I love that song, as simplistic and overbearing as it is. I love it because I’ve seen good parenting and I’ve seen shit parenting and I know what a difference it makes in a growing person. When fathers are good to their daughters, their sons, we will live like they did, we will be more likely to embody that love.
Today is Father’s Day and I think it’s a rough one for my family this year. My grandpa is unwell and recovering in a nursing home he hates, which makes my father-in-law down. He covers it well, but I can tell it’s not the same for him this year. My biological father passed away years ago, but I miss him every day. I don’t appreciate any of the living men in my life less nor do I dwell on the sadness on a day where I still have so many wonderful men to be thankful for in my life, but it is a reminder that I miss his presence and wish he could have been a present grandfather to my kids.
All of the Father’s Day posts (good and bad because there are plenty of people who have terrible father-kid relationships) remind me, however, that I had it good and that I SHOULD be forever grateful for the men who raised me.
My biological father loved us dearly. He wasn’t perfect, and he wasn’t around as much as I’d have liked, but he was smart, engaged with us like we were capable of understanding anything and made us appreciate the beauty in the world around us and in the world of stories. He fostered a love for knowledge in many of us. When he visited or vice-versa, we’d often hit up the local museums or historical sites around us. I know we all enjoyed that more than we can possible put to words. When dad was around, he put his full effort into making sure that we understood where we were in our place, state, time, history. As a history major in college, he knew how important it was for us to invest in that knowledge. What he didn’t know is that by sharing those little things he loved, he was doing more than teaching us. That investment created a bond we all needed to sustain us when we couldn’t see him.
My step-father was a funny man, hard-working, firm but fair. Daily, he helped us respect our family members, fostered a sense of timeliness and cleanliness. He put down the rules and was sure to see they were followed, but was not hard on us. He moved us to a place where we could run and play. He shared his family and his past and present with us, and he was THERE, always, to make sure we had a constant role-model. He was the one to help us with our science experiments and make sure they worked, tirelessly. He loved and loves my mother with all of his heart and treated her patiently, tenderly and with disgusting displays of affection showed us how proud he was to have her in his life. His example made me see that he saw my mother as a treasure. He made me demand to be that for someone else. If a man didn’t treat me with as much love as he did for mom, the hell with him. I learned to respect myself because of my dad’s respect for me, for my mom and for all of us.
My grandfathers were all so diverse and and so interesting. My grandpa Bo was a minister who was full of prayer, smiles and low-rumbling songs, sometimes warnings when we go too rowdy, but usually gentleness. My grandpa Springer was a joker, ready with a laugh, a tickle, a wet smooch, an inappropriate but funny joke, and an ice cream when the grades were good. My grandpa Root I barely knew, but always remember fondly. He loved the squirrels, a view of his beautiful garden full of bird songs and bright flowers, he smiled and hummed and seemed genuinely kind and soft. My husband’s grandfather’s are community leaders, respected elders. Ron is a man of vision and action. Grandpa Mike is a man of spirit and song.
My current father-in-law was there when my father passed. He gave me gas money, a place to sleep and stories to keep my head from clouding over. He told me jokes and made sure I had all I needed. He provided and provides me direction when I feel lost or in over my head.
My husband is my equal. He tempers my storms, makes me laugh at myself, looks at me like I’m the most beautiful person in the world and has such tenderness and silliness to share with our kids. I’m not sure what I did to deserve such a patient man, but I do know why I found him, why I expected to be given the respect and love he gives me. I know why I love myself. Because the men in my life loved me.
I have seen female friends and relatives who have men in their life who are destructive forces. I have known men who hurt me and others. I’ve been on the other end of a man’s harmful touch, cruel words, or silence. But I wasn’t there for long. The men in my life who respected me helped me to respect myself, so that I did not long allow others to disrespect or belittle me. Abuse, neglect and anger is all some people know. They often inadvertently seek it out when they leave a home that was torn. I see those women and I mourn what they never had, what I had. What makes me more what I am today.
I cannot complain of the divorce that made me miss my father so much, the distance that separated us. Our times together were always beautiful, always meaningful. We got the best of him, and we weren’t without. My step-dad and dad respected each other and nurtured us, together, without quarrel or pettiness. I didn’t know what that meant as a child, but as an adult, I do. It means that I had more of a chance to make love, relationships and life work with the male figures in my life.
I cannot blame the fathers in my life for bad decisions I make, if or when I make them. I am abundantly blessed by the men of genuinely good character who raised me. Those who had no character, who used their privilege to harm me tried to bring me down. But they can’t. Because the good men in my life have supplied me with too much hope.
I will always have hope, even when online trolls, street whistlers and down-right misogynist assholes try to bring me down. I have hope even as a survivor of rape. Because I know there are many good men, like the ones I was surrounded by in this world. That gives me hope for the betterment of all peoples. And hope is no small thing. Thank you, to all the dads, grandpas, uncles, and male role-models who are amazing people. It’s important that you continue to be so, and raise those around you in love.