I've been blessed with two fathers.
I don't see much of either of them--geography and circumstance have conspired against it--but not a day goes by that I don't think of both of them. Not a day goes by where I don't apply a lesson I learned from one or the other. And not a day goes by that I don't manifest, well, one of them. The birth one. My dad and I aren't carbon copies, exactly, but we share many traits, both positive and negative.
My mom and dad divorced when I was five. The less said about that the better--suffice it to say both of them have told me I was the only thing worth salvaging out of that relationship. Because my dad had limited access, and because he loved me, I was spoiled rotten, in the manner of children of divorce everywhere. His place very quickly assumed the characteristics of Nirvana and Shangri-La all rolled into one. To this day, "going North" has a talismanic power in my mind. He calls his homestead Rose Point. I call it Sanctuary Much.
Dad, I don't see you near as often as I'd like to...you have no idea how much I'm looking forward to seeing you next month. But I should tell you: just because I don't see you doesn't mean I can't be you...and it's almost scary how often I am. We have gone down different paths in life, but many of our values converge: we both have a very strong sense of social justice and fairness; we both work to see the good in everyone, and to make sure they see it too; we both have, if I may say so, a power to persuade. And of course we both live our lives according to those values. Integrity matters.
And yeah, we have quite a few of the same foibles. I come by my absentmindedness honestly. Both of us have a knee-jerk reaction to unexpected emotional shock (give us a second or a minute to adjust, and we're fine, but that second or minute might be a tad rocky. And both of us are prone to withdraw and brood rather than force conflict.
I take pride, Dad, in the quirks. The absentmindedness is entertaining as hell to everyone but us, isn't it? Whether it's me trying to burn my house down or you--well, you've tried to do that too, haven't you?--we make life interesting for the ones who love us. That jerk of the knee--you were the one who told me, and I've never, never forgotten it--to "say what you feel, even if it's wrong. That way at least you have something to edit." And contrary to popular belief, good can come out of brooding. Either the problem diminishes with thought, or we change our perspective so it isn't a problem anymore.
My father, in his life as a police officer, volunteer fire captain, Lion, and pillar of his community, has actively done more good, for more human beings, than any ten other people I know put together. I respect, admire, and love the man immensely.
My stepdad had a dream sometime in the winter of 1972, when he was 12 years old. In his dream he was marrying an older woman who had a child of her own. I was born in February of 1972...it wouldn't surprise me overmuch to find out he had that dream at 9:06 on the night of the sixth of February.
I met him for the first time in 1980, when I was eight. My first impression of him was that he was a giant. His first impression of me was that I was a polite and well-mannered little boy. Only one of those impressions turned out to be correct. John is only 6'2". but there's something about the way he carries himself that suggests he's taller. And inside, of course, he really is a veritable giant.
I, meanwhile, was--how to put this nicely?--ah, screw it. I was a jerk. Sore loser, chronic liar, pretty much zero social skills with kids my own age, and sheltered as the deepest shade.
John, somehow, took all of that in stride. Trust me when I tell you he must have loved my mother to the moon and back. Most people would have run screaming from me at eight. Or ten. Or fourteen. I know I would have. But not John. With unending patience, superhuman reserves of calm, and an absolutely rock solid conviction, he pulled me through adolescence and into adulthood, modelling his strength, character and wisdom every hour of every day. Again...integrity. It matters.
There really aren't words for the gratitude I feel, nor for the debt I owe John. I respect, admire and love him immensely, too.
Happy Father's Day to both of you, and to all the fathers out there who have done so much for their sons and daughters, never knowing if it would "take" pr not. Current fashion is still, inexplicably, to minimize the role of a father in a child's life. I'm so glad this life has been blessed with two fathers.
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