It’s Father’s Day. I can’t say I’ve ever had much experience with it. My biological father never saw me. My adopted dad disappeared from my life six months after my mom passed away. My former step dad, who helped raise me from age 7 until I was 21, was a nice guy but not much of a dad. When he and my mom broke up, I never saw him again.
Now, a story opening like that might give you the impression that I’m bitter or that, gee, maybe I don’t like men. But that wouldn’t be true. I genuinely like men.
It’s just that the meaning of the word father always kind of eluded me.
I grew up being friends with adored girls who talked about “Daddy this, Daddy that.” I also grew up with girls whose fathers belted them or sexually abused them. I got the impression fathers were either angels or demons. And some could be both.
So when I started dating, my head was really a bit screwed up about men. All I really knew was that men leave. So I left my very first boyfriend before he could leave me. And except for a few interludes where I let my guard down long enough to get hurt, I continued to leave. I would unconsciously find ways to test their intentions, to push hard enough to see if they would leave. Some did. Some liked the game.
And so it’s Father’s Day. A day that has only been meaningful for me only in the absence of real fathering.
I used to wish for my real father to come and find me. Not a peep. I thought about looking him up a few years ago, just to stop by and say hey. My mother didn’t try to stop me but she told me that I’d probably be disappointed. She knew what a dreamer I could be. She showed me a picture of him. I tried to see how I was like him but he was as strange to me as any stranger.
So I gave up on fathers. Never thought much about them.
Until I had a daughter.
And my daughter has a Dad. And he isn’t an angel and he isn’t a demon. He’s a good man and a good father. He loves his daughter but not selfishly. He protects his daughter but not obsessively. He would give her the world but he knows she needs to find her own destiny.
For years I half-waited for this good man to leave. I wasn’t obsessive or possessive but it was there like a shadow in the back of my mind. Old habits and all that.
But he stayed, and he still stays. He talks about getting old with me.
It’s could be hard to trust that — I’m almost afraid to grow complacent. But the proof isn’t in what you say — it’s in what you do, and he’s been with me for 25 years. For 17 of those years, he’s been a wonderful father, the kind of man whom a girl knows has her back, for better or for worse, the kind who doesn’t leave.
I want to say a special Happy Grandfather’s Day to Bob, my mom’s husband of many years, who became my second step-dad when I was 30. He has been a wonderful friend and an amazing Grandad to my daughter. He is deliberately not mentioned in the list of father figures above because, well, he’s one of the good guys.
“Why does he leave reality?” h.koppdelaney @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.