Many of us grow up as part of a typical nuclear family – mom, dad, sister/brother, sparky the dog and mittens the cat. In my case I grew up with not one but two dads. Later in life I gained a third. Today, on Father’s Day, I’d like to honor these three men and share how each one has helped to make me the man, and father, I am today.
Let me start off by saying that none of these men were perfect fathers, husbands or even friends. They are human and fallible just like all of us. And even in their imperfections and through all of their mistakes I will still hold each of them in the highest esteem as long as there is breath and life in me.
First, my Dad, Tom. When I was born my mother was not quite 18 and my dad was not quite 19. This was 1980, and while teen pregnancy wasn’t quite common, we’re not talking about the 1950s either. As I’m sure anyone out there can relate this is not an ideal situation to begin a marriage (yes they got married about 5 months before I was born) becoming a husband and father all at once. Most of us like to space these things out a bit. Fast forward through all the dirt that makes up life and we get to today. My Dad is one of my best friends. I know without a shadow of a doubt that I can go to him with any problem and he will listen without judgement and without prejudice. He’ll offer advice if I ask it, but otherwise he’s always been a true confidant and a true encouragement to me through many a foolish decision I’ve made. Despite whatever has and will happen in life, I’ll never love my dad any less than I do right now.
My stepfather, Frank. He and my mother began dating when I was about 2-ish. Until I was grown he was the dominant male figure in my life. He and I did not always see eye to eye growing up. He was 18 years my mother’s senior, which put a considerable age gap between he and I. I was growing up in a much different time than he did and this led to a lot of….misunderstandings, to put it mildly. Me being a punk teenager didn’t help matters much either. He and my mother separated when I was 16. By this time I was starting to see some of the wisdom in what he was trying to instill in me in my earlier years. From the time I was 16 until he passed away just before my 21st birthday we became very close. I unfortunately realized much too late that he loved me no different than his own son. He did the best he could with what he had and some of my most fond memories in life are of him. I know he’s staring down at me and I hope he’s proud of the man he helped make me today. Hell, he taught me how to pee standing up. Things like that are important.
Lastly, and certainly not least, my Father-in-law, Duane. I honestly can’t say enough good things about him. Obviously it’s thanks to him that I have my wife – duh. But more than that he’s been an amazing friend and spiritual father to me. I can imagine that it must have been difficult to accept his christian daughter dating an avid buddhist, but from the beginning he showed me nothing but love and continues to pour that love into me, my wife and my children. Like my own father, I can go to Duane with anything and he’ll offer the same unbiased and unprejudiced council. Over the last 8 years he’s shaped me in ways I can’t even comprehend yet, but I’m grateful to have him in my life.
Fathers can come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes by choice and sometimes by fate. But however they come into our life we must not take for granted what they have to teach us both through instruction and through example. No father is perfect, none but God, and we shouldn’t expect them to be. But we should love, honor and respect them as long as we’re able. Happy Father’s Day to all the Dad’s out there and all the Dad’s to be.