What My Absentee Dad Taught Me About Parenting

My dad was in and out of my life. I learned not to rely on him. Then he was gone forever.

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Flickr/jenniferboyer

July 4th weekend always coincides with my daughter’s birthday, which makes for double the celebration and lots of fireworks. But in the early hours of her 2nd birthday, I was awoken by a phone call. It was my half sister. My father had died.

“What happened?” My wife asked, concerned. She knew what early morning phone calls meant. We have a big family and she’d fielded a few herself.

“My father died.” I told her.

“What do you want to do?” She asked.

“We have people coming today for the birthday.” I said. “I gotta set up the bounce house, and I have to go BJs for the BBQ stuff. We can’t cancel her party. I’ll deal with it later.”

Looking back, I was probably in shock, hence my matter of fact response. My wife asked me if I was sure, of course. But I got up, and began my day.

I am my father’s son. I bear a striking resemblance to him and have his name. But that is the only way that I am his son. He did not raise me. In fact, when I was born, he gave my mother the wrong last name for my birth certificate. She had to do research to find the right name.

Growing up, I rarely saw my father. My mom took him to court for child support so I heard about him. After that, once or twice a year he would show up, usually around Father’s Day, and again later in the summer. He’d round me up with my various half siblings, and we’d have an outing. He wasn’t cruel, or mean, or even remotely distempered. Actually, he was quite charming. That was his thing. That’s why he never settled down or became reliable. There were many weekends I was left waiting for him to stop by. He wouldn’t show. After a while, my mother stopped telling me he was coming.

During that time. I had my own issues to contend with. I hit puberty. I had a cruel stepfather. I worried about fitting in and…

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