What is a father?

Posted on June 21, 2010

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I so love this song “Sweet Baby James”. And, well I don’t know, but it seemed like the most perfect song for Father’s Day weekend.  The lyrics are so sweet, heartfelt and touching.  Perhaps it really touches me because my dad left at a very early age, or perhaps because a friend is watching her dad be very ill and worried if he’ll make it through the year.  While another posted on Facebook that he had no dad and that today was simply yet another day.  Or perhaps because the lyrics of this song make me think about how a dad loves his kids and the emotions he feels when looking at the little tykes.  You know?  I’m not sure.  What I am sure of? It is Father’s Day. A day I’ve watched through the years and well, to be honest, felt envious that there were people who celebrated it with their dads.

Yet to be honest?  Well, I’ve had two men in my life who stepped in and well, in a strange way, were a dad.  One was my dentist when I was a little kid.  I’m thinking that it was because Mom, who had gone to all of the father-daughter events at my school…and was the only Mom surrounded by dads simply couldn’t take one more father-daughter event.  I could be wrong, but I’m thinking not.  So, Dr John accompanied my twin and I to a father-daughter dinner.  Why?  Well, perhaps he relented to Mom’s onslaught of asking, or perhaps he wanted to experience what it was like to be a father…or perhaps he wanted hotel chicken…I’m not sure because I never asked.  I just know that I was so proud to walk in with a guy on a father-daughter event.

The other man who stepped in and in a rather interesting way played the father figure?  Well, a fellow who my Mom dated.  Former Navy seal (before they were named Navy seals) and a fighter pilot.  His name was Dick.  Dick didn’t say much, well, unless he was with his hunting buddies, and was very uncomfortable around little girls.  He played handball, was a surgeon, and I thought he was very, very cool.  But not having a dad, well frankly, I didn’t know what to say to him either.  Once in a while if Mom was busy, he would take us to the doctor or dentist.  We would simply sit in silence with neither of us knowing what to say to this other strange being.  Yet, there was something comforting in that silence and to be honest, I’m not sure why.

Dick was this big, tall gruff quiet surgeon who would take my Mom’s cat out for a walk on her leash with a cigar in his mouth.  He would tell Ms. Kitty whether it would be a one or two cigar night and that she needed to wait until the news was over as she sat at his feet screaming for her walk.  Dick had a stroke at 56 on Christmas eve and passed away two weeks later.  I never really realized the impact that this guy had on my life and the father figure role he played in a unique way until he was gone.

Interestingly enough, one day I was driving down the road in my triumph spitfire convertible.  A car that he dearly loved even though it took a shoehorn to get him in and out of it.  I had the top down, it was a June summer day.  Suddenly I smelled his cigar smoke.  I had come to a stop at a light and glanced around to see who was smoking a cigar.  It only smelled for some seconds.  There was noone around…no walkers, runners, cars.  Then it was gone.  I’m thinking Dick wanted one more ride in the beloved convertible or perhaps I was just missing him at that moment.  I have no idea.  What I do know?  Well, there are many different fathers.  Some biological, some situational.  If you don’t have the biological one?  Well, don’t regret.  Look for the ones who step into that place, even if they are a little strange.

Happy Father’s day to all of the men in the world.

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