Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day

My grandfather has dementia. At eighty-three years old, he doesn't recognize his wife, his wife of nearly sixty years. His children and grandchildren are a mess of names and faces, many of which he will never again remember. For whatever reason, his youngest grandchild, my brother, is the light of his life. He speaks of my brother in a way I've never heard a father, or grandfather, speak of their child. There is excitement in his voice for the potential he recognizes in the kid and a love in his tone that I can't put into words. When you visit with my grandfather, no matter who you are, you will definitely hear about his grandson. His doting on my kid brother is something I greatly admire about him--it is something I appreciate more than he will ever know. My kid brother has been my best friend for nearly eighteen years and my love for him makes me ever appreciative of those who love him as much as I do.

I mention my grandfather today, as I did last year on Father's Day, because for the majority of my twenty-five years he was the real father in my life. He taught me to drive stick, he went along to daddy/daughter night when my own father was absent from my life, he took me to see the Harlem Globetrotters, and sat through more softball games than I can possibly count. Just as he now is with my kid brother, he once was with me and I will forever be grateful to him for that.

Growing up doesn't necessarily mean you need your parents any less. This is a truth I've discovered in the last few years of my life as I've struggled through one health obstacle after another. I may be twenty-five years old, but I can still recognize my need for help from those around me. As a kid that help would come, more often than not, from my grandparents. As an adult, that help has come from amazing friends.

One particular friend comes to mind as I sit watching baseball on this Father's Day. He has been an ally, an advocate, a springboard for many an idea, an adviser, and a defacto father. As I think about the past several years, I can't think of a single instance when I really needed any of those things and he wasn't there. We once had a conversation about how the older you get the less patience you have for youth and the boredom their conversations with you often cause; I've never felt he was bored with me and I've always thought he was listening. This Father's Day I recognize, perhaps more than all those that have come before, that those who choose to be part of our lives are often much more sincere and well-meaning than those who are in our lives simply because they feel a familial obligation.

Hopefully this Father's Day we've all taken the opportunity to thank the fathers in our lives. This is my attempt, however lame, to really thank the guy in my life who has been there for me in so many ways over the past few years. My appreciation is boundless.

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