Ever since I was a wee kid, I dreaded Father's Day.
When you're a fatherless daughter, you don't get to join in any of the fun, or make cards and homemade gifts.
Thank goodness, Father's Day was never celebrated in my public school. We always made some sort of homemade gift for mom on her day, but dad never got a mention. I guess that's because fathers in the early Sixties weren't around very much.
A lot of other people's dads were veterans who returned shell shocked and distant. They drank or sat and watched television instead of coaching Little League.
I never knew this growing up. I'd always had the impression that most dads were kind of assholes not like the dude in Father Knows Best.
In fact, if I am to be honest here, I can say that after watching other kids' dads, I was glad I didn't have one. Dads scared me. They were like clowns with balloons that popped. For a lot of kids, dads were always disappointing them.
There were some stellar dads, of course. There was my cousin Will who took me along with his gaggle of unruly children on vacations and to the zoo. There were my cousins Butch and Skip who were doting fathers. And there was my Grandpa, who always had time for me and could cut hair and fix a car and grow a mountain of fruits and vegetables on our tiny little farm.
Grandpa used to let me slather his back with menthol rub brought to us by the Fuller Brush man. He took me along fishing for smelt, and we sat side-by-side cleaning the stinky fish. He also taught me to make sandwiches made of handpicked mushrooms, and bacon.
Grandpa was the greatest dad I could have had.
My grandpa chose to stick around and help me grow up straight.
My dad chose a different path. A six pack and car.
He might as well have had a gun.
He left a hole in me the size of Kansas.
And I never got over it.
So Father's Day makes me sad.
Strange cause I didn't even know the guy.
All I know is he was the leaving man.
Today, every school is filled with kids who have dads who are missing in action.
But in my school, we were the only ones who were raised by a single mum. I was ashamed, and his loss scarred me for life, always made me feel lesser, robbed me of what other kids had.
His death informed my choices. I was always looking for him in the eyes of older men, one of whom I married. He became the father of my children.
I was so happy to be married, to know that my children would never grow up like me without a father.
Turned out, I was wrong.
Their father was a leaving man, too.
He stuck around long enough for them to miss him, then he disappeared into the ether.
The kids haven't seen their dad in five years.
Like my own dad, he robbed his kids of a childhood, of memories of being loved, and taken to the park, of family trips and walks down the aisle.
They see him occasionally on the news, or read about him in the paper.
But they have never been worth a phone call, a card, or present. He didn't even bother to call to tell them that their grandfather died this year.
Maybe, I was right.
Maybe dads are assholes.
Maybe the kids would have been better off knowing their father was dead.
It's hard to comprehend how a man could choose to leave his children in that manner.
Fortunately, our story has a happy ending.
Scott came through in the nick of time.
He turned out to be the staying sort of man.
He helped heal my heart and, eventually, mend the shattered hearts of my children.
It wasn't easy.
The kids were teenagers, and resented him a bit at first.
But now they love him as much as anyone could love a dad.
He taught my boys how to be better men, and showed my daughter how a man should love and treat a woman.
He took everything we could throw at him, and didn't abandon us.
He just loved us more.
And that makes him the best father of all.
The kind that steps up.
To the leaving men, I say, good riddance.
Don't let the door slam you on the ass on the way out.
To the rest of you dads, especially to the ones who step up, I say good on ya.
You are heroes to your children, and your grandchild.
Sometimes love is thicker than blood.