Last Sunday was Father’s Day, and since then I’ve been thinking a lot about father figures in my life, various people who have come along to provide that strong Dad energy we all need from time to time as we stumble along, trying to make our way in this world. By the time they married, my mother already had two small children from a previous marriage, so the man who became “Daddy” to my older brother and to me stepped into a ready-made family which, I’m sure, could not have been an easy choice, but he loved our mother enough to put up with a three year old boy and very stubborn two year old girl to make it happen. I was raised by my stepfather, an accidental Daddy, a good man who wrestled with alcoholism for a large portion of his life before quitting – without AA, without treatment of any sort, without anything other than the stamina and determination it took to turn his life around. And he became a great guy; the great guy who’d been hiding out in there for all those years suddenly appeared. He was funny and kind. Available. Present. It was a joy to witness. And it was easier to forgive him for the past than to shatter the goodness just lain at our feet by re-hashing it all, something I think that would have been so counter-productive it would have wrecked everything. As a family, we all just seemed to say, without actually saying it, “Okay, a new road now. And away we go.” It was just so unlike us, really, but we did it.
My brother Pat never married, but became Uncle Pat to all of his nieces and nephews who adored him, another accidental Daddy. He could be blustery and gruff, but his heart was a tender one, and, if he could help out in any way, Uncle Pat was always there. Any time I found a stray kitten, Pat was the one I called, simply because I knew he was too soft-hearted to say No and, at one point, I think he had 12 cats and an old deaf dog named Phyllis. But my brother Pat left us too soon, dying in 2007 at age 54 of lung cancer. One day at the hospital, I stuck my head in the door of his room, only to see his nieces and nephews all sitting around his bed, all of them crying. They were saying good-bye to their favorite uncle; they were thanking him for entertwining his life with theirs, for being their Uncle Pat. It was so tender and dear I thought my heart would crack in two. We all still miss him with a terrible ache, one I don’t think will ever go away.
Sam is my partner’s son, a handsome, kind, ex-Marine, a young man who can tell a great story, complete with lots of sound effects, so, of course, he won my heart right away. Sam’s relationship with his biological father has not always been easy. Nobody is blameless in this, which is true in most relationships; we are all prone to stupid choices and stubborn stances from time to time. It is interesting, though, to see who I have become in Sam’s life over the past 14 years. Although I am female, I have become an accidental Daddy. Actually, how I really think Sam sees me is as a hybrid of some sort, a cross between a soft, mooshy Dad and a big, mean sister. I’m okay with that. He is our boy. If he needs someone to talk to, I am right there. If he needs a big hug, my arms are wide open. Although I can’t imagine myself ever actually doing it, if Sam thinks I’m completely capable of kicking his ass if he needs it, I’m okay with that, too. I just have to remember to get my other knee replaced before I do.