Your presence is a present

Published 11:46 am Tuesday, December 10, 2013

By CHRIS GEORGE/Guest Columnist

Ten years ago, my family celebrated Christmas in the hospital after hearing my Nanny had terminal liver cancer.

A couple of weeks later, she was allowed to go home, where she raised me, and we were able to watch her go to Heaven. My Nanny was there for me and she stayed as long as she could, but she couldn’t stay forever.

A month after I lost her, my wife and I found out we were going to have our first child. The torch was passed on to me now.

Up until that point in my life, I resented my father because he wasn’t there for me. I don’t recall a birthday or school play where my father was there. I don’t even have any pictures of us from my childhood.

When I held my first son for the first time, I asked myself, “How could anyone not want to be there for someone so small and defenseless?”

It was that day that I realized my father had taught me the greatest lesson in life. His absence was the best present my father could give. I knew then how important it was for me to be there.

I was lucky that I had positive influences in my life that kept me in line. If not for my three uncles, a volunteer Big Brother and neighbors that reported everything back to Nanny when she got home from work, I would become a statistic.

Fatherless children, especially boys, are much more likely to have substance abuse problems or eventually go to prison. There are nearly 30,000 males in the custody of the Alabama Department of Corrections. If I were to interview all 30,000, I believe most of them would say they did not have a father in the picture.

The time we have with our children is precious and the years are few. I was fortunate enough to eventually understand that my parents couldn’t be there for whatever reason and that has taught me to be present.

When one of my boys calls for me asks where I am, I don’t reply with my location such as, “I’m downstairs”, I simply tell them, “I’m here.” It is important for children to know you are there. Spoil them with your love and discipline them with your love.

For the past 10 years I’ve had increasingly more contact with my dad and it teaches me that everything happens for a reason. His presence in my life now reinforces the importance of being there for my boys.

Capt. Chris George is a commander with the Criminal Investigations Division of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. He can be reached at