Growing Up Fatherless...

I have spent more of my life without a father than with one.  The summer before I began first grade, my father passed away after a lengthy illness, therefore, it has been a process over time for me to attempt to understand the role of a father in the family.

Father's Day has always been an awkward day for me.  As a child, I remember going to church on Father's Day Sunday with my grandparents.  They lived in a very small, rural community and that little church was steeped in very long standing traditions.  One of those traditions centered around Father's Day.  The women wore flowers (roses or carnations...) on their dresses.  There was only 2 colors that were worn; red and white.  If one's father was living they wore a red flower and if their father was not living, they wore a white flower.  I know that it may not seem much to some, but it was just another symbol of my fatherless condition.  Father's Day was just never a day that I looked forward to.  That day didn't make me happy, but it also did not make me sad...it just left me feeling as though a piece were missing out of a puzzle.

Raised by only a mother, there were things that I naturally did not participate in or know much about.  Sports was one of those things.  Not just sports like football or baseball, but I didn't do very much outdoors either.  I didn't fish or camp or hike.  I now believe that my friends were most likely doing those things with their two parent families.  And men in general?...Hmmm...I suppose that I will admit that my "attitude" towards men was affected by growing up fatherless.  It's not that I don't "like" men; I just don't understand them that well.

So, in saying all of this, I must also say that although I felt that little piece of the puzzle was missing, I truly did not know WHAT I was missing...UNTIL I began to have children of my own.  Being married, of course, meant living with a man...that man that I truly did not understand.  At first it was quite an adjustment for me.  And THEN I learned about something; testosterone.  Ah Ha!  Now THAT explained a little more about how the male mind worked.  And just as I was barely beginning to understand the inner working of the male mind (if one ever really does...), I found myself having three male children!

Those children came so quickly for us that I didn't have time to THINK much less read books about raising those male children.  And the "testosterone"?  Well, it came in MASSIVE doses now!  But as those male children were growing up, I observed something; their interaction with their father.  I was a very strange, foreign thing to me, this relationship between father and sons.  He could don all sorts of hats and those children listened and learned at his knee.  And one thing was quite evident to me over time...these male children wanted to be "Just Like Dad". 

My next child was a daughter and I was anxious to see how HER relationship would be defined with a father.  This, I was most interested in since I had no memory of such a relationship with my own.  As Caitlin grew, I saw that although Robby enforced the same ground rules with her as her brothers, something was different.  He was always straight forward, but gentler; very protective.  She would sit on his lap and I could see that she was KNEW her place in his life...she was valued by this most important man in her life; her father.  As she grew older, I noticed how interested he remained in her choices of friends, relationships and even the formals she chose for dances.  And she expected her dad to get special gifts her on her significant birthdays, such as "Sweet 16" (pearls...) and "21" (a car...); he innately KNEW these things and did not disappoint her.  Often times I watch those two from afar as she still (at 21...) jumps up in his lap and he rocks her in his chair.  And I see it now...that missing puzzle piece.

We cannot change the cards that were dealt to us....all we can do is try to play them the best we know how.  Yes, I grew up fatherless, however, I have learned something from that.  I NOW understand how important and vital the role of a father is to every child.  The father is the leader of the family, the strong hold, the example setter that children long for.  No matter what sort of example he sets, those children are going to follow it.  He is the one whose knee is always available to be perched upon to voice concerns or just grab a hug and "I Love You".  While Father's Day once left me feeling a bit left out, I now find myself looking forward to it with the excitement I see as my now grown children prepare for the day.  It is a testament to their father that they have all made their way home for this special weekend...to spend with the most important man in their lives...their FATHER.

*****It is my wish for all of you, who are still fortunate enough to have your fathers with you, that "Father's
          Day" will be a very happy and blessed day!***** HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!

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