One of my earliest memories is when, at four years old, I ran out to the breezeway and greeted the kind man my mother was dating with, “Are you going to be my Daddy?” I somehow knew even then that he was the perfect father for me, and he officially became my father when my parents got married a short time later.
He’s not my biological father, but that has never mattered to either him or me. He officially adopted me when I was five years old, and he’s been my dad ever since. He is still one of the kindest, most loving men I’ve ever known, and I couldn’t have chosen a better father.
Even back in the 70’s and 80’s – before it was common for fathers – he always took an active role in the lives of me and my sister. We did a lot of things together as a family: camping, hiking, and our annual vacation at the beach. On Saturday nights, we played games together in front of our fireplace. My dad was the champ at Parcheesi and never would have let us win on purpose. He was always fair-minded and kind.
He was just as kind to my friends, greeting them by name when he came home from work and always taking an interest in what I was doing. Whenever he came home and saw my best friend, Michelle (which was almost every day), he would say teasingly, “Oh, no! It’s Michelle!” and she’d erupt in a fit of giggles. She knew, just like I did, that he genuinely liked me and my friends. He had a great sense of humor. He even put up with my annual slumber party of screaming little girls in the basement!
Dad didn’t just get involved in my life; he involved me in his, too. He was in the trucking industry, and for a while when I was a kid, he had his own business and small truck, making deliveries to local stores and businesses. When I had a day off from school, he’d take me along with him for what he called “pick-em-ups and deliveries.” I rode around town beside him in the red truck, and we’d stop for donuts and lunch. I felt so special sitting next to him, especially when he introduced me to his regular customers.
Besides all the day-to-day fun we had together, my dad was always there for special events. We were a family that celebrated everything, and he came to every dance recital and school function, usually with his movie camera. He always let me know that he was proud of me.
At my wedding, Dad and I danced together. I chose one of his favorite songs, “Through the Years” by Kenny Rogers, and its lyrics were perfect for our relationship. My family and friends gathered in a big circle around us, and most of them were crying! Dad and I thought that was funny, as we enjoyed our dance together.
When my husband and I became parents ourselves, my dad became Grandpa. He was just as loving and kind with our two sons as he had been with me and my sister. From the time they were little, he has always been actively involved with them, playing with them on the floor or outside, playing games together with the whole family, and letting them know he loved them.
Last summer, my dad was diagnosed with melanoma, now stage 4. He’s had surgeries, radiation, and immunotherapy, and this past year has been a struggle. My sons, both busy teenagers now, will still drop everything to go visit him and Grandma (a day’s drive away). They play cards with him or watch TV or a movie, and they love his sense of humor. It means so much to me that they love Grandpa just as much I do.
Our relationship began in a loving way when he not only accepted me as his daughter but treated me no differently than my sister, his biological daughter. It has only grown stronger over the years. From my dad’s example, I learned patience, kindness, and tolerance. I have come to recognize and appreciate his influence more the older I get. I feel so fortunate to have him as my father, and he’s taught me a lot about being a parent myself.