What Father’s Day Means When You Never Had A Father

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I hated Father’s Day until I had my own children. My father
left when I was 9 and died when I was 19 from drug and alcohol addiction. Father’s
Day always served as a reminder that he wasn’t there anymore, and he wasn’t
coming back. I didn’t cry at my father’s funeral. In fact, I didn’t cry until
almost a year later. I was in the shower, and sat down on the tile, and cried
until the water ran cold. I didn’t cry because I’d lost him, I cried because
his death meant that he’d never turn around his life, get clean, and become the
father I always wanted.  
In the five years between my father’s death and the birth of
my first child, I often volunteered to work on Father’s Day, and if I didn’t
work, I’d spend the day in the mountains, getting away from happy families
celebrating their fathers, because they reminded me of what I didn’t have.
The first Father’s Day with my son was nothing special to
anyone but me. He was a just a few months old. My wife kept it simple. Mel made
me a cake and got me a card with a handprint from Tristan. I gazed at that card
for some time, mapping out the crevices in my son’s hand. Even at the young
age, I could see that Tristan had my father’s hand’s, short slender fingers
with a square palm. I thought a lot about my father as I looked at that hand
print, and I didn’t feel heart broken like I used to when thinking about my father
on Father’s Day.
I felt hope.
I knew that Tristan would never have to feel that sort
of abandonment. He wouldn’t know what it was like to long for a father. To look
at other fathers playing with their children at parks, or teaching them how to
work on a car, or mow a lawn, and wonder what made that kid special enough for
his father to stick around.
That first Father’s Day with my son, I made a commitment to
be with him. To never abandon my family.
We have three kids now (one boy and two girls). I’ve never
sat them down and told them about how difficult the third Sunday in June had
always been for me until they came along. Honestly, I don’t know what good it
would do. Telling my kids about my sorrow on Father’s Day would be a lot like
when my grandmother told me stories of going without during the Depression. She
could’ve told me stories all day of eating little and living in a dirt floor
house, and I’d still never understand why she washed and reused every disposable
margarine container she ever bought.
I don’t think it’s important for them to understand what it
means to NOT have a father. What’s important is for them to feel my presence,
and know of my love.
Not having a father showed me that there is so much more to
Father’s Day than receiving a crappy tie, or a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle
Lunch Box that I will most likely never use. It’s about more than cake and
cards and phone calls. It’s about more than my kids showing me appreciation. In
a world where fathers abandon families like failing franchises, Father’s Day is
a yearly reminder to my children that I am there, that I care, and that I’m not
going anywhere. 

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video
game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play
dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of
fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial
and error. His essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in New York Times Motherlode, Huffington Post Parents, Huffington Post Weddings, and The Good Men Project. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo by Lucinda Higley

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  • Rose Patel

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