Despite a recent shift in American consciousness, the” breadwinner” has, for generations, been the man of the house. And while the new millennium has ushered more opportunities for a woman to out-earn her husband, many men still revel in the role of head of household.
Rising in the early morning darkness, they set out into the tedious, and at times, cut-throat environment we call the workplace. They toil away in their respective “offices”: construction sites, classrooms, hospitals, 18-wheelers, firehouses, restaurants, taxi cabs-- all in the name of a paycheck, so that they may provide for their families to the best of their ability.
There is a man in my life, who fits the above description. He is someone who, for several decades, both rose and returned home in darkness, to commute nearly two hours a day to New York City. He endured the stress and strain of stock market trends and avaricious demands of his employer. And while it was grueling, and the cause of an ulcer, he did it for his family.
He entered my life when I was just a child and would become the one to help raise and educate me.
Until that time, my schema of a “dad” was someone who visited once a week, fumbled for the right words, and attempted to fill the chasm between us with trinkets and endless trips to the movies. However, when this new dad rode in wearing proverbial shining armor, the barren space in my heart slowly began to fill in ways I hadn’t known were possible.
That’s not to say that I initially welcomed him with reckless abandon. He had to work at earning my trust and respect. And work he did. There were the rubber band “boogers” he pulled from his nose, the finger detachment trick, and the Cowardly Lion impersonation. There were trips to the ice cream shop and Saturday mornings spent watching wrestling on TV. And I will never forget the occasion he wound an entire roll of green dental floss into an empty molar space. I roared with laughter as he pretended to “get sick” and pulled endless lengths of green floss from his mouth.
He tread lightly, carefully, patiently until I was ready to let him in. Finally, there came a point, where the funny guy evolved into the man I considered my dad. And while he never held me in his arms in the maternity ward or watched as I took my first tenuous steps, it was he who taught me how to parallel park, throw a softball, paint a room, and how to do the right thing even when it wasn’t fun or easy.
He was a man who never asked me to call him “Dad” but who puffed out his chest whenever I introduced him as such. He hadn’t fathered me, yet had proven time and again, that blood is not what makes a father. Instead, it’s a four-letter word; one, which rolls off the tongue of some all too easily, and for others, never at all.
So, while Father’s Day is traditionally a day to celebrate the man who fathered us, it is also a day to honor those who did not.
It is one thing to be a father by circumstance, but quite another to be one by choice. On Father’s Day, and every day, I celebrate the man who chose to be my dad.