This Father's day is rather special for me. You see, my "Dad" is driving down to visit. It's a 8 hour drive, which isn't much for most people, but for a man who's just been through a battle with colon cancer, it's more than a lot. It's huge.
I know why he's doing it. He's coming for his kids, to prove to us that he's o.k., to show us, in the flesh, that he's still here for us. To make up for the few times when he wasn't.
I put "Dad" in quotes, because that's what I've always done. It's a way of separating (in my mind) the man who raised me from the man who fathered me. They are very different people, yet they have always had one thing in common, their love for me.
Looking back over my life, it saddens me to think that I couldn't love them both equally, but time and circumstance wouldn't allow it. I was with him until I was six, but my "father" is, and will always be, only that. My father.
Passing years have helped me to understand and even appreciate the role he played in my life. He did, after all, give me gifts. My life and my passion for art. A kind heart and a degree of patience my mother was never capable of. A love of teaching, and a need to be in the limelight. Because of my "Father", I see the world differently than most...through rose colored glasses, or so I've frequently been told.
I never thought of my "Dad" as a stepfather, although that was what strangers said he was. He was the man who took me everywhere and didn't seem to mind. He was the man my grandfather trusted with my life, so who was I to question? As far as I was concerned, my grandfather made the world I lived in and he knew everything there was to know!
Daddy was the person who paid attention to me, who treated me the same as my brothers and taught me how to throw a baseball. He didn't worry that I wouldn't be "girly" enough...he knew how easily my feelings were hurt.
He went fishing with us in Grand-daddy's boat, and long after my grandfather had passed away, Daddy made sure I still got to go, to help ease my "missin'" heart. He'd bait my hook, and never complain about my reluctance to handle worms or squirmy shrimp. I'm sure he thought is was funny how a little girl who wouldn't bait a hook, had no trouble gutting and scaling a bucket full of smelly fish.
Daddy stood between my mother and me, pleading my case on many occasions. I know for sure she'd have yanked my head bald many a time if he hadn't! I've often wondered how many trips to the store were made just so that I wouldn't see her at her worst. But even Dad couldn't save me from that in the end.
My Dad's always remembered my birthday as though he'd been there for the actual event. Christmas was always the best. I never knew we couldn't afford it, it just came none-the-less. He played games with us 'till late at night, yet got up every morning and went to work. He taught me to play the guitar, and then puffed up with pride every time he heard me play. He cheered from the bleachers as I graduated, and cried because it meant I was no longer his little girl. Together, we had learned. He learned how to be my dad, and I learned how to be his daughter.
Almost twenty years has passed since my Daddy walked me down the isle. He knows I'm hoping for at least twenty more. I hope to show my appreciation to the man who taught me the meaning of the word "Dad", and the reason for the special day.
It's true what they say, any man can be a father, but it takes a special man to be a "Dad".