I hesitated before writing this blog this morning. I know so many people for whom Fathers’ Day is a negative trigger. Even my own children may struggle with it some. The reality is that there are always going to be a mix of good fathers and bad fathers, some of who were given the title of ‘father’ by blood and not by action, and some who truly stepped up to fulfill the role of a father in any way possible. I am here to celebrate and acknowledge the latter.
I grew up in a time when families lived close together. I was fortunate to know and love both my maternal and paternal grandfathers very well. I can remember their voice, their demeanor, and their gentle spirit even though both were larger than life.
My maternal grandfather was an agricultural teacher in the Philippines in the early 1920s. I remember sitting on the floor listening to his stories. It was a world I could scarcely imagine. On one visit, I remember reading his diaries from his time there. The stories were other-worldly to me. I have tried unsuccessfully to find who has a copy of his diaries and journals but no one acknowledges having them. It is such a shame. It would be such a rich history to pass down to his great-great-grandchildren.
One of my fondest memories of him was when my daughter was on the verge of learning to walk. I was struggling financially and one of my uncle’s bought my daughter a walker. She was such a lightweight her feet would not touch the floor. Later that afternoon, I saw my grandfather (who was recovering from a stroke) walking to his workshop in his walker with my daughter’s walker in hand. Half an hour later, he returned and tossed the walker on the living room floor and said, “Now try it”. I put her in the walker, her feet touched the floor and off she went. She hasn’t stopped since. He had taken the walker and wedged shims in-between the springs to relax them a little.
My paternal grandfather was a good bit older than my grandmother. He was tall, with big hands and a huge heart. He made me stilts when I was a small girl — I was on top of the world! When he took walks into the woods he took me along and pointed out plants to be wary of. He always had heart problems and took nitro-glycerin pills although he would never carry them with him. He passed away on December 15th, gathering mistletoe and greenery for Christmas decorations. My brother and I would find him, lying peacefully on the hillside overlooking the valley that had been his home for well over 70 years. He always used to tell me he only wanted to live long enough to see his grandchildren old enough to tell someone when they were hurting or when they needed something. He was a kind and gentle giant.
My Dad was my best friend. I could talk to him about anything. I am not sure how many women had such a close relationship with their fathers. I know I was fortunate. He saw me through some of the most difficult times of my life and was always there to catch me when I thought I would surely fall. His voice is so loud in my memory. I can hear him call my name even now. There is never a day that I do not miss him. It was a week before Fathers’ Day when he passed away. I was just a week away from a final hug from him that I was never to receive. But life has a way of coming full circle. My son hugs like my Dad did.
These men were not perfect. But fathers need not be perfect. They need to be present and loving and kind. These men were those things and more to me. I did not do so well choosing fathers for my children and for that I will always have some level of regret. My Dad filled an important role in their lives as has my husband. He’s been an amazing step-dad and grandpa for my children and their children. We have managed to build a wonderfully blended family for which I am forever grateful.
Today I honor and remember these men in my life. They had so much to do with the way my own children are raising their families. We were fortunate to have this kind of strength and love that we could always count on. And even though they have passed on, their presence is still felt in all the tiny little moments that make a family.
Happy Fathers’ Day. I’ll see you on the other side of the stars.