To young children, they are playmates, fixers, cheerleaders, and absolutely essential. As those children grow into teenagers and young adults, fathers become a ‘can’t live with them, can’t live without them’ kind of person. They become the watchdogs and the lecturers while still tenaciously hanging on to their role as playmates, fixers, and cheerleaders. It’s a fine line they have to walk.
I lost my father when he was fifty-six years old and I was twenty-three, still a young adult. My oldest is now twenty-three and the other is four years behind. Once we pass this stage, I will be in uncharted territory, but Steve, my husband, was fortunate enough to have a father who lived to be ninety-three, and who remained an important presence in his children’s lives.
I think most of us grow up hoping to make our fathers proud, trying to live up to their example. Whether they realize it or not, they have a powerful influence on our lives. They are often the yardstick against which we measure ourselves – our moral compass.
My husband has set a high standard for our children to follow. He has taught them by example with his dedication as a volunteer fireman and fire chief, with his hard work and his tenacity, and his ability to deal with people no matter how delicate or urgent the situation. He uses his sense of humor to amuse and defuse.
He may not know the difference between taupe and brown, but he can settle disputes with reasoning and good cheer. He may come home with cucumbers when we sent him to the store for zucchini, but he will turn himself inside out to help mend a broken heart. He will buy bus passes for a grown daughter who lives thousands of miles away to make sure she doesn’t have to walk home late at night. He will drive across town at any hour to change a flat tire, or pick up kids after a party. He’ll search for light and sound systems to make sure our girls have ‘the best party ever’, and he’ll try to teach them skills that may serve them later on in life. In other words, he will always go the extra mile for his kids.
Those are traits of a good father.
I often wonder how my life would have differed if my father had lived a longer life. Would I have made different decisions? Would I have followed a different path? It certainly would have been wonderful to have him at my wedding and to see him dote over my babies. I know I took him for granted while I had him, as my girls probably do with their own father. But I still hold my dad’s legacy inside me, and I can only hope some of it will be passed on to my children. If not, the legacy of their own father and his before him will be more than enough to help them along.