I decided to ignore Father’s Day this year.
My dad died a week shy of his 96th birthday last June following a long and interesting life. He was a World War II Navy veteran, an industrial engineer, a fly fisherman, an ice dancer who in his later years turned to ballroom, and a lover of animals, wild places, baseball, and musical theater.
I miss him every day.
With Dad gone, I felt Father’s Day had no further meaning for me, but of course I was wrong. I can’t believe I didn’t see what was right in front of me.
I have written about my three sons before. All former students who spent time in the foster care system before calling me Mom. Young men today, all in their twenties, out in the world, discovering what they want to do and where they belong.
But let’s backtrack a little. My mom journey began with a phone call when I was 55. A former student contacted me, frightened and hungry, shortly after he’d wound up in foster care. I loudly complained to a fellow teacher. She stared me down. “If you’re so upset perhaps you should have him live with you,” she said.
I told her the idea was ridiculous, since I’d never had any children and didn’t know the first thing about being a mom. And still I made the call to Child Protective Services.
But here’s the thing. I neglected to explain my soon-to-be mom status to my partner, a man I’d been dating for almost two decades.
“Don’t you think you should have mentioned that you were bringing a child home?” Ryan asked, obviously troubled by the upcoming change in our lives.
In retrospect, the fact that I didn’t discuss the situation with him before I made the call seems absurd. My defense was that we lived in different houses, separated by a two-minute walk. I rationalized that the boy would be living in my home and I shouldn’t have to ask for permission.
Clearly, I’d missed the point. I failed to see that my opting into motherhood placed him squarely in the fatherhood department. I will admit here that while I waited for the 15-year-old to be ushered to my door, Ryan and I were at odds. I don’t think he could see himself as a dad, since like me he’d never had any biological children. As parents we were both complete rookies.
Under the circumstances, it’s funny that Ryan took to parenting more easily than I did. Even today, he sometimes has to remind me to say please when I ask one of the boys to do something or to back off a little when he thinks I’m too hard on them. I defend myself saying that I want them to be happy, healthy, and successful, and since none of them came to me before becoming teenagers, I have to make up for lost time, so occasionally I must be stern.
Then he smiles and says, “Let it go. It’ll be fine.”
I should not be surprised that when the boys get themselves into some kind of pickle it’s Ryan they want to talk to. While it used to bother me, I have now accepted my role as bad cop and am grateful Ryan is here to talk me down whenever a boy-induced cliff presents itself.
While all good dads deserve a hearty Happy Father’s Day, I can’t help but feel that accidental fathers like Ryan – those who’ve chosen to raise other people’s children – deserve a few extra accolades.
So…here’s to you Ry and to all the foster dads out there. Happy Father’s Day!
Wild Horses on the Salt
A woman flees an abusive husband
and finds hope in the wilds of the Arizona desert.
Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint
Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb