It’s taken me a very long time to sit down and write this. It’s difficult to explain – it’s not anything bad or to suggest indifference, but I just can’t seem to put this relationship into words. Or, maybe, I just don’t want to share it with anyone else.
In brief public statements, I have often said he’s the first man who ever loved me. It’s cute – and meant to be – but it is also the truth. To a little girl, the first man to love her will set the standard for all her expectations in the future. It is an awesome responsibility and, while there are a great many who met the challenge, there are also many who fell short whether by intention or by virtue of being broken themselves. I wanted to acknowledge the latter, because I have a few friends who feel let down by the first man they put their trust in. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.
I was an accident. Accident – because my mom and dad were dating and they were 19, and “apparently” they weren’t thinking about the consequences of certain actions. They were in love, I guess, and in the late 60s people got married under these circumstances. To make a short story even shorter, the marriage didn’t last.
Statistically, divorced fathers of children under the age of 5 are at a very high risk of not being involved in their children’s lives, or abandon them altogether. I was lucky.
The first man who loved me, loved me from the start. (And if he didn’t – no one ever told me any different.) I was lucky.
My dad was there for me. I never had a doubt of this – at any part of my life. I have snippets of memory of a life lived with him, when I was very small – more mundane than worth writing about, and mostly snapshots of the home I don’t remember.
He gave me the greatest, most enduring gift a father can give, besides his own love and support – he gave me my family. I am 75-and-one-quarter percent who I am because of them. They are my most valuable treasure.
Dad and I spent every Sunday together. We spent time with my grandparents and aunts and uncles. He taught me how to swim before I could walk. He taught me how to play pool and basketball.
He took me on wonderful adventures. He took me on a twin-engine plane ride. We went ice skating. We visited Washington, D.C. and New York City. We spent many summers at the Jersey Shore, and he posed for an Old-Time photo with me when I was 13.
We went away a couple of times to spend long winter weekends in the Catskills at a friend’s house, where I fed birds and deer from my hand, went tobogganing with the other kids, and walked across frozen ponds on rope bridges.
For my 10th birthday, he took me on my first jet plane to Orlando – to visit the wonderful world of Disney. The following year we drove to Orlando, making stops in Colonial Williamsburg and South of the Border, where I got a toy toilet that squirted water when I lifted the lid.
My dad took me to my first day of college, where he and my mother put aside their decade-old acrimony to smooth my transition. He supported my decision to transfer to a big city university two years later. He gave me the freedom to have no clue what I wanted to be when I grew up, so long as I chose something, which of course would never be set in stone forever.
He taught me to never be a quitter. He tangled with the tantrum years and the teenaged angst. He showed me his vulnerability when his father passed away, and it never scared me – but made me realize he was still just a [hu]man with a dad he dearly loved. He showed me how to honor family, by being there for his mother.
He walked me down the aisle of my first wedding, and gave me away to a man who wasn’t half the man he was. And when that marriage imploded, he took me into his home and gave me a sanctuary, held me when I cried, and talked me down off the ledge. He sat in the courtroom behind me. He is my greatest defender, perhaps eclipsed only by Todd today, and I know he is grateful if that’s a fact.
On the day I married Todd, he was there – silently standing at the back of the district courtroom. He didn’t walk me down the aisle, not because I didn’t want him to, but because he had taught me that I could stand on my own. On the day of our celebration, he hugged me and with a tear in his eye told me he loved Todd and was so glad he was my husband – and I knew to the core of my soul that he meant it.
We don’t get to see each other as much as I’d like, but we have frequent phone calls that I cherish for the laughter we share in those moments – the humor I inherited from him – we never have to explain what’s funny to each other.
I suppose I haven’t written about him because I cherish him so deeply, and I don’t really want to talk about it. Those who know me well, know the nature of our relationship, and I don’t have to explain it. It’s amazing. He has this ability – which I don’t think he’s aware of – of knowing when I need him, and he just shows up.
I don’t know what else to say. There’s so much more and I ramble too much. I also worry that I can’t do him justice.
He is my dad. I love him more than anything, and I am so blessed that God chose him for me.