After my Mother’s day post- click here for a refresher- I struggled with how I’d write about Father’s Day. I feel the fathers in our lives often go under-appreciated. A good father is the cornerstone of the household, and he carries the joys, burdens, and everything in between on his shoulders with little complaint. He stands back and watches his marriage and family flourish, with all the pressure on him to be the source of the flourishing. Our society raises women to be emotional and raises men to be MEN, meaning they are supposed to be quite the opposite. The fact is, they have far more depth than the home depot commercials advertising the latest grill, drill or lawnmower for father’s day. I firmly believe that when a woman realizes this, she has reached a new level of maturity and will then be able to develop a true connection with the men in her life. Good fathers not only know this, they do what they can to cultivate it within their daughters.
As you can imagine, with the limited information I’ve relayed, my mother made notoriously bad decisions with regards to men and the handful that were decent guys didn’t get to hang around for long. As I got older and realized that the myriad of issues with my mother were the root cause of her relationship drama, I could look back on her past boyfriends and empathize. More importantly however, I could start to see in a few of them some positive traits that were good and beneficial to my childhood. I’m thankful for that because it would have been far easier to just blanket them as bad men, but that reasoning would have hardened me in my own relationships. They all had certain attributes that helped me shape the way I viewed men, good and bad. Through them I perhaps learned more about my mother than anything else, and that is what made me determined to find a different path in life. So I’m grateful for all the men that came in and out of my mother’s life when they did.
My own father and I were not close until I was seventeen and as such, I was pretty much grown. Still, it was he that really made me realize that all men were not bad, and all fathers were not deadbeat. He also taught me that girls are not obligated to be super sensitive drama queens, and that my inclination to be more introverted and have more guy friends than girl friends was completely acceptable, and maybe preferable. Even though he hasn’t had the greatest of luck with women, he instilled in me that relationships were a two way street, and double standards were the source of most relationship discord. He is a martial artist, and he taught me many things through that. I had very little self esteem when we re-connected and the martial arts he taught me really built my confidence- while also teaching me to protect myself- and adding a new dimension to my spirituality. He taught me that it is okay and healthy to have a day of rest- as in to take a weekend day, sleep in, lounge all day in pajamas and detox from the weeks stresses. This concept was totally unknown to me having grown up in a home of discipline and duties (even fun ones) with my grandparents, and a house of chaos with my mother, who can’t sit still for two seconds, and can’t keep quiet for even less. Bless her heart- I think she inherited this trait from my grandfather, who to this day cannot stand silence. I only get a true day of rest a couple times a year, and with changes in our family the definition of “rest” ebbs and flows- but I’m grateful for the ability to embrace and enjoy it, rather than feel guilty about it like so many people do.
My father also brings to me the lightheartedness and nonsense that he inherited from his father, whom I always knew as “Poppy.” I wasn’t as close with that side of the family, but my Poppy was a wonderful kind man. He had simple joys and the most amazing sense of humor, sometimes crass, often ridiculous, but always drawing laughs out of his grandchildren and releasing the tensions of life. Taking things in stride and with a dose of humor has always been a very difficult thing for me to do. I’ve often been told I’m too serious, so with my Poppy’s playfulness in my memory, I strive to be a little less rigid in life. Living in the moment is something that I constantly work on.
My maternal grandfather- my “Grandpa“- has been the most steadfast father figure in my life. I credit him with teaching me all the things that fathers instill in their daughters. As a teacher himself, he instilled in me the importance of education. Striving for perfection in school was the way to get to college, and college was the key to a secure and fulfilling life. He was often strict in his teaching, but I would not have had it any other way. He was helpful when he needed to be, but he also knew when I was just trying to take the easy road- and he called me on it every time. He still holds me to perfection to this day. I would expect nothing less from a man who grew up in the cotton fields of Georgia in the 1930s, spent 20 years serving our country, and then afterward went to college by night and worked by day entering retirement with 18 years of teaching 6th graders under his belt. He and my grandmother had the most amazing and loving relationship. They both set the example for what I wanted in a marriage.
Even though I did not have my father around until later, my life has been sprinkled with men that served as wonderful examples of good fathers and husbands. My band directors throughout middle and high school were hugely influential in my life. Mr. Joe, my middle school band director who worked with us throughout high school as well, went out of his way to help me in class and out. As a new student in a small town, he encouraged me to shine in the classroom, even though I was horrified at angering the other students. He gave me rides home from practice because he knew it was the only way I’d get to participate. When I was older, I babysat his kids, which I’m sure they were happy for, but for me was an honor because I got a glimpse in to the life of a loving family and functional household. My high school director, Mr. Barker, spurred and encouraged my leadership. He also had compassion for my situation. I was never sure how I managed to go on some of the larger trips that we couldn’t afford, even after my grandparents had sent money to help pay for them, often resulting in my mother using the funds for other things, or how I managed to raise enough for the new uniforms, but I did. I always somehow suspected that Mr. Barker and the band boosters made sure they took care of the kids like myself- who had little money and unstable households. They knew that the band was our second family- and often the more important one. There was also Mr. Goheen, my junior English teacher and the drama director. He was such a cool guy. He was everybody’s friend and mentor. He gave an amazing lecture about his life and how he spent time with a traveling acting company, and as a writer, and how he and the love of his life mutually parted ways to pursue their careers in the most epic of love stories. I’m not sure how much was embellished to catch the reader, i.e. his classroom, but I’ll never forget thinking, “That’s how I want to be.” I never wanted to fear change, I always wanted to take advantage of every opportunity available. He taught me that. I was truly blessed with some amazing teachers! My weekends spent at competition or on stage were wonderful, but I don’t think any of them knew how much of a welcome distraction from life’s realities these weekends were. They were self inoculation against me growing in to a very different person than I am today.
Lastly, my Husband, truly IS the husband I always wanted, and the father I always envisioned for my children. He is both strong and sensitive, disciplined and loving, steadfast in his drive and militant in his decisiveness. He lives far more in the moment than myself. He and I have a wonderful balance, and I can only credit finding him to all the positive “fathers” throughout my life that steered me in the right direction. H was blessed with a wonderful father, and my father-in-law is a man to admire. He is that picture of strength and drive and stability that characterize the traditional American Dad. I’m immensely blessed to have him as the father of my husband and the grandfather of our children.
So to all of you fathers in my life- I hope you have a wonderful day full of relaxation (with maybe a hint of beer and grilling). And to all you sons and daughters who didn’t have your dads around, take a moment to reflect on the good men that sprinkled your lives, and how they influenced you in ways a father would!
Love and Happyness to you all!
I share at these parties!