Stanback’s ‘letters’ hopes to strengthen father-son bonds

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

ROCKINGHAM — Bruce Stanback has been around young people for much of his adult life. Over the years, the 57-year-old has seen the impact of fathers in the lives of their sons.

And when the father isn’t in the picture, he’s seen the impact of that, too.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Bruce Stanback, retired juvenile court counselor supervisor and former 20-year member of the Richmond County Board of Education, has published a therapeutic book entitled, "Dear Dad: Letters to a Father."

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Bruce Stanback, retired juvenile court counselor supervisor and former 20-year member of the Richmond County Board of Education, has published a therapeutic book entitled, “Dear Dad: Letters to a Father.”

The Rockingham native has published a compilation of letters written by men he’s mentored and counseled over the years in hopes that young people will consider their position in the lives of their children. Entitled “Dear Dad: Letters to a Father,” the book is a series of letters from men ages 21 to 56 across the state who have had varying degrees of success being raised by their fathers.

The book has been five years in the making, Stanback said from his Rockingham Middle School office, where he continues to work with at-risk youth on a part-time basis after retiring as a juvenile court counselor supervisor. The timing, he said, was in part because some men who agreed to write letters found “it was more difficult than they thought it would be.”

By the end of 2013, Stanback said he reached out for one last round of submissions and ended up with 21 letters. Some used their full name, some remained anonymous — writer’s choice, Stanback said.

Stanback said many wrote about their lack of a relationship with their fathers, but they “didn’t express a lot of anger.” Instead, the main emotion was disappointment with, perhaps, a little regret and a sense of wonder of what they think could have been had their father been a part of their lives.”

Of the 21 letters, one stands apart, Stanback said. Beginning on page 19, MRG ends his letter by asking if his father wants to meet his grandchildren. It was a big step towards — if not reconciliation, should the letter never be delivered, then peace and closure.

“I don’t think his father had much to do with his life at all,” Stanback said of MRG.

MRG asks his father a series of questions:

* Do I ever cross your mind?
* Do you or did you even … think about how I did as a child without you in my life?
* Ever wonder how I made out in Little League?

MRG writes about playing youth football and getting knocked to the ground, his pride wounded.

“Nobody told him he was supposed to get up,” Stanback said.

Writes MRG, “I quit because I got hit (and) there was no one there to encourage me. Yeah, that was a lesson I wish you had taught me, (that) just because it doesn’t feel good doesn’t mean I should quit.

Stanback is a realist. These letters might not help every writer reunite with his father, but it could aid the next generation from causing the same problems. He knows all too well how children act differently without a father in the picture.

“I see it here at school,” Stanback said.

He continues to try to keep young men and woman accountable.

“I’m the biggest snitch there is,” he said if seeing a student’s mother or father out while grocery shopping or at dinner. “It’s just natural for me to say, let me tell you about your child” — good or bad.

Life goes on. MRG writes that, at 37, “I am better but not as good as I can be. … So I am not upset with you. Matter of fact, I thank you. Because as much as (you) failed at being a good man and father, it drove me to want to be better; so here I am, your son, doing better than most people would have ever imagined.”

Stanback said he’s receive no small amount of feedback since the book became available in July. Some men who didn’t submit their letters wished they had, Stanback said. Female readers have suggested he write something about a parent’s obligation to a daughter.

The books are available through the web for $12.95 or at special events such as Seaboard Festival this weekend. A portion of the proceeds will help fund the Bruce Stanback Scholarship Fund at Livingstone College in Salisbury.

 

Filed in: Announcements, Arts & Entertainment, Education, Featured News, Latest Headlines, News, Rockingham

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