I breezed past the card aisles and stores this year without feeling the pull. My father, grandfathers, and the uncles and friends who were like fathers to me are all gone. My daughters are adults and on their own, at least as far as greeting cards are concerned. Finally, I don’t need to find the perfect verse on a card that my father will never see, the way I did for years after his death.
This year, free of traditions and obligations, my Father’s Day gift is to me. I will wrap myself in appreciation, tie on streamers of love, and slip into memories of the men who have given me the gift of life - my father and the fathers of my children and grandchildren. I am forever grateful to these men for the greatest moments in my life, and for contributing to who I am and how I remember life.
I will condense the tomes my father deserves into a few sentences. In the thirty-five years I shared with this man, I never saw him lose his temper, turn his back on a person in need, deliver less than anyone deserved, take advantage of a person or circumstance, embarrass, shame or disappoint anyone, or expect anything. Those who knew him, and many who didn’t, admired and respected him. He left this world a better place than he found it, and I feel his presence in the goodness I see around me.
My first husband was like my father, and our daughter fortunate to have lived with their combined influence the first fourteen years of her life. Although this man had never held an infant before her, he jumped into his role with confidence and skill. He spoke her name the first time she heard it, gave her the funny middle name, fed her the first bottle, changed the first diaper, gave her the first bath, dressed her in the first non-hospital-issued outfit, and placed her in her own bed for the first time. He did the middle of the night feedings, cared for her while I worked, laughed with her, taught her, and adored her. He did what every father should do.
Since I am gifting myself, I will remember how far beyond he went for her, by what he did for me. He let me go without destroying her family. Divorce meant he didn’t sleep at our house. He, or his next girlfriend, was still there to get my daughter off the school bus and stay with her until I came in from work. He still came by to visit, take us to dinner, and help with homework. He made sure we had what we needed, physically and emotionally. He attended family functions and spent holidays with us. He invited me to his soccer games and parties, and included me when his family came to visit.
When he moved across country, he returned for holidays, called every night to see how his daughter’s day had gone and ask if she needed anything. He was a phone call or plane ride away in every decision we needed to make concerning our daughter. Our photo albums contain pictures of our daughter with her parents and their new spouses, all celebrating her life together.
The greatest gift to both of us was the love and respect he continued to show for me. I believe children learn to respect their parents by watching how they treat one another. My daughter didn’t have to choose between parents, divide loyalties, or doubt that her parents loved each other. Respect came easy for her.
The second husband accepted the first, loved his daughter, and welcomed him into the lives of the daughter he already had and the one we had later. He also did the normal things - diapers, baths, cared for our daughters while I worked, was room-father at school, and shared his knowledge and talent – but his term ended too soon. He died shortly after our daughter’s sixth birthday. The first husband stepped in to fill as much of that void as he could.
The first daughter has married a man who treats their children the way my father and her father treated us. I can’t think of a luckier woman than I have been. It is a Happy Father’s Day for me.