For the past two years each June, I have explored the challenges of fatherhood in contemporary times. I return for the third year to report on Dr. Thomas Martinez and his son, Chantz. It’s been a rough year, especially for Tom.
Some talk about their desires to see their children leave the nest, and the sooner the better. Not so with Tom or me.
Chantz graduated from Piqua High School in 2015, and Tom was comfortable with the knowledge that his son would be attending Edison State Community College, tuition free as Tom teaches there; playing on the college baseball team, which Tom coached; and majoring in criminal justice with a minor in business.
Son Chantz, however, had other plans, plans he didn’t share with his father until the day before he headed west to Kansas. Tom says, “I was angry at first. He hadn’t discussed it with me. He left, and I didn’t think he had a plan. I realized very quickly how quiet my house was, and I couldn’t stay busy enough. I worked hard recruiting out-of-state baseball players, and I kept trying to convince Chantz to come back in the fall.
“It wasn’t until August after I started teaching my classes that he called to talk further. I was relieved that he hadn’t joined the military and to learn that he had a direction.”
Chantz indicates that he was interested in criminal justice but had no passion for it, so he decided to pack up and head out with no intention of going to school – and no specific goals other than to move in with his mother, his sister and a nephew. His first job in Kansas was in retail and he remodeled a bathroom to make extra money. Then the Kansas family went to Las Vegas on vacation where his mother took a managerial job, and Chantz started looking at schools. He reports, “As much as I loved baseball, I have always wanted to be a chef.”
He was accepted into the culinary arts program at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Las Vegas and got a job washing dishes and doing food prep at Siena Bistro Restaurant at Siena Golf Club.
He has a perfect academic record at the school except for a grade of B in a speech class, and he says proudly, “I’m good at creating sauces. Food sparks my passion, my creativity, my inventiveness.”
When he lived with his father, Chantz indicates that they generally got along well, and any conflicts revolved around who was going to be the more dominant one.
After Chantz’s departure, Tom’s life, however, didn’t go well: “ Through circumstances beyond my control, I lost my baseball team. It was then I realized that I had nothing to do besides go to work. I got really depressed and started gaining a lot of weight. Got up to 280 pounds.”
Although Tom was proud of the decision his son had made, he was still upset about how he left and felt that without his son, “I had no purpose.”
By the end of January of 2016, Tom realized that he had to change. He started eating better and lost 40 pounds and still has 20 to go. He started going to a gym regularly and is doing more with friends.
It pains him, however, to acknowledge that for the first time in 15 years, since his son was three years old, Chantz won’t be in the dugout or playing when he coaches his Greenville, Ohio, American Legion Post 140 baseball team this summer.
Tom indicates that after a year, “Some days it really hurts, but my son will always be my best friend.”
Chantz will be coming to Ohio to visit this summer, and Tom is proud that Chantz paid for half of his airline ticket. Father and son talk frequently. With a smile Tom says, “Chantz calls me for cooking advice, but soon I’ll be calling him.”
In terms of cooking, the plan is to have a cook-off with judges this summer when Chantz visits his father, Chantz says, ”I’m a better cook, but he’s better on the grill.”
Chantz’s advice to sons is the following: “Don’t push your parents too far. They love you, support you, and want what’s best for you. You don’t have to do exactly as they say. If, however, they say, “Take out the trash,” then take out the trash. If it’s about a career, that’s your decision.”
Vivian Blevins is a consultant for the Training Solutions Group Inc. who teaches courses in writing and literature for major telecom company employees. Reach her at (937) 778-3815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.