For me the word “fatherhood” conjures many images, feelings, and thoughts. Not all of them good. My father was the one who spent time with me when I was little. He taught me to fly a kite, play baseball, bowl, and play pool. He told me, “That’s not swimming” when I tried to pass off floating while walking along the bottom of the pond on my hands. He bought ribbon candy every Christmas and attempted to console me whenever I got hurt.
Then when I was about six he started drinking.
At that point he pretty much ignored me. He spent more and more time at the bar and if he wasn’t at the bar or at work he was asleep somewhere in the house. When I was seven he asked me if I knew what to do if the house caught on fire. I said “Call the fire department and get out. Or go to the neighbors and call.” He said, “right.” Then he left me in charge of my 5 year old brother (my mother worked nights) and went to the bar.
He was the one who woke me up when the house filled with smoke because the furnace did something. Broke? Blew up? We kind of hung out in the living room waiting to see if the house caught fire I guess. (I was sleepy and little. He was drunk.) Mom came home and yelled at him. She did a lot of that. The bottle was my dad’s only friend.
By the time I reached tenth grade he had progressed as far as he was going to at the bank where he worked and began looking for a new job. He was offered a job 800 miles away in Albany, NY. He moved up there to settle in and find a place for us to live, figure out schools, etc. and only called months later to say that he just wanted my brother to move up there with him.
I visited and talked to him the year my brother lived up there. After that he disappeared for eleven years.
Life went on, I graduated from high school, had birthdays, got jobs, left jobs, and had two little boys. Suddenly he was back and wanted to be part of my life.
I told him I hadn’t had a dad for the past eleven years and didn’t see why I needed one now. He said he had cancer. I said I didn’t need him. He said he was dying. I went to visit.
We talked and he asked me if I forgave him. I said, “No. But I will someday, so don’t worry about it.” He said okay and died a few months later. My only feeling at that time was relief because I knew he’d been hurting. He also had to handle all his arrangements himself. We buried him in a very cheap sad looking coffin that was little more than cardboard. The name on the vault was wrong. His friends said they were sorry for our loss. The strangers at the funeral knew him better than I did.
Now the only dad in my life is my wonderful Matthew. Abigail’s daddy, my sweetheart, joy and hope.
Matthew is teaching me that not all fathers are the same. Matthew is the kind of father I wish I’d had. Matthew loves Abigail more than air, and you can see it in his face when they’re together. You can hear it in his voice when he talks to her and about her to others. Abigail can feel it when he holds her, when he smooths her hair, when he dances with her, or looks in her eyes. She can feel it when they play, when he makes her laugh, when he holds her while she cries. Matthew never says, “Go see Mommy” or “Go play with your toys.” Matthew is always happy to see her.
The way he “daddies” Abigail is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, and I’m lucky to have him (and her) in my life. This Father’s Day won’t be filled with cards, games, cake or cheap gaudy ties, just love. Lots of love.
Happy Father’s Day, Matthew. Thank you for being the Daddy.
With all my love,