Op-EdOpinionWilliam J. Ford

FORD: This Father Looks Up to His Son

This coronavirus can go straight to hell.

It took away my son’s last field trip with his high school band and their performance in Philadelphia.

No roller coaster rides for a senior field trip to Six Flags in New Jersey.

It denied him the opportunity to sport a nice suit for his senior prom.

COVID-19 negated my son’s chance to exchange his yearbook with classmates and teachers, collecting as many signatures and personal notes as possible to commemorate this last year in high school.

The worst part? No walk across the stage where he could celebrate with his hundreds of other classmates the accomplishment of completing 13 years of grade school.

I became the emotional whack job as I grew more and more frustrated, angry and sad upon realizing that he’d miss out on the annual rites of passage in which all high school seniors normally participate before embarking upon life as adults.

According to a May 21 poll from the American Psychological Association, 63 percent of parents feel stressed by “missing out on major milestones such as weddings and graduation ceremonies.”

The poll, which surveyed slightly more than 3,000 people between April 24 to May 4, highlights about 46 percent of parents who said their stress level “is high” due to COVID-19.

“The negative mental health effects of the coronavirus will be serious and long-lasting,” according to the poll summary at https://bit.ly/2Zu29KN.

But it’s been my 18-year-old son, Jabari Theodore Ford, who remained the steadier one among us.

Even as graduation approached without the hopes of a formal ceremony, he has shown me how to exhibit calmness during a time in the D.C. region when some businesses remain closed, gatherings of 20 or more are prohibited and faith leaders are encouraged to hold services and gatherings outdoors.

Instead of constantly pouting and complaining, he would simply recite a phrase his music teacher, Alphonso Jiles, often said: “Time is money.”

Regardless of my son and our family being unable to celebrate his high school achievements to the fullest, his inner strength to succeed amongst this coronavirus pandemic makes this an early Father’s Day gift.

Since the Maryland Department of Education closed its doors March 16, he’s sold two pairs of tennis shoes, continues to read his nearly 700-page “The Ultimate Sneaker Collection” book and jogs around the neighborhood about twice a week to stay in shape.

While working on an English assignment he called “hard,” he successfully completed a yearlong, online sneakers course through the Fashion Institute of Technology based in New York City.

After a successful shoe sale, Jabari bought Popeyes chicken for the family as the main course for one Sunday dinner.

Yet, he remains a typical teenager playing interactive video games on Xbox regularly with his friends.

Even though his baby sister occasionally gets on his nerves, Jabari showed her how to tie her shoes. Well, that remains a work in progress.

Through hard work and perseverance, he earned admission to the University of North Carolina Greensboro where he will major in business.

He has already jotted down part of his 10-year plan: obtain a bachelor’s degree, receive a MBA, work in the shoe industry to design and market tennis shoes and eventually run his own company.

My only complaint about my son remains his appetite: being able to eat like a blue whale. The boy doesn’t gain any weight, which quite frankly, isn’t fair to this middle-aged man.

But if that’s my only complaint, I gladly accept it.

Jabari has provided me not only an early Father’s Day gift but has inspired me by becoming a man when his future remains uncertain.

For all the fathers who have sons, godsons, or are providing their assistance in raising young men, especially those in the Class of 2020, raise a glass to them and simply say along with me, “That’s my boy!”

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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