actually lose. If you gain knowledge from a loss then you have gained a victory. If you have not gained knowledge or purpose in a victory then you have failed. That way, every experience in life should be a win.” In retrospect, I don’t think it was anything I said, but my presence and willingness to be there for my son that gave him the support he needed. He left the gym that night with his head up. I remember thinking I may not be so bad at this fathering thing after all.
The next day, his team won the championship behind a strong all-around game by my son. They won the trophy but the lesson he learned was far more valuable. On the drive home, I remember thinking, “he’s going to be alright.”
Simply, be the best father you can be. Take the time to lay a foundation, be consistent, work hard, and never be ashamed to seek help when you need it.. Take the time to get to know your children, then love, accept, and celebrate them for who they are. Luckily for me, my two youngest Jasper and Jah-kyur have awesome older siblings to learn from. I love watching my older kids teach the younger ones our family history, heritage and core values. I never let my children forget that as Jamaicans, hard work, love for family, and the ability to turn obstacles into victory is in their blood.