When I think about this Father’s Day, of course it doesn’t take me long to think about how close I came to NOT being here for this one — how close I came to my kids MISSING their father on this Father’s Day. I’m constantly second-guessing my ability to do this job, but my kids still love me so I gotta be doing SOMETHING right 😀
What comes to mind, though, when I think about how my kids celebrate me, is what went in to me becoming the father that I am. See, I’m in a rather interesting position in that I’ve had not one, not two, but FOUR fathers (to varying degrees, and not counting God Himself — He’s in a class all His own 😉 ) throughout my life.
Of course, there’s my first father, Richard. He’s my biological father — half of the equation that explains why I’m here in the first place. Now, granted, he wasn’t there for the vast majority of my life, and even now our relationship is “distant” at best, but he gave me a few things that are vital to who I am.
He gave me my DNA, and through that, part of my Indian heritage, as well as a good portion of what makes me who and what I am physically. You wanna blame somebody for me being Chewbacca? Blame Richard 😉
He also gave me the blessing of perspective — not by his presence, but by his absence. For many years, I was angry at him for not being there… but it was an unjust anger. I didn’t know who he was, what prompted him to leave, why he stayed gone, what could be so repulsive about my Mom and me that he chose not to be my Dad. Never did I realize that, just like me, he’s human. He makes choices that he might later regret. Or not. More to the point, I made his leaving about me, or about him, or about Mom, never taking into account that sometimes, stuff just happens, and nobody’s to blame.
As an adult, I’ve learned how pointless it would be to be angry over his choices… because had he made other choices, my life would be absolutely unrecognizable. For one, my Mom would’ve never met my Dad — the next one I’m gonna talk about hehe — and had my sister Sharmeen. And Richard would’ve never met his wife, Jackie, and had my other siblings, Talitha, Tabitha, Tiva, Beth, Richard II, and Zeb. Considering how much has been ADDED, not just to my life but to the world, how could I possibly be mad at him for his choices???
Would I have preferred he had stayed? In a way. I would’ve gotten to know him as a father rather than as the friend and fellow artist that I’m coming to know him as now. I would’ve gotten the benefit of having a single, unbroken home. But I would have LOST so much as well. I wouldn’t have the family I have, the EXPERIENCES I’ve had. My personality would be entirely different. Had he stayed, I would not be “me” — certainly not any “me” that I would recognize. So I’m thankful to Richard, not for what he “deprived” me of (if I could even call it that), but for what he GAVE me.
Incidentally, one of the things that he gave me was the opportunity to know my Dad, George. Because of Richard’s absence, a void existed in my Mom’s life — a void that was filled (at least temporarily) by my Dad. They met in the Navy, where she was a single mom and he was a rebel without a cause. Their personalities couldn’t have been more different — she ordered and he chaotic, she responsible and he impulsive — but for a time, they worked.
Dad, of course, gave me the lion’s share of who I am. First and foremost, he gave me the love of a man who DIDN’T HAVE to be my Dad, and yet CHOSE to be anyway. Even when heartache came, he wanted ME in his life as well as my sister, his natural child. He could mess everything else in our relationship up, and mess it up BAD, and I’d STILL have nothing but admiration for the man, if only for that reason.
But he gave me more than just that. He also gave me my love of science fiction, fantasy, books, games, movies, entertainment in general. He showed me the value of my imagination, of asking “what if” and then actually trying to logic out the answer. He’s the reason I’m a gamer, and a writer. He’s the reason I’m writing this blog post, and why I’m so social on Facebook (funny, because he’s a veritable hermit hehe). He made sure I knew who God was, and helped lead me to Christ. And between my faith in Christ and my love of “what if”, Dad’s influence was instrumental in how I have GROWN in Christ, coming to know Him more and more even APART from those in the world and in the church that “claim” to know Him but fail to live up to Him when it matters.
But as I alluded, Dad’s personality quirks (which became MY personality quirks) clashed with Mom’s personality quirks (some of which I inherited as well, to be honest), so leading to their inevitable divorce, and Mom to my third father — Jim. Now, as much as Dad helped to build the kind of man I am, Jim helped to build the kind of DAD I am. Unfortunately, that’s not always a good thing, but for the life of me, it never ceases to amaze me how much my kids still love me in spite of it! Shouldn’t be surprising though — I loved Jim in spite of the very same.
I’ve already blogged about Jim, so you can go to that post and read all about him at your leisure, but for the sake of this blog, I want to focus in on how he has influenced me — namely, my expectations of my kids. Jim was an old Army hangover, concrete contractor, tough as nails, it’s-GONNA-get-done kinda guy. In fact, every time I have to get onto my kids, I hear Jim speaking in my voice — “You can either do X, or you’ll get Y punishment and STILL have to do X. Either way, I’m gonna get my way, so you might as well just make it easier on yourself.”
