h2>Dating : Dads
Father’s Day is this month. It has been twenty-one years since I wished my dad a happy Father’s Day. This year, with no need to search through racks of greeting cards looking for a Father’s Day card, I’ve been reflecting on the dads that have graced my life.
Tonight I watched two of them, heads together trying to fit the pipes back together under the bathroom sink. They don’t know each other very well. Yet. What they have in common is a love for our daughter and our granddaughter.
I hope that this was a bonding experience for them and is the start of a relationship similar to the one my husband had with my father.
I have a lot of funny stories about my dad, Irvin, the absent-minded professor. But the story that is the dearest to me is one that I’ve rarely shared with anyone.
It was my senior year in high school. I was standing in his bedroom working up the courage to tell him that I was pregnant. Teenage pregnancy wasn’t as common then as it is today. I was terrified, mortified, and filled with shame. I don’t remember the exact words that he spoke. I don’t need to because his hug said it all. It was filled with love and compassion. No condemnation, no judgement. Just love.
Years later when he died unexpectedly, it was the first memory of him that I recalled.
I have a memory of another person from this time period. His rage must have been building for weeks, fueled by people in town talking about my pregnancy. One day his anger boiled over and he showed up at my parent’s house to confront his son. He pulled into the driveway, grabbed a tire iron out of the trunk of his car, and came after my (now) husband. My dad stepped in between the two of them. He had one hand on the other end of the tire iron, and one hand on my husband’s chest. Pushing the two of them apart, my dad combated the angry words this man was shouting at his son with, “No, he’s a good kid.”
From this story, it may not appear to be that this man, who became my father-in-law, was a good guy. But he was. I grew to love him and appreciated many things about him.
I have a photo of him taken in England when his division was preparing for the Normandy Invasion. He is sitting with his arms around a black dog. He is bone thin weary; having already survived the invasions of North Africa and Sicily. His eyes have a beaten down, soul sick look in them.
He left England to join in the invasion to liberate France. His heroic actions on the beaches of Normandy earned him the Bronze Star Medal. During the battle he volunteered to leave a position of comparative safety to make the needed repairs to the communication system. The repairs that he made were performed under heavy enemy artillery fire.
From the beaches of Normandy, he fought his way through France and into Germany. His service came to an end in Aachen, Germany after he was wounded for a second time. Like most men, he came home from the war a changed man. Fighting in three invasions, six campaigns and twenty-four major battles would do that to a man. I believe that the war impacted his ability to parent his children in a way that he might have been able to had the war not intervened in his life.
My dad became a second father to my husband. He was someone he could call on for help when the house water pump stopped running, or the car broke down on the side of the road. Someone to show him that it is okay to slow down and enjoy the little things in life. Even a trip to the hardware store could be a fun-filled adventure with my dad. However, the biggest gift that my husband got from him, was something that his parents were unable to give. It was the gift of unconditional love. He never doubted that my dad would love him no matter what.
The young man working on the bathroom plumbing with my husband didn’t grow up with a father. And even though he wasn’t raised with a man in the picture, he is kind, caring and patient with my granddaughter. She needs this in her life. Her biological father is living with mental illness, it is a struggle for him to meet her needs. I am so very grateful that when she looks up into this young man’s eyes she sees a kind and capable heart reflecting back.
Happy Father’s Day to all the men who showed up in our lives. Be they are our biological fathers, or men who have stepped into the role of a father to fill in the gaps with their love and attention.
With Love & Energy by the Pond,
Post Script: A very happy Father’s Day to my two sons and my son-in-law Jake for being amazing dads to my grandchildren. Your kids are very fortunate to have you for their fathers. You are the best.