What defines being a man?
Well, I've always thought that being a man requires a strong sense of family.
Not only your parents, brothers, sisters, etc., but the family that you, yourself, create. Your kids, your relationship with your wife, and so on.
I suppose I took for granted that all mothers and fathers stayed together because mine did.
So I considered being a man was to be the foundation of the household. The rock upon which your wife and children stood upon.
When I was 8 years old, I was carelessly firing a catapult with my best friend round the back of my home, which at the time was a pub called ‘The Hope Inn'.
There, however, wasn't that much "hope" in the financial stilts of the business until my mother and father took it on. They actually put "hope" back into those stilts by not only introducing a bar menu much more exciting than the previous owners, but by also introducing fancy dress parties and interesting theme nights. And being a child watching sneakily from the stairwell that ran up to our living quarters (way past my bed time), I found it endlessly fascinating.
Anyway, not to stray to far from my point, on the day of my hap-hazard sling-shotting, I happened to fire a pebble into our neighbors garden, striking my neighbor's wife on the leg. In turn, her husband ran to where we were, informed my of my wrongdoing, and slapped me across the face.
It was strange being struck by a man. My parents never hit me, you see, so it was a great shock.
And I immediately wept.
My sister Jan witnessed this, and proceeded to yell at the man claiming it was unnecessary. My father was out playing snooker at the time, however, when he returned, he wasted no time in paying our neighbor a little visit.
My father, I might add, was an intimidating presence in comparison to our neighbor. And the neighbor knew this, which explained why he locked himself in his house, petrified.
My father wasn't a hothead, but he did yell up to the window that if his son was ever struck in the face again that he would kill him.
Days went by. Then I was given wind that the neighbor apologized greatly for his over reaction. In turn, apologizing to me.
But even at the young age of eight, I realized that being a man was to protect your family, not to be a hothead until pushed, for examples have to be set for your children.
My father was a wonderful role model for a child who never became inquisitive about being a man until years went by.
I only wish he was still around, for I am still learning the value of being an adult in a world where deceptions are around every corner we turn.
Gareth John Harkness