When I make my kids tow the line, it’s Jim. When I lose my cool and yell myself hoarse, it’s Jim. When I take the commonplace things we take for granted and turn them into profound life lessons, it’s Jim. He had an uncanny ability to see beyond the obvious, and to convey those things to his kids — very similar to how Dad taught me “what if”, only “thinking outside the box” on a much more practical level. Much of my work ethic is due to Jim. He knew that I’m lazy by nature, so he played specifically to that part of my nature to get through to me. Things like, “If you do a half-ass job, you’ll do it twice”, or the old laborer’s standby, “Measure twice, cut once”, to teach me that any job worth doing is worth doing once, and to the best of my abilities, so I don’t have to retread old ground (something a lazy person like me loathes).
Every one of these simple lessons had myriad applications in everyday life, and only VERY FEW of them specific to the context that they were given. When he taught me, he taught me on my level. He established a common ground that I would recognize — say, the hammer I was holding in my hand, or the shovel I was using to move gravel from this pile to that — and build his lesson from that point. Very abstract, and every valuable. It was a manner of teaching that helped me not only see life from perspectives not immediately apparent, but actually helps me to understand obscure things in scripture — specifically, parables. When Jesus taught His disciples, He spoke in the same way that Jim spoke to me — from a common ground that the disciples could readily identify with, to illustrate something that would otherwise be beyond their grasp. Nowadays, when I’m talking with my kids, driving down the road with them, working on the cars, mowing the lawn, or whatever I’m doing with them, I find myself doing the same thing Jim used to do — teaching, looking for new ways to explain the ordinary, so that the ordinary can be seen in an extraordinary (and often unexpected) light.
But love him or hate him (depending on the day), I was nevertheless deprived of him in 1998… which left the door open for my fourth, and presumably FINAL, father.
Like Jim, me and Bobby haven’t always got along. For all that Mom would suggest that Bobby’s personality is like Jim’s, it’s not. Nor is it like Dad’s or Richard’s. Bobby is Bobby. He has his own way of looking at things, his own value system, his own expectations. Where Jim was complex, Bobby is simple. Where Jim was quick-whitted and sharp with his criticisms and even insults, Bobby is (semi) respectful but blunt as a baseball bat. Bobby is similar to Jim in that they are both hard personalities, and they both have a tender underside, but it’s like they’re flip sides to the same coin — not opposites, but mirror images.
In that way, I guess, Bobby is doing exactly what Jim did with a younger me — pushing me along in who I’m supposed to be. Where Jim’s complexities drew me aggressively from my ignorance, Bobby’s one-track simplicity teaches the adult me to be steadfast, focused, unwavering unless it’s something that REQUIRES change. I don’t give Bobby NEAR the credit that he’s due. I have a nasty habit of saying that he’s my Mom’s husband, that “I’m too old to have a step-dad”, when in fact, that’s clearly not the case. I may not always think I need to learn something… but neither did I think I “needed to learn” from Jim, or from Dad, or from Richard. But however I think I need it or not, it happens all on its own.
And I’m not done. There are MANY fathers I’ve not named — grandpas, coworkers, friends, examples I see in life and on TV, people who’ve shown me a wisdom that I didn’t have before I met them, and whose wisdom has invariably wound up becoming part of the me I am today. As I look to today’s “me”, because of all the fathers that I’ve had in my life, direct or otherwise, I marvel at the Dad I am, and more, at the Dad I am becoming. How long before my Daddyhood is passed on to my kids — in how my boy emulates me, and how my girls measure the men that they will eventually tie themselves to? How long before the process that I’m in the middle of starts all over again in them?
Or has that process already started? I rather think so. I started to become me long before I can remember. I think about how I’m an unfinished product, unrefined, less than perfect, and yet I’m planting these flawed seeds in my kids’ lives, and the prospect worries me… but there again, I’m sure it did all of my fathers as well. To look back on them now, and see that I’m now OLDER than three of them were when they came into my life, I can’t help but think that they too were works in progress, unfinished and unrefined, planting flawed — yet incredibly valuable — seeds in my life.
And I love who I am because of it. For all THEIR flaws, I still turned out fine! So it gives me a great deal of peace that my kids will not suffer too badly because of all of MY flaws. They have an adequate teacher, because I had some excellent ones 🙂
Richard, George, Jim, and Bobby — Happy Father’s Day! Thank you for being you, because you have made (and continue to make) me into me 🙂