3:38am

Fri June 14, 2013
StoryCorps

A Second Chance For A Father And Foster Son

Originally published on Fri June 14, 2013 8:50 am

In 2004, Horace Atwater Jr. took in Adrian Hawkins as a foster child. Adrian was a teenager at the time, "this little, skinny kid, about 14," Horace recalls. "You didn't really have any clothes. You had mismatched socks."

Adrian had lived a difficult life as a child. He lived in several group and foster homes before moving in with Horace. "I remember times being hungry, seeing drugs and all kinds of stuff," Adrian tells Horace at StoryCorps in Atlanta. "I mean, some things had to happen for me to be in foster care."

When Adrian asks why Horace, now 61, would "care so much for a stranger," it's clear that Adrian didn't just find a home with Horace; the two found a home in each other. As Adrian describes it, Horace "had it good one time," but then his life took a turn.

"I had a personal experience where I lost everything — a wife, two fine sons — because of drug addiction and anger," Horace explains. "I didn't experience my own sons growing up. I would only see them on visitation periods, but when my wife remarried, she married a man that embraced my sons as though they were his own.

"He has been an excellent father to them," Horace continues. "And I am so grateful that he embraced them the way he did. I'm also grateful for the opportunity that I had to embrace you. So, that's the least that I owe — the least I could do," Horace says.

His foster dad may have made mistakes in his past, Adrian says, "but you're the most influential person in my life," he tells him. "I'm just glad that I met you."

Horace is proud of how well his one-time foster son is doing today. Adrian, now 22, hopes to become a pharmacist. "You know, it makes me look like I'm smart, but you're the one who's smart," Horace laughs. "God, for you to become the man that you are I am so proud of that."

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Jasmyn Belcher.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Time now for StoryCorps, the project capturing the stories of everyday people. On this Father's Day weekend, we'll hear from a foster dad. In 2004, Horace Atwater Jr. took in Adrian Hawkins, who was a teenager at the time. Here, Horace remembers when they first met.

HORACE ATWATER JR.: You were this little, skinny kid, about 14. (Laughing) You didn't really have any clothes. You had mismatched socks.

ADRIAN HAWKINS: I remember times being hungry, seeing drugs and all kinds of stuff. I mean, some things had to happen for me to be in foster care, but I'm glad I'm with you.

ATWATER: Thank you. I'm glad you're with me, too.

HAWKINS: Why do care so much for a stranger?

ATWATER: I had a personal experience where I lost everything - a wife, two fine sons - because of drug addiction and anger. I didn't experience my own sons growing up. I would only see them on visitation periods. But when my wife remarried, she married a man that embraced my sons as though they were his own.

He has been an excellent father to them. And I am so grateful that he embraced them the way he did. I'm also grateful for the opportunity that I had to embrace you. So that's the least that I owe, the least I could do.

HAWKINS: I mean, you know, you had it good at one time, and I know you messed it up, but you're the most influential person in my life. Like, I'm just glad that I met you.

ATWATER: I am so glad that you came into my life, and you're doing so well. You know, it makes me look like I'm smart, but you're the one who's smart.

(LAUGHTER)

ATWATER: God, for you to become the man that you are - I am so proud of that.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: Horace Atwater Jr. with his foster son, Adrian Hawkins, at StoryCorps in Atlanta, Ga. Adrian is now a senior in college, studying biology. He still talks to Horace every day. Their interview will be archived at the Library of Congress. Get the podcast at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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