West Side Lives

Brian Becker, 63, on fatherhood

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By Michael Romain


Brian Becker may not live on the West Side, but he has a few deep connections to it. Becker — who with his son, Jeff, co-authored "Tender Lions: Building the Vital Relationship Between Father and Son" — said he attends Trinity Galewood Church, 1701 N. Narragansett Ave., "every once in a while" and Becker said a West Side community leader played a pivotal part in his life. 

Back in September, I interviewed Becker about the book and what prompted him and his son to write it.

On his professional background 

For most of my adult career, I have worked in nonprofits — half of my career on the fundraising side and the second half for a grant-making foundation that helped nonprofits get started. So, I had a really deep involvement with trying to solve community problems and helping nonprofits try to solve all sorts of societal issues. 

What prompted the book on fatherhood? 

One day, I had been at my desk reading proposals all day and when you read many stories about the difficulties in urban America, it's pretty depressing. I don't know if it was my intuition or God, but I asked, 'Where are the dads in this picture?' So, I started researching the rick factors of fatherlessness. 

The big part is that 20 years ago, I was one of the destructive dads. I had a job where I traveled too much, I partied too much, made too many bad decisions. I know what's like to look into the eyes of my kids and spouse and know that the reason for their heartbreak was me. 

We eventually made it through, had some hard conversations and counseling. It took a long time, but we put it back together. Fast forward 20 years and my son is 33, my daughter is 35 and married. 

My son was a very good basketball player in high school and college. He's self-employed and he coaches leadership. A number of years ago, we told ourselves that maybe our own story might motivate some other families or dads to take a look at their lives and do something that might improve the relationship between the dad and the son. 

On Rev. James Brooks (pastor of Harmony Community Church in North Lawndale and chief ministry officer of Lawndale Christian Health Center)

My son was about 14, when he became very angry at me and very rightfully so, because of the dishonest things I had done. He was very angry, isolated and afraid. That's a very common thing that happens and no teenage boy can tell boys they're afraid. They have to suck it up. My son ran off the rails, but shortly thereafter discovered that his athletic skills were good, so he started going to gym to work out his frustration. 

I credit James, his coach, for getting in my son's face in a healthy way. Thankfully, my son connected to James and James kept encouraging him and here we are 15 years later and they're still friends. 

Email: michael@austinweeklynews.com Twitter: AustinWeeklyChi

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