To the Real Dads

June 19th, 2011 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

WLMCome Father’s Day, I miss my mother and her father. They were my real fathers. Both are gone.

My own biological father was both absentee and deadbeat. I did not see or hear from him from after their divorce when I was about five until he and his replacement wife visited Manhattan where I was living when I was in my 20s.

Amusingly, he had been an artillery commander in WWII and Korea, but personally was, as the Europeans are wont to say, under the slipper. He did whatever his second wife told him. That included stiffing us on child support and never sending cards, presents, money or a call. Nothing of physical or emotional value was to go to his first two children, my sister and me.

Yet, I am a product of what was and is so disparagingly referred to as a broken home who ended up with more and better dads than nearly everyone I knew. I would hear teachers and chums’ parents condescendingly telling me how sorry they were for me. What I noticed was the many homes with one or both parents heavy drinkers, kids regularly verbally abused and beaten with hands, paddles, sticks and belts, and degrading insults for the least or no offenses. None of those was part of my upbringing.

Moreover, Granddad, William Benjamin Michael, my mother’s father, was a great dad to me. We spent summers and holidays with my grandparents. He was older and wiser than most fathers, wiser and gentler than any dad I knew, and was a great role model as well as teacher. There were also six great uncles nearby who made it a point to father me whenever we were together.

Granddad died in his 70s though — killed by blood clots after a hernia operation, dying 20 years too soon. From that point, my mother redoubled her effort at parenting.

When Granddad was around, I always gave my Father’s Day presents, cards, hugs and thanks to him. After he died, they went to Wanda, my mother (shown above in a college picture). She graciously accepted both Mother’s and Father’s Day acknowledgments. We’d laugh at how she somehow managed to serve both functions. She too was amused by the lack of self-awareness in the many who’d sigh when they said broken home and try to make my sister and me feel unfortunate. We knew better.

Today, I’m the old man, the father. I have neither William nor Wanda to praise and thank, except in my heart and with these electrons. I remain grateful and love them both.

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