On Fathers day, my bike ride found me wondering what makes a father. I thought for a while, and my concise definition is this: someone who teaches or leads by example with no expectation of reward, recognition, or even reciprocation. I’ve been so lucky to have a veritable parade of “fathers” in my life, and I use their gifts to me every single day.
My biological father, Mike. I am still learning bits and pieces of him, as he passed on at a very early age, when he was 27 and I was 5. I do know we share a few traits: a desire to do the right thing for those we love, a love of a good prank or joke, and I know I see him every time I look at my smile in the mirror.
My uncle Kevin-as a young girl, he was an easygoing, calm influence who made me feel safe. As an adult, he’s been here to help no matter what I need-my mailbox repaired, to caulk cracks in my cement (while making tons of caulk jokes, of course), and to assist in the removal of any unsavory wildlife who dares choose to die on my property. And he ensures that any time I have need for steaks, pork belly, or the answer to any meat-related question, he’s got the answer.
My Grandpa Leland-Grandpa was the single biggest giver of unconditional love I’ve ever had in my life. He taught me patience, how to tell a good story, that sometimes a cuss word is needed for emphasis, that homemade ice cream is the greatest treat ever, and that the best things in life are the simple ones. Grandpa loved Purple, his kids and grandkids, and America.
My Stepdad, Joe-Joe taught me many things about myself and what I did and didn’t want to become. He’s evident in my work ethic, the way I drive (he taught me!) and had such a creative mind. I try to pass as much of him on to my little brother as I can, though the best things about Joe were often evident when he was with Jesse. And anytime I think of his penchant for woodworking in his garage while watching Lifetime movies, I can’t help but smile. Women in peril inspire some damn fine wall hangings.
Uncle Kurt-Kurt has only been in my life less than 10 years, but nobody I’ve known has given me more confidence than he has. He taught me that a good meal is more than the sum of its parts-it’s the ingredients, the experience, the time spent together talking about your life while sauces simmer and flavors meld. He also taught me not to take myself so seriously, and has never hesitated to call me out for settling for any less than the very best, reminding me that’s what I deserve.
Pops-Bodie came into my life when I was in my 30’s, and didn’t think I had huge need for a new family at such an age. He’s taught me plenty about acceptance, about family, and riding in a convertible with the breeze in your hair. I’m lucky to have gained such an influence at a time in my life when I was starting to doubt my own value.
Those are the biggest male influences in my life, but I have to acknowledge that for almost all of my life, Mom did double duty. Nobody else knows my jokes, experiences, triggers, likes and dislikes more than she does. Mom taught me how to make the best of any situation, that sometimes the best answer is just to keep moving, and taught me my love of running. Any time “something” happens-good, bad, or indifferent-she’s the first person I want to tell.
In addition to all these familial influences, I have so many examples that show that it’s not just blood that makes a family.
Ben & Syd-for teaching me what makes a framily, and that just because two people grow apart (and back together again) doesn’t mean you have to abandon friends you made along the way.
Paul-Paul has patiently explained the nuances of long distance running to me, as well as pretty much any off the wall question I don’t know the answer to. Paul is a great example of the most supportive, laid back person I know. Molly and Audrey are lucky to have him.
Troy-Troy has been a great “brother” to Jeff, and as for me-he’s my techy go-to, with only minor ribbing for being in tech support myself but not knowing the answers to my questions.
Robert-not really fatherly, but for never taking (or posting) a bad photo of me. Thanks, buddy.
Uncle Dennis-you’ve taught me about my own limits, my own patience, and a billion other random facts I never knew I never knew.
Matt & Phil-My stepbrothers have been pretty gracious in accepting me and my brother into their lives. Matt has been an amazing example about how to take a joke from a person you barely know, and his sense of humor sneaks up on you-kind of like my own. Phil’s patience and love for his daughter is evident, and something I can tell he learned from his dad.
Joe-Angela and Allison’s dad has been so amazing and strong in the face of big obstacles. He has accepted pretty much every friend the girls have presented him as if we were his own kids, and I’m very glad to have him and Patty in our lives.
Brian-Brian was like my big brother growing up. He taught me about loyalty, both in your work world and your family world. He was the best big brother I ever met, both “to me” and to his own brother, who I had the privilege of babysitting on occasion when Brian finally needed some high school guy time. I’m super proud of who he’s become as an adult, and though I haven’t seen him in 20 years(ish), I know if I ever needed something he was able to give, it would be here in the blink of an eye.
There’s so many more influences I know I’m missing.There are so many amazing fathers I know out there, and I’m pretty confident that with your influences, the next generation is going to be just fine. But on a father’s day, my thoughts also go to Jeff. He was brave enough to make a choice with me that may have limited one aspect of his life, but will inevitably enrich other areas. In a way, I feel like becoming a parent is such a brave choice. You are responsible for a tiny human. All their traits, biological and personality, come from you. Things you didn’t even know you did make a huge impact. But in another sense, it’s brave to be a couple and not have kids too. When you have kids, it seems like parents get to unite in certain things. Parenthood is a team sport at it’s best. But those of us without kids, we’re exposed. My strange routines are always going to be there, uninterrupted, for the world to see. As are Jeff’s. Our flaws are laid bare without the distraction of a child to raise. His nerd is going to be showing all the time for me, and my runner feet and obsessions are glaringly obvious. But we love each other BECAUSE of our eccentricities. And ultimately, that pipe dream of ours to move overseas someday? Without college funds or diapers to pay for, it could totally be a reality someday. And that keeps me going when self doubt creeps in.
Happy Fathers Day to all the dads I know. If you’re reading this, I think you’re a pretty bitchin dad. My facebook feed shows me every day dozens of examples of what a father should be. And I’m proud of all of you.