Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Day for Fathers

The oh-so-recent recent Father's Day holiday has always been a bittersweet one for me, and I assume for my family. While we live our lives in completely normal ways (normal is relative, of course), this time of the year always breaks me down a tad. Okay, sometimes more than a tad. I'm a freaking wreck.

I have two memories of Father's Days past.

The first one involves sitting in our tiny chairs and desks in Mrs. Golembiowski's third grade class, working hard on our gifts. Kids were sitting and talking about why their fathers were special, all clearly focusing on the person to whom their gifts would so lovingly be presented.

A handful of years prior, my father had passed away from melanoma. It was just shy of my fourth birthday, and though I was so young, I had some basic memories of him. When I figured out the meaning behind what had happened (namely, he was gone F-O-R-E-V-E-R), I mentally aged about twenty years. After that, I always felt slightly detached from my peers.

However, my heart was full of joy. While I don't remember the gift we were making, I fully recall that I was excited to be giving it to my grandfather - "Grandpa Heidi." I adored him more than any person I knew. If I could be a shadow, I'd be his. I still feel this way.

My thoughts were shattered by a sudden blunt question.

"Megan, why are YOU making one? You don't have a father. You shouldn't be allowed to make a present."

I don't remember which classmate made the comment. I just remember that I knew it was said with no other reason but than to make me feel horrible. Of all the hurtful things that were said over the years to me or about me (we had quite the drama queen-filled grade, and I hate to admit that there were times that I was a part of the problem), this was the worst. Chalk it up to "kids being kids"...?

So, as I silently finished my gift, tears streaming down my face and leaving a puddle on my desk, I focused on who would receive the gift. This is where the second memory kicks in.

That Sunday, as with all holidays, we piled in the Buick and headed to Grandma and Grandpa's house. It was a day that left a heavy lump in our throats, but a day to celebrate the wonderful grandfather who played the role of surrogate father, showing more love to us, in some ways, better than he did his own children.

As the gifts -- a new L.L. Bean shirt, a bottle of whisky -- piled up at his feet, he finally opened mine, a wide smile spreading across his face. Of all the gifts, he treated that little tchochke with as much value as a new car. It was enough to heal my heart of the harshness dealt me earlier in the week.

Years later, as we cleaned out his house after he had moved into a nursing home, we found several of those gifts that I had made -- particularly, a chunk of wood with a cool little bird decoupaged on the back and a clothespin glued to the front with "Megan" scrolled in my teacher's best cursive. He was still using it to hold bills on his intimidating bank desk in his dark cave of an office.

After awhile, my mother remarried a man who has since become a great stepdad and a doting grandfather to my son, despite my efforts to make his life miserable (ahh, teen years). Even with so many father figures in my life, it's still been a lifetime of bittersweet Father's Days.

But, now there's a new focus. While the incredibly sexist, grillmaster-golfing-with-bermuda-shorts-laden commercials (Honestly! Where's my dorky daddy commercial with Dads snuggling up while reading comic books to their offspring?) relegate the holiday to yet another Hallmark Holiday, I embrace it, for I now know a daddy who deserves all the attention, love and, yes, gifts this day will allow.

This year, it was time to celebrate a first-year father. One year ago, Dave knew nothing of diaper changes and was quietly terrified of doing ANYTHING wrong, but was eager and 100% supportive (not to mention trusting that I knew what I was doing...which I did...kind of). I watched a fast evolution from sweet husband into incredible father. Not knowing the ins-and-outs of fatherhood, myself, I saw his protectiveness take form. I saw a man who literally spent an afternoon sitting in one awkward position on the couch because the baby had slipped down and he didn't know how to get out of the position shift into a daddy completely comfortable picking up, holding, carrying, moving, buckling, and snuggling (and, yes, even sleeping) with his son. I saw a man fall in love, his heart full of wanting the best of everything -- knowledge, safety, freedom for the child to follow his heart and happiness -- for this little, clueless being. I saw a father born.

Daddy with a 6-week-old munchkin monkey. My, what a year does.

So, this year, the baby and I stopped for a visit with Grandpa, yes. We skipped a trip to my father's headstone, but mostly due to weather -- we will raise Hadley with the knowledge that he had a grandfather that he won't meet (and that sometimes it's what makes Mommy a tad crazy), but also that he has two on earth who love him more than life itself. Over the weekend, we visited with my stepdad and Dave's dad, exchanging gifts, stories, and appreciation. But, mostly, we celebrated a new daddy with new clothes (a polo, gasp!), some homemade baby wall or desk art (silhouette!), and a pretty kick-arse french toast breakfast. And, we're lucky, he loved it all. Our dorky daddy.

I hope everyone had a very happy Father's Day -- all those inspirational dads out there, be they biological, grand-, step-, adopted, or simply fill an important role for someone in need of a father; whether your kids are grown, still small, or just a glimmer in your thoughts, for the fathers in life and the fathers in heart and the fathers in spirit, you're what gives the world its solid foundation, and we couldn't do any of this without you. We love you, dads.

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