I was never close with my biological father. He and my mother divorced by the time I was 6 years old. A year later, a new man was in the picture. I was not happy about this and I made it pretty clear to Mama and her “new friend.” He received a lot of cold shoulder and 7-year-old side eye. Over time though, Mama’s new friend became my friend; one of my best friends actually. He eventually won me over with his authenticity and sensitivity which was something I did not see much in my family. He listened to my problems intently and answered all my questions honestly.
My mother never married Willie but he became the father in my life. I have fond memories of walks in the neighborhood and summer days at work with him. The conversations we had during those times helped create a bond between us that was stronger than genetics. It is that bond that I celebrate every Father’s Day.
My heart aches that I cannot be with my step-Father this Father’s Day, particularly during this health crisis. Since I cannot be there, it forces me to seek other ways to celebrate him. I will call him, of course. I will also call my biological father. Though that relationship is minimal, I can honor my step-Father by showing the grace he showed to others with the respect and kindness of a phone call. I will also reflect on the lessons my step-Father taught me.
I learned a lot on our walks and during our conversations. He taught me about working hard and staying true to myself. He was the lone voice that told me I could be whatever I wanted to be; not what others were telling me I should be. He also taught me about men. We had discussions about boys when I was a teenager and the kind of man he wanted me to have. However, I learned the most about men by the life experiences he shared and watching his relationship with my mother.
So, on this Father’s Day, I will celebrate my wonderful step-Daddy by sharing three great lessons I learned from his life that allow me to understand men a bit better and helps me to see them through the Christ’s blood stained lens of God.
1. Men Love Hard
I was always fascinated by my stepfather’s heart. It boggled my mind how he had any heart left after giving so much of it away. His arm bore a piece of his heart in a tattoo with the initials of his first love. There were pieces of his heart in graves. Then there was the piece my Mother had. Not much could compare to what he endured with my mother. Their relationship was very tumultuous.. Both contributed to their problems but he took the grunt of things. Somehow, he kept coming back. He was there for rough times. If he was away, phone calls were guaranteed.Whatever she needed, regardless of the state of their relationship, he did his best to meet it. And when we lost my mother, he was lost. I know that men’s heart can be broken because I’ve seen it. I’ve seen what happens to them when someone cracks their soul. I saw it when she was alive and after she died. I’ve looked in the face of a heart being mended. That vision has taught me that, just like women, the hearts of men should be handled with care.
2. Men Battle Depression
My stepfather was an alcoholic. There were years when he would recover and then something would happen. I remember seeing him when he would take his first sip. Even when he was sober, I could tell he was battling to keep his desire to live. There were times when he walked around with this overwhelming cloud of utter despair. His sisters would talk to him. Friends would reach out. I begged him to just pick himself up. As I got older, I realized that he needed more than a pick me up. He was in a hole of which he had to be dug out. Alcohol was never the problem. It was a symptom of the depression he was living in. Today, my step-Father still battles…but he is battling. He’s still fighting. His fight has taught me that men experience deep sadness and darkness. Sometimes they need help to see the sun.
3. Men Take Pride in Providing…the good ones do
I loved when I could go to work with my step-Father. He worked hard and he liked his work. The slight smile on his face when he received his pay was sweet. That same smile would come across his face when he took me to the Waffle House or gave money to my mother to pay a bill. It was a very slight upturn at the corner of his mouth but his eyes were always shining at those moments. My step-Father enjoyed seeing me happy. Providing was a means by which he showed his deep love. People say a lot of things they don’t mean. My stepfather taught me that men don’t put their money where their mouth is. They put their money where their heart is.
Happy Father’s Day!