These days you hear so much about fathers being absent from the family picture for various reasons. The 3D's...divorce, death, and "dead-beat-ism"...are sometimes the reasons to blame. However, I've never been able to relate to this problem. My entire life, I have been surrounded by some wonderful fathers that continue to be a blessing in my world to this very day. My father and my stepfather both influenced me at different stages in my development, all in preparation for the day I would find myself united in marriage to yet another great father- my husband. The most amazing fact of this story is that neither of these incredible men were raised in the presence of their own biological fathers. They had no fatherly examples to learn from. Though they were raised in different towns, within different family dynamics, they all shared a common bond of being the forgotten kids, raised well in spite of the absence of their own fathers. It is at this time of the year especially that my heart breaks for the little boys they once were, wishing longingly for a paternal connection that would never be.
The older I get, the more I look, act and sound like my mom. If I dig deep enough into old family photographs, surely I would find that my resemblance to her at my current 40+ age would be uncanny. Now in her 60s, I appreciate my mother for everything she is and everything she ever did for me. That being said, I am sure she would nod her head in agreement that I was always a daddy's girl. While many dads suffered missteps and inconsistencies, my dad always seemed to get it right. Although he was content as a blue collar guy, my dad was the smartest man I knew growing up. His and my mom's work schedules were staggered, so that he was the parent at home in the mornings to do the breakfast/hair combing/school drop off routine. This man took hair combing so seriously that my sister and I often had to sit through a couple of re-do sessions each morning before he felt our tight little ponytails were presentable enough to be seen in public. The next time you see a childhood photo of me, take time to notice the super straight center part in my hair and how the skin on my forehead is pulled so tight that I look like I've had a pre-teen face lift.
Each morning our little girly outfits were always pressed perfectly, our hair and faces were always clean and our homework was always double-checked. It was a team effort between my dad and mom, but my dad somehow figured out his half of the parenting with mostly on the job training. Both his dad and mom were out of the picture during his formative years and he was raised by his grandmother. He was no angel and was predicted by many members of his extended family to be the one most likely to end up in jail because of his streetwise habits as a hotheaded teenager. In the 1940s and 50s, his father was a sharp dressing playboy and my dad wasn't his only child left behind as a result of his exploits. He often told me stories of days he would sit on his grandmother's front porch waiting for his dad to come pick him up for promised father-son fishing trips that never happened. I have one really old black and white photo of my dad when he was a bright eyed 5 year-old, and I still have trouble understanding how any parent could have left that sweet little boy behind. In spite of this rough start, my dad eventually matured into a fun-loving, yet strict and fiercely protective father of two little girls that looked up to him like a hero.
My stepdad's childhood was much different because although his biological father did not raise him, he did have a stepfather. However, he mostly raised himself. I refer to my stepdad lovingly as somewhat of a brainiac. He was incredibly intelligent as a child, so he breezed through school and was off to college at a very young age. Being on your own so young, you might expect him to be lacking in understanding the sensitive needs of young children. However, this man has been the most nurturing and loving grandfather to my own kids that anyone could ever hope for. My boys are still too young to understand the complete dynamic of my parents' divorce and subsequent second marriages, so my stepdad (their "pappa") might as well be their flesh and blood grandfather. The genuine family ties bonding them together are that strong.
My hubby's childhood story is similar to my dad's in the fact that his biological father was a good looking rolling stone, that romanced many women and left behind many children. We believe that my husband is the oldest known child of his, although the extent of that story many never be fully understood. My hubby's childhood was rough already because he was sickly child, whose teen mother and hardworking grandmother raised him and loved him the best they could. Because of his illness, he was forced to grow up faster than other kids and deal with mature issues that stole his innocent outlook on life at a time when he should have been more carefree. With no exaggeration or sarcasm in this declaration, my husband is hands down the best father I have ever known. I continuously scratch my head on this one, because my husband should be a very emotionally damaged individual considering some of the hurdles he's had to overcome. Yes, I am slightly biased because I am in love with the guy, but I could not dream up a more dedicated father to my sons. My boys look up to their dad like he is superhuman and I hold no jealously toward their undeniable admiration of him.
How is it possible that these three men from different walks of life could survive different levels of absenteeism from their own fathers to become awesome father figures in their own right? Did God have the end result already in mind when he set each of these little boys on their fatherless journeys? How did my three fathers turn out okay when so many others continue to lose their way? If I understood the answers to these questions, I would bottle the winning formula and sell it to every family I could touch. These men have done nothing extraordinary to be outstanding fathers. They have simply been present and active in their families and shown them love unconditionally. They have recreated their legacy to be one of strength and support, leaving me hopeful that history not only won't repeat itself, but will hopefully teach important lessons about family and the ties that bond.