A Tale of Three Fathers

I know that Sunday was Father's Day but I was busy helping my children ensure that their dad had a great Father's Day (and just enjoying the day), but I wanted to share my tribute to three fathers who passed from my life, each in their own way making me the person I am today.

The first is the father of my birth. He died in an industrial accident when I was just a toddler, leaving my Mom a widow with three children under three. I have only very vague memories of him that are more feelings than pictures in my mind, and I have seen him only in black and white photos. But I see him around me in many ways. I inherited his red hair (I used to think I was adopted since I was a fair-skinned redhead, and my brothers all had brown hair and brown eyes and turned mahogany brown in the summer sun!), I see his coloring in my son Gavin who has both his red hair and light brown eyes. He played in his high school band (where he met my mother) and his love of music is part of my daily life, and that of my children who all love music. He loved the outdoors and I guess my enjoyment of camping and being out in nature must come from him,especially since my Mom's idea of roughing it is a hotel with only an outdoor pool! But I am sad that I mainly must rely on other's memories and stories of him.

The second father in my life was my step dad, and for all intents and purposes he was my only dad since he is the one who raised me. Can you say enough about a man who marries a woman and her three young children? I don't think so. I know lots about my stepfather. I know he lied about his age and left school to join the military so he could help support his family.I know that he never wanted his children to have to work in a factory the way he did and he showered every day before he came home from work because he didn't want the smell of the factory on him. I know that he prized education because he knew that would open the way to an easier and better life without the struggles he had had. He took correspondence courses to get his GED and even took some courses late in his life when a lot of people wouldn't have bothered. When my dad came to visit long after I had grown up and started working at Jefferson Lab, he teared up when he saw I had my own office with a secretary. My dad was a rabid Washington Redskins fan, and liked to play horseshoes. He loved Gomer Pyle and Flip Wilson. He came to countless scout meetings, music programs, Little League Games. Even after my half-brother was born, no one could have ever told which children had his DNA and which didn't.

As we kids grew up and moved out, he and my Mom went regularly to the Moose Lodge to dance - we teased him, calling him the Silver Fox because he had a head full of wavy silver-gray hair. I hardly ever remember my dad getting mad, but he could give the "I'm so disappointed..." lecture that would make you feel like you would have to extend your reach to scratch a caterpillar's belly. And his laugh - my dad was a great believer in full out, tears-in-your-eyes belly laughing. I have written before about how his unconditional acceptance (and consumption) of whatever I cooked for him has helped me become a person who is not afraid to play with food. My dad died after his second bout with cancer, a truly loved and beloved man. If I am half the parent to my children as he was to me, I will be a success.

The third father in my life was actually my father in law. He was a formidable man who frightened a lot of people but he accepted me into his family without reservations when my husband and I left college and eloped. I have written about my father in law before on this blog describing the best chicken salad I will never make again. He was known simply as "the Colonel" except to his wife who called him Jack. He had served in WWII, Korea and acted as an advisor in Vietnam. He looked a lot like George C. Scott in Patton, and was one of those men with a crusty exterior and a marshmallow center, particularly when it came to the grandchildren. I have the best memories of him "blowing the bugle" or whistling Gary Owen and bouncing the kids for a horsey ride that would make them squeal, "Again! Again!" I learned from him, that family must come first, don't sweat the small stuff, believe in yourself and don't let others shake your confidence, short -term sacrifice is worth long-term gain.

So while you may read this and think how sad that I had to lose three fathers in my life, think again. So many children grow up and never have even one great father figure in their lives,while me,I was lucky enough in my life to have three men I could call Father.

A happy belated Father's Day to those dads out there, and for the rest of you, take the time to tell your dad how much he means to you.


Cynthia said…
Oh Deborah, this was such a touching and moving post, espcially when you wrote about your step dad. You have been truly blessed to have been a part of the lives of these great men.
Deborah Dowd said…
Cynthia, I doubt I could capture the depth of feeling, but I hope that I did share a bit of just how lucky I have been. Thanks for your kind words.
Sarah said…
Deborah, I am misty-eyed--what a lovely tribute to three wonderful men! Fathers do not get celebrated enough, in my opinion Thank you for sharing this; it's beautiful.
Deborah Dowd said…
Sarah- I am glad it touched you. It should act as a reminder tho those who have their fathers around to appreciate them more! Thanks for your kind words!
very though-provoking post, i enjoyed reading about all the men who left their stamp in your life