I can remember how much I loved my dad growing up. How to me, he was the coolest man on the planet. He was strong, handsome and funny — and for a long time (3 years exactly) I was his favorite girl. He would do silly things like lift me up in the air while making mechanical noises like he was the ride at the amusement park, how he would take me to Chuck E Cheese, how he would let my friends do pullups on his arm during school trips while all the women chaperones would swoon because he was so fly. Growing up I thought my dad was Bruce Leroy — to me he had the glow that no other man could match.
My mom would tell me stories how in our first apartment, when I had just begun walking, I’d know he was home from work, because I’d hear the downstairs neighbors’ dogs barking as he ascended the stairs, and I would rush to the door to meet him each evening. Even without the stories, I can still see this scene vividly in my head — almost 34 years later. It’s funny the things we remember.
Later, after my dad and my mom split, things became strained, but I looked forward to our weekends together. Just him, my sisters and later my stepmother who I adored. When I was 10 my dad took us to Disney World for the first time and I felt like the luckiest kid on the planet. As we left our inner city surroundings of Irvington, NJ, I thought of nothing else but the adventures to come in the Magic Kingdom. We drove there — and for the first time I got a chance to step outside the city and see others parts of the country that were at the time so beautifully foreign to me.
I remember on our last evening in Orlando, as we hung out by the pool, I was sad we’d be returning home the next morning. My dad noticed I was sad, and asked me what was wrong. After I told him, he smiled, and let me in on a secret. We’d be returning to Orlando in a few weeks with my mother, aunt and grandma, but he made me promise not to tell my sisters. I remember feeling so grown up that he trusted me as the oldest with the surprise.That was one of my best summers ever.
As I became a teenager I began to see my dad less and less. I no longer speculate on why or what happened — as an adult I know life happens and differences in opinion while co parenting occur — and sometimes the best choices are not made. I’d be remiss to say I didn’t suffer from those choices my parents made though, because I did. I can look back now and say I missed the stability of having my father in my life, and while my stepfather attempted to fill his role, the fact that I knew and loved my real father limited the role he could serve in my life. I love my stepfather for his effort, but I missed my dad, and to me he was irreplaceable. So when I stopped seeing my dad altogether at around 12, I felt hopeless.
And so it began. I searched for a way to fill that void by making bad decisions at an early age — and I continued down a path that resulted in a lot of adult experiences far too early in my life. But thankfully, I learned from them, grew from them, and evolved into the woman I am today — and I don’t think I’m half bad ;-).
Fast forward about 15 years to 2007. Technology had taken over, and had quickly become the easiest way to get in touch with people. It had become a lifeline of sorts to stay in contact with loved ones and friends; totally replacing letter writing and landlines. I don’t exactly remember how or when it happened, but my dad and I connected again on Myspace, and that connection carried over to Facebook. I was excited to find out I had a new stepmother and two new siblings, a brother and a sister who were younger than my own children. I was also excited to see the positive changes my father had made in his life and I’m content with knowing that both my youngest sister and brother will get to experience the father I had as a little girl, but one who is much wiser.
I forgave my father for going missing from my life long ago. I’ve learned from my own experiences and those of people close to me that holding grudges is unhealthy. Today, on Father’s Day, I realize that many people no longer have their fathers on earth, let alone in their life, so I’m grateful mine is still present. Our relationship is different today than it was when I was a little girl, but little things he says now and then transports me back to the 80s and early 90s when I was a little girl who admired his entire existence. Today I can see how similar we are in personality and character, and let’s just say things get interesting in our online “debates”.
Fathers provide a sense of protection and comfort for little girls that is different from our mothers. They serve as our first impression of the role men will play in our lives. They are not better than our mothers — just different. So today, as I reflect on the many Father’s Days that have passed, I am even more thankful for the “nows”. Happy Father’s Day dad.