Dad got up this morning and ushered as usual. He made his own stop to pay his respects to the mother of his children. I can't imagine that either.
The girls are always torn on this day. They adore their father and he deserves their undivided attention, but they love and respect their stepfather too, and are mindful of the poignancy of this day for him. He rarely complains, but these days set aside for celebration can be complicated for some families.
What defines a father? We joke that Bill married not one but three women, and he hasn't seen his hairbrush since. He's provided comfort, security, and plenty of laughter over the years. He's made everyone sit down to dinner nearly every night. He's given them the world, literally.
Larry, their dad never missed a school conference, ball game or precollege meeting even when he was exhausted from driving his sales territory all day. He always picked them up on time and brought them home well fed and full of funny stories. He never "visited" with them, he parented--even when it was desperately hard to return them, he did so with a smile and a kiss. And he never undermined or interrogated. He just loved them and respected their mother and stepfather. He also had the good sense to marry an exceptional woman and have more lovely children.
In the last storm we lost a gigantic oak in our yard. A hundred thousand acorns grew on its branches. The oak and its offspring provided shelter to us our home and surroundings. Now that it's gone, it's irreplaceable, yet eventually those medium oaks that grew under its giant canopy will pick up speed.
Our family is sort of that oak in reverse. Each acorn has more than one tree. Fathering is complicated sometimes and not always easy or seamless. My husband accepted my girls first out of love for me and then out of affection for them. We were a package deal. My former husband gave up his day to day parenting but still provided unconditional love and laughter to his girls, his ultimate imprint no less had they wakened in his home each day. My father raised his children, then learned to accept them unconditionally even when that acceptance might become difficult. He never had difficulty accepting his grandchildren. He thinks they are perfect.
What a joy to have a man fall in love with a child as a father, a father who never stops loving, and a grandfather who sees you as flawless. It certainly is a joy from the sidelines.