All the Difference

"A father makes all the difference." ~ Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs in 'The Natural'

My birth father was 15 years old when I was born.  As the contributer of half of my genes, I cannot say he had no role in life.  While my looks are a combination of my birth parents, I most strongly resemble him. I seem to have inherited my talkative and outgoing nature from him as well. I met him when I was 20 and for a variety of reasons, it would be an understatement to say it was a disappointment.  He had two other children, one with each of his ex-wives. I met them a couple of years ago, shortly after his death. It came as no surprise to me that his failure to be there for his children (they were completely estranged from him and each other) had a lasting negative effect on them.  As the one who didn't know him as my dad, I was clearly the lucky one.

My parents adopted me when I was 2 months old.  Growing up, I knew only one person as my dad and for me, he set the standard for what a father should be.  He was protective, warm and loving.  Of course, a few adjectives really can't paint a picture of what he was like.

When I was a girl, our family spent many spring and summer evenings at the ball fields in our small town.  My sister and I both played softball, and my brother played baseball.  They were both really good players and I was really at my best as a fan.  I can remember one cool spring evening sitting on the wooden bleachers with my dad watching my brother play.  The sun was setting and the temperature was dropping.  Without taking his eyes off of the game, my dad took off his sweatshirt and wrapped it around me. It was warm from him and it made me feel cozy and safe. That moment best sums up what he was like as a dad.    He was easy to talk to and had a great sense of humor.  I loved being with him.  I was 17 when he died of cancer at the age of 54.  I was devastated but know now, almost 30 years later that having a great dad, even if only for 17 years, made all the difference for me.

Two years after my dad died, my mom met Harry.  She married him after knowing him for 2 months.  I thought she had lost her mind.  I remember wondering why at her age (she was 55!) she would need another husband.  I realize now how young she really was, but at the time it seemed kind of ridiculous.  It took me a while to warm up to Harry, I didn't care for seeing her with someone other than my dad.  Luckily, it didn't take me long to realize that Harry, like my dad, was perfect for my mom.  Not only was he crazy about her, he was wonderful to the rest of our family too.  He treated us like we were his own, even though we were young adults at the time.  He could have gotten by with just being cordial, but he was so much more.  When Kurt and I became parents, he took as much joy in our girls as my mom did.  When we bought a new home, he positively swelled with pride for us.  He carved the turkey each Thanksgiving. He was a true dad and grandfather to our family. He let us know in countless ways that he loved and valued us.  We loved him right back.  I feel sure that my dad would have loved him too.  When Harry got sick 17 years after they married, the time came that we knew we were going to lose him.  My heart broke for my mom to be widowed again and it broke for the rest of us too. My mom wondered where he should be buried.  I suggested we bury him with my dad.  Then when her time came (which was unthinkable at the time) she could be a truly modern woman, buried with both of her awesome husbands.  So that's what we did.

When I visit the cemetery, where my mom rests now too, I can't help but marvel at her luck with men.  Of course her luck became our good fortune too.  Roy Hobbs was right....a father truly does make all the difference.