Sunday, June 21, 2009

On Father's Day and My Two Dads

Unlike Mother’s Day, Father’s Day is not a day that causes me to miss my wife any more than any other Sunday might. That’s not to downplay the fact that I would not even be a father had she not carried our daughter for 35 weeks and assisted in her safe arrival into this world, a fact for which I am eternally grateful. But for the past three summers, it just hasn’t been a day when I’ve dwelt on the fact that she is not here to celebrate with us. For me, Mother’s Day is a kick in the pants. But Father’s Day? Well, it’s a time to celebrate me.

Due to circumstances which I will write about in an upcoming post, we were confined to the house for most of this Father’s Day. As a result it was relatively low-key. We weren’t able to attend church, but my daughter still woke me at 8:00 with wishes of “Happy Father’s Day!” I find it really sweet that she remembers these things on her own and, at five, tries her best to make it a day about me. There were a couple of cards from her (compliments of my parents and some friends at church), one of which had a gift card to my favorite local home improvement store (and garden center). She had already given me some flowers for the yard when my parents were here for her preschool graduation, so the gift card came as a total surprise. But who doesn’t love to get gifts before they even set foot out of bed in the morning?

After the cards and gifts, my five-year-old informed me that we were having eggs for breakfast with toast and bacon. She enjoys helping out when I cook and knew that this was a breakfast she could do the majority of the prep-work for unaided. So I fried turkey bacon and brewed coffee while she cracked brown eggs and loaded whole wheat bread into the toaster. Then we celebrated by promptly consuming all of our hard work.

I spent a lot of time reading during the morning and afternoon and ultimately finished the book I started just the other day. Reading is a luxury for me and finishing a 500 page book just a few days after I began reading it is a rare treasure indeed. But my daughter was intent on making this day what I wanted, so a relaxing day of reading seemed to be the perfect fit.

While I was reading, she was busy creating art work at the kitchen table and watching tv. And when I was not reading, we managed to get in a good deal of play time. It is a balance I rarely get to enjoy as a single dad, and having it on Father’s Day was wonderful.

I also had an interesting experience when we drove through one of my daughter’s favorite fast-food restaurants to grab lunch. It was another of the myriad slow drive-thru’s in which I regularly seem to find myself, and we had waited a good twenty minutes by the time we arrived at the window. There was a familiar face there as we tend to frequent this place many Sundays after church. While they were getting our order straightened out (people had left the line after ordering, further slowing down the process), we had this conversation:

Oh, and by the way, Happy Father’s Day.


You’re a single dad, right?


I commend you. That’s a hard job.

That was it. Our food was ready and we drove off. But these kind words from a (mostly) stranger put a smile on my face. I tend to try my best not to draw attention to my “situation”, but we all enjoy a kind word or deed every now and again, and I truly appreciated her giving one to me at that moment.

The rest of our low-key day was just that. Dinner was pizza delivered to our door followed by ice cream from a nearby chain. They were out of vanilla, so I had my concoction made with chocolate instead. I liked it well enough that I may request they do it that way next time.

All in all, it was a nice day. I got to spend the entire day with my current best girl, and I managed not to grieve any more than normal for my former one.

And now, I’d like to take a moment to wax philosophical about dads.

I’ve written a bit about my dad in previous posts. I have also mentioned my stepdad in several posts. But I wanted to take this moment on Father’s Day to talk briefly about them both.

My dad died when I was nine. It seemed strange as a child, but is all the more so now that I am raising a daughter without a mom. I have three siblings and while my dad was not hands-on, I think he did the best he could. I do have some good memories with him and my mom has been great about sharing things throughout my lifetime that I would not have otherwise known about him. When I refer to my dad, that’s who I have in mind.

Much to my displeasure, my mom remarried when I was twelve. I will be the first to (now sheepishly) admit that I was not my stepdad’s number one fan. Even though my dad and I were not close, I think I felt like I would betray him if I let my stepdad in. (Keep this in mind if/when you begin dating again fellow widow/ers). Plus, we had personality conflicts that got in the way of building a good relationship. So for six years we lived in discord.

It wasn’t until I started college that I began to see things differently. It turns out that the only conflict in our personalities was that we were too much alike. I had matured quite a bit as well, and we had both done a great deal of healing - me from the death of my dad at a young age and him from the break-up of his first marriage and all that it entailed. But mostly, we were able to relate to each other as men more than as a strained stepfather/stepson.

Which is odd, because that’s when his best dad qualities surfaced.

Over the last thirteen or so years, we have forged a relationship similar to that of most adult fathers and sons. We enjoy spending time together, both in working on projects and relaxing during leisure activities when we visit one another. We don’t talk on the phone much, but I always know he is just a call away when one of my mechanical devices isn’t cooperating (which is often). Plus he takes good care of my mom (and what son doesn’t want that?)

Even so, I have never called him “dad”. At first it was out of a sense of loyalty to my dad. But as time marched on, it simply seemed trite to make the switch. But at this point, the “step” is merely a formality; a weak syllable preceding the truly important part of this compound word.

Because regardless of titles, in this rare instance blood and water have achieved equal viscosity.


  1. Happy Father's Day!
    As I stated before, I perceive you as one who does the hard things well. That is a rarity these days and your daughter will surely reap the benefits of your hard work.

  2. Happy Father's Day! Your daughter is a sweetheart...

  3. It's great that you got through the day, but even better still that your daughter had thought about it and how she could make the day better for you.

    I offered some time ago that she would adapt, and that kind of blithe reassurance no doubt seemed trite at the time. Now you can see her really adapting -- and that's really fantastic.

    Looking back, I think my elder daughter (who was 2.5 when her mother died) has always had this kind of awareness around other people and their feelings. Cliche would say that was because she had to grow up quickly -- but I think it was really because she saw a lot of feelings all around her during her formative years, and she learned how to cope with and consider them.

    I think that awareness has really made her strong, however upsetting it was back to acquire it.

  4. The Widower Dad - I don't know if I truly do the hard things well or if I just cover my mistakes well. I hope it is the former, much as I hope you're right in that my daughter will reap the benefits.

    I'm glad you made it through your first Father's Day, hard though it may have been.

    AndreaRenee - My daughter is what I like to call "my own little mess" (which is a term of endearment). She is a true blessing to me every day.

    Good luck with your move!

    Roads - My poor daughter got a double-dose of sensitivity from her parents. Most days she covers hers well like me, but some days she wears it on her sleeve like her mother did.

    One of the things I worried about was that she would grow up too fast (as I certainly did when my dad died). And while she is definitely more responsible and mindful of these matters than most children her age, I see more child-like playfulness in her than I remember seeing in myself at two years out.