View from the Hill
LOS ANGELES—We appreciate the men in our lives every day, but on Father's Day, let's pause for a moment and actually thank them.
The first person I would like to thank is my stepfather, Ron. He met my mother a few months after my 19th birthday. By then, I had learned men could not be trusted. Too easily they’d leave without looking back, indulge in alcoholic binges, steal money from relatives and leave a family impoverished and alone.
My mother warned Ron I was difficult at times. She often had to explain her oldest daughter’s caustic humor. I swayed between cold and hostile, immune to charm or personality. My smile felt empty, promising nothing. His smile seemed warm, welcoming, and I immediately became suspicious. Who was this guy? I politely shook his hand, silently giving him a month at best.
I had no way of knowing a gift had just been given and, thankfully, with no return receipt. I had no way of knowing Ron would love my family unconditionally, talk us back from near disasters and encourage us to try again. I had no way of knowing he’d listen to anti-military tirades, then patiently explain two tours of duty in Vietnam, leaving me with a newfound respect for our country’s soldiers—and for him. I had no way of knowing he would cheer loudest the day I graduated from college and beam brightest while walking me down the aisle on my wedding day.
I had no way of knowing years later he would love my children with all his heart, building a dock out back to teach them the ways of the world while feeding ducks and fish. I had no way of knowing he would challenge so many beliefs and leave me forever changed year after year after year.
He came into our family, but we are the ones who joined him. Ron didn’t mind my brother’s distance, sister’s trepidation or my own endless supply of doubt. He knew he’d win us over eventually. Despite carnivorous eating, NASCAR and questionable voting habits, I couldn’t resist him. Deep down, every daughter needs a dad. No matter how self-sufficient we appear, the more love we have, the better we do. He has proven real fathers can be counted on for the long haul.
Technically, he’s my stepfather, but that’s not how I think of him. In every way that matters, he is most certainly my dad.
Now on to my husband.
I keep blinds and shutters closed, lights off for most of the day. I get this habit from my mother. Nana used to call her “Mrs. Mole” so I guess that makes me “Ms. Mole.” In my defense, light finds its way. Besides, a semi-dark house is a cool house. When the weather outside is frightful, (97 degrees and getting hotter) a cool house is also a happy house.
When my husband comes home, he always turns the lights on. Always.
Do you know what he does first, though? He pulls in the driveway and waits a second for our children to open the door and dance to music coming from his car. Then they run, laughing and ignoring my attempt at sternness (“Walking feet!”) to hide somewhere.
“Pretend I’m in Hawaii, Mommy!” my youngest whispers.
That’s when he comes inside and hits the light. In my best Donna Reed impersonation, dressed in sweats instead of a skirt, I give him kisses and ask about his day.
“Where are my boys?” he asks loud enough to make them giggle and then takes his time looking around. Making the fun last and last for all of us.
The boys are learning many things from their father. They learn laughter diffuses anger from imitating daddy’s funny faces, self-confidence and good sportsmanship from hockey games out back and numbers from “New World Record” where daddy throws the ball and counts how many times they catch without dropping. They’ve learned to change their voices for different characters during story time, the importance of family and how to shake hands with grownups. The other day, our kids took turns opening the door first and it occurred to me: they’re learning how to be good men.
In so many ways, my husband shines a light on our lives and brightens up the place. My world would be too dark without him.
Happy Father’s Day.
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