I love being a dad. If I am remembered for anything, I hope that it will be for being a good father. It's the one job for which you can never call in sick. There are no vacation days. It is the job of a lifetime and it lasts just as long. My son and two daughters mean everything to me. I tease my wife, saying that perhaps we should have rented kids rather than owned, but of course, I wouldn't have it any other way. I have had three role models for fatherhood -- my father, my dad (more on this in a bit) and my wife's dad.
I did not live with my biological father. My parents divorced before I was 2. My mom was just 19 at the time. (I often joke that she could have starred on "Teen Mom" if only she'd grown up in this generation.) When I was a child, my time with my father was relegated to every other weekend and a month each summer, but there was little doubt he was my father and I was his son. People often comment how much we look like one another, but our connection runs much deeper than that. My parents' divorce never ended that connection. Even after I was adopted at age 13 by my then step-dad (I call him my dad), my contact with my father never ended. When I publicly forgave my father (and my mom) over the adoption in an inspirational book I released in 2010, our already tentative relationship was shattered. That forgiveness was not intended to blame my father, since I never doubted his motives, or his love for me. Unfortunately, he took it as a personal attack and cut off all ties with me and my kids. That has never ended my love for him. I think about him every day and I still hope for reconciliation.
My (step) dad came into my life when I was 6 years old. He was 26 when he married my mom. I still marvel that he took on a responsibility as big as fatherhood at such a young age, but he did it with enthusiasm, selflessness and devotion. His first action as a dad was to take six months off from his job as a new car salesman so he could spend time with me every day to better forge our new relationship. He legally adopted me when I was 13, but we didn't need a piece of paper to validate the bond between us. He was my dad long before it became official. Being a real dad has nothing to do with blood lines. It has everything to do with commitment and love and understanding.
This is our first Father's Day without my wife's father. He lived a full and rich 86 years, but it was just not enough for us, his family. We love and miss him every day. In a way, he never left us at all. His love for his wife of sixty years, for his son and daughter and for his grandchildren was unconditional and undeniable. When I married his daughter thirty years ago, he welcomed me as another son. He put the needs of all of us above his own. No sacrifice was too great and no joy could quite match that of being with his grandkids, who simply adored their Poppy. He taught me so much about selflessness and generosity. He lost his father when he was 10 and he made sure his own children knew intimately what it meant to have a doting, loving dad by their side and who was always, always behind them.
On this Father's Day, I want to acknowledge the three men who helped shape me into the dad I strive to be. I have learned by example -- from their triumphs and their sorrows, their pride and their humility, their strength and their fallibility. Being a dad comes with them all. When we are children, we may regard our dads as super heroes. I would be honored just be considered a super dad.
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