Friday, January 07, 2011

Since When are Deadbeat Dads Pop Culture Icons?

By now you've all see the story of the homeless guy with the great voice, Ted Williams, as he's been making the rounds on television. But for years we've been told what worthless lowlifes deadbeat fathers are. So why all of a sudden the change in attitude? Don't get me wrong, I'm all for giving people a second or third chance, but let's not overlook the fact the guy is a deadbeat who's left a trail of misery and a broken family. So before we all get all misty-eyed over his shot at redemption, let's send some sympathy toward his ex-wife and kids first.
A viral video vaulted Ted Williams and his golden voice to fame, but the real hero of this story is the woman he left behind.

Patricia Kirtley raised four daughters alone after Williams split 23 years ago and dove down the rabbit hole of drugs.

Not only that, Kirtley took in the baby boy the radioman had with another woman and raised him as her own.

Oh, and by the way, she's partially blind.

"We survived," Kirtley said Thursday in Reynoldsburg, Ohio. "My children are survivors. They know if we get a little bit that God provides, we make it into a lot. I'm a soup maker. I make potato soup and throw in a lot of vegetables and a little meat. We always ate."

Except that Williams, who seems to be a nice guy, just wasn't strong, wasn't around and wasn't contributing financially.

Kirtley had to go on the dole. "I still remember my case number," she says ruefully. She eventually went to school and got licensed as a blind vendor.

"My mother and sisters pitched in and drove me because I can't see to drive," said Kirtley, now 58, over a din of some of her 16 grandchildren playing.

As if that weren't enough, Kirtley said two of her sisters and a cousin each took in a child Williams and his druggie girlfriend couldn't, or wouldn't, care for.

"I didn't want to see those children in no foster home," she said.

Exactly. It's an all-too-familiar story to the strong members of poor communities - usually women. They are the ones who must provide the backbone, as well as the hugs, for children whose parents get hooked on drugs.

Williams called once in a while, and Kirtley would hear that baritone voice she fell in love with at first sound. They stayed friendly, and he might come for Thanksgiving dinner, but otherwise, he would remain AWOL.

Daughter Julia Pullien, 30, said she was 7 when Williams left.

"He wasn't involved," she said. "Our mom was our sole provider. She is a more than phenomenal person. My father is a nice guy, but he fell victim to the streets. We prayed for him and we worried about him, but we became accustomed to the fact that he just wasn't there."
But since someone put him on YouTube, he's now some sort of celebrity. Let's wait and see if Williams can keep himself clean and work a 9 to 5 job for awhile before we start throwing money at him for talking. Sadly, I suspect like a lot of drug addicts his fleeting fame will lead him down the road toward addiction again. I hope I'm wrong, but I've seen this story way too many times before with people close to me. They clean up, stay sober for awhile but again fall victim to the pathologies that led them to the streets in the first place. A local cemetery provides me a reminder all too often.

Good luck to Williams, but let's not forget his victims. Let him make some restitution to them first before we shower accolades upon him just because he was born with a nice voice.

No comments: