It was the word that I wanted to use the most, when I was six years old. You see, my biological father wasn’t really a Dad…he’d never really been there for Mom or my brother and I. He wasn’t a bad person. He just wasn’t really a father. But Mom was amazing. She worked so hard, putting in long hours as a clerk in a department store, but she was never too tired to take us to the park, push us on the swings and answer endless questions. Yet, there was one question that I, as the oldest had, and that was “why don’t I have a dad like the other kids at school?” I remember telling a little girl on the playground that my dad was dead…it seemed the easiest explanation to give, when I couldn’t say “hey…over there by my Mom…that’s my Dad” and when I couldn’t really give a physical or mental description. So very young, and yet I knew that something…someone…was missing.
Mom persevered. She had one goal and that was to provide a father…a real father for her children and a loving, devoted husband for herself. She knew she could be a good wife and she was an excellent mother. She was and is still, so extraordinarily beautiful. She never, ever lacked for attention. But the first test for any potential suitor was his reaction to her children and his understanding that it was a “package deal.” There were a few failures…not many, because mom was so very selective, wanting only the very best and most decent person in her life and the lives of her children. And then along came this handsome, incredibly tall, red-haired man. Brilliant to the point of eccentricity…you wrote her the most eloquent, intellectual and odd letter requesting a date. It revealed so much about you and instantly conveyed a level of respect that she hadn’t experienced, despite her extreme selectivity.
She accepted and thus began the journey that would give mom, my brother and I, the family that we all longed for. She loved you because you loved us. She saw in you this amazing man who would be an amazing father and that made her love you even more. I remember the first time I saw you…you were so tall, I was awed in your presence and I wanted nothing more than to show you that I was the best and smartest little girl, ever. I brought you my report card…all A’s…and you smiled, and said in your deep, low voice “that’s very good…you are a very smart girl.” You’ve been telling me that, ever since, Dad…and I still work so hard to make you proud, because you’ve given me so much of who I am. You were always my cheerleader and encourager, a tough disciplinarian, but honest and fair as few people on this earth are. Your moral standards were so very high and yet neither my brother nor I felt that we would never measure up. We always knew what to expect from you. Faithful and consistent as a good father should be…that was and still is, you!
As I’ve grown older, I’ve often contemplated the miracle of how God built our little family. Understanding that God the Father handpicked St. Joseph to be Jesus’ father, helped me to understand how He did the very same thing for me! He picked the very best Dad, ever…and gave Mom the wisdom and virtue to discern the importance of honorable manliness, kindness, fidelity and all-around goodness.
I praise God for you, Dad…
I praise God for the love you give my Mom, which helped show me the kind of man I wanted in my life…my husband is so very like you. I praise God for the way you loved me and my brother, always encouraging us to be good and honest and decent…we certainly didn’t have to be and often weren’t, but you gave us an excellent example to look upon and to emulate. I praise God for your faith…the image of you kneeling to receive the Sacraments…kneeling to put tiny little crosses in the ground to recognize the victims of abortion…kneeling as a Knight and Soldier of Christ…kneeling in prayer. I praise God for the way you can weep over the death of a kitten…laugh at the corny antics of grandchildren…express anger for injustice and insincerity…and still give praise for the good, the true, the beautiful. I praise God for the way you’ve opened your home to Grandma, in these latter years of her life, understanding what a tremendous outpouring of generosity this requires.
I praise God that you’re my Dad.
Happy Father’s Day to us all…it’s yet another holiday that has significance that is shared in our family and I thank you for being my Dad.