Saturday, June 18, 2016

Father's Day

As we near Father’s Day, I find myself reminiscing about the men who helped me to become who I am.

My entire life, I’ve been surrounded by strong men. My dad’s father had two sons, fought in a war, and had an unquenchable interest in anything relating to up-and-coming technology or advances. My mom’s father had four daughters, was a mechanic and woodworker, and taught each of his daughters to shoot a gun as well as any professional. My great-uncle who had two daughters, was a money-savvy barber and forever active, and cared more deeply for those around him than anyone I’ve ever met. My mom’s step-father was a war-veteran trucker with a weakness for dogs—especially tiny ones—and was a tough-as-nails giant who adored all of his grandchildren.

Then there is my dad. He had three children, works in the computer industry, has a major love and respect for nature, and was probably one of the best examples of what a dad should be, to his children as we were growing up. He always made time for us before and after work, and the weekends were special days that he’d set aside to spend exclusively with his family. These were the days that he’d make dinner, take us to the beach, play with us for hours on end, and make sure that we knew we were his first priority.

I consider myself lucky to have been surrounded by these men growing up, even if I can see now that they weren’t as perfect and infallible as I believed them to be as a child. They all made mistakes, and they all have had vices that they struggled with, but I never once doubted that they loved me and would have stepped in if I ever needed them to.

That said, I’ve also been lucky enough to have the extreme opposite examples of manhood around me, as well. You might find it strange that I use the word “lucky”, but hear me out. I consider myself lucky to have bad examples of men around me, because it gave me a very clear picture of what I did and didn’t want around me in my adult life. Having negative examples, mixed with the great examples, gave me a solid foundation once I grew up and started befriending men and women alike. It gave me insights into the types of people I wanted to be around and wanted influencing me.

Nearing this Father’s Day, I look back on all of those examples of fathers that I’ve seen in all of my years. Some were true dads: men that gave everything to prove to their children that they were the priority and they were loved. Others were fathers: they provided everything for their children, but the emotional bond just wasn’t there. And still others weren’t present at all—and really don’t deserve the title “father” at all. Sometimes I wonder what makes the difference between a man who decides to step up and be a positive factor in his child’s life, and a man who cares more about himself than the life he helped to create. 

Then I realize—does it really matter what causes the divide? There are “real” dads all over the place, if you care to look. There are men, like my step-grandfather, who step in when they don’t have to and become a positive male figure in impressionable lives, making a world of difference. There are grandfathers who step into the role of father whenever they see a need. There are men who gladly adopt children who otherwise wouldn’t have parents, simply because they have all that extra love to give. Then there are the men who are amazing examples of fatherhood to their own children’s friends. There are many other wonderful representations of “fatherhood” in this world, if you only care to look.

I think that too often, we (children) are all too happy to look for only the negative examples of the male gender, and forget that there are so many positive ones (and vice-versa when it comes to women on Mother’s Day).

So this Father’s Day, remember the positive examples of fatherhood—whether they are your own or someone else’s. Thank them for being such positive influences in your life or the lives around them. Acknowledge what they’ve done, and show them how much you care in return.

Because you never know how long you’ll have with them, even if their influence lasts for the rest of your life.

Dad, thank you for being my dad, loving us kids before anything else, and instilling in me a wonder of nature and a respect for the things around me. Grandpa K, thank you for sharing your knowledge, always making me laugh, and showing me that girls can be tough too—even when wearing skirts. Grandpa S, thank you for loving me enough to record/buy every movie that I said I liked, letting me run my fingers through your hair as we chatted, and sharing your love of technology and the South Pole exploration with me. Uncle Wally, thank you for always believing the best of me, giving me squeezes whenever I needed them, and spending one-on-one time with me so I knew I was valued. Grandpa B, thank you for being my granddad and loving me, even when you didn’t have to. I will never forget your bear-hugs! 

And to every other man in my life (my brother, uncles, cousins, friends, etc.) thank you for being there! I will never forget you!