I recognize that I'm enormously fortunate to have an abundance of loving father figures in my life. This is no small thing - and it's less common than is right or fair. If I could share these precious men with everyone, I would, because they're simply the best. I'll share a bit of them with you, here. Dennis.
Dennis came into my life when I was in, oh, I don't know, 4th or 5th grade, when he started dating my mom (the story of how they met is pretty fun). They got married a year later, and at the time I was all pre-teen hurt and angst. Dennis was a picture of patience and kindness and the kind of love that pursues. He bore all of my frustration and angst and loved me in spite of myself, at my very ugliest. Wow.
He told my brother and me that when he asked my mom to marry him, he was asking for us too; that he loved us very much. The thing is though, he did. And he backed it up every single day.
He played basketball with us, he snuggled on the couch with us on family movie night. He taught us to put our napkins in our laps and to turn off lights when we left a room. He prayed with us. He made our birthdays special and our vacations special, too. He swam and hiked with us; he walked on the beach with us (and was a really good sport when he stepped on that washed up blowfish and his foot had a hundred puncture wounds and swelled to twice its normal size). He taught me about writing, jazz music, New York City, Broadway musicals, racing cars and bikes, photography, sailing, cars, cars and more cars.
He gave me rides all over town, he helped me edit papers (the whole way through college, because he's a rockstar at that sort of thing), and I remember one afternoon that he helped me with my math homework for like 3 hours (I still don't totally understand percentages). And I remember him being very gracious when one of our hamsters escaped and burrowed into his nice big mahogany desk and lived there for a week or so until we found him.
It sort of snuck up on me; I don't know exactly when or how it happened (likely when I got over my my 15-year-old-ness), but one day I woke up and realized that Dennis was family. That he loved my mom, that he loved us, and that I couldn't imagine what my life would be like without him. He chose us, chose to do the hard work of parenting us, and I'm so, so thankful.
Thank you, Dennis, for loving us tangibly, every day. I love you!
My Grandpa is one of the most interesting men I know. He is a ham. He's clever and funny and playful and ornery. He's more active in his 80's than a lot of people are in their 40's. He keeps bees, and goats. He travels all over to visit his 7 living children and dozens of grandchildren and great grandchildren. He makes THE BEST pancakes (with hamburger gravy) EVER. We share a birthday. And every time he met a boyfriend of mine the first question he asked them (besides their name) was, "Do you love the Lord Jesus Christ?"
My mom sometimes tries to convince me how stern her dad was when she was growing up, but I simply cannot imagine it. My grandpa danced all over the kitchen with me on his feet. He sent us mixed tapes of classical pieces, Irish folk songs, and Muppets numbers. He taught me the story of Peter and the Wolf - the duck is the oboe. He let me eat chocolate chip cookies for dinner one night because I "was not in the mood" for a potoato and whatever else we were supposed to be eating. He makes me laugh hard with his dry, witty, clever humor. He is all practicality and common sense, and he loves people well. He served in Ireland for many, many years and hasn't stopped preaching, teaching, or leading in his retirement. He has prayed for me (and all of his other grandchildren) from the day of our birth - no doubt about it. I live hundreds of miles away and I can tell from here how deeply he loves my grandmother. Completely wonderful man.
Dan's dad has welcomed me into his family so completely - in a way that I'm afraid not all married folks have the privilege of experiencing. He would treat the queen, the president, and a drug addict on the street with the same warmth and southern charm. He's a rare breed in the way that he cares for people - he spends an inordinate amount of time in hospitals praying with waiting families during surgeries, putting them at ease, and celebrating the births of a lot of babies. He is enthusiastic, flexible, go-with-the-flow, no-nonsense, and let me tell you something: He DOTES on this little granddaughter of his.
Dan's grandfather. I don't even know where to start. The first time I met him he whistled at me and asked me to turn around. It's not weird though because he does the same thing to most waitresses. And that's not weird because he's the kind of man that can get away with it - his mischevious grin and disarming chuckle give him away; he's a gem and doesn't have an ounce of creepy in him. He's hilarious and fun-loving and possibly the hardest worker I've ever met. He's always working on something down in the barn, fixing up so-and-so's house, cleaning up a thrift-store find for one of his great-grandkids. And I mean all day, every day. Always. He is giving and selfless, and has showed me a little bit of the inexhaustible generosity of God.
Most people would do well to have one or two great men in their lives, and somehow I got a host of them. Happy (belated) Fathers' Day to the men I love so much.