I went to Dictionary.com to see how they define “Father,” and here’s what it says.
- a male parent.
- a father-in-law, stepfather, or adoptive father.
- any male ancestor, especially the founder of a family or line; progenitor.
So we start with a fairly narrow definition, and continue to broaden it to take in more of how father’s are perceived. And of course, they often factor into religious contexts, especially within Christianity, both as those who head churches or catholic organizations and to God himself. I know little of other religious faiths in this vein, but assume they may have similar ideas.
Anyway, the main takeaway is that fatherhood is a complicated concept to wrap one’s head around. And ever since my wedding, well really since the middle of last year, I have been re-expanding my views of what a father is and could be.
Do you remember the Luther Vandross song entitled Dance With My Father? How he talked about being lifted high and skimming just below the ceiling, and the feelings of fun and fear mingling in your belly. I experienced that too, often while Michael Jackson blared from speakers in the living room, on the days when both my parents were in a good mood. I would usually find it difficult to sleep after such nights.
While I do have such nice memories with my “biological” father, I spent the bulk of my formative years with a father figure who really showed me the ropes. He helped me fully get into and appreciate sporting events; spent hours with me on the road talking about girls, school, and the like; and was just generally there. Even now, as a so-called adult, I miss sprawling on the floor, snickers in one hand, cold drink by my face as we watched the Atlanta Braves game while awaiting dinner’s preparation. Ah, what I would do to return to those days of innocence.
The thing that amazes me though is that, after nearly 20 years of inactivity, my “biological” father and I are finally starting to re-form some kind of relationship. Prior to marriage, I had hung out with him three times while residing in Charlotte, going to get a haircut twice and spending a day over in his double wide to watch the Panthers and have pizza. (You’ll note that most of my interactions with either of these men involve sports). Then just this past weekend, I’d hopped the Amtrak to Charlotte to have another nice time with him, enjoying some good food and a drink that, well made me feel good if you get my drift. We also watched the final game of the Warriors Cavs series (oh Cleveland, y’all could have done so much more) and had one of the most meaningful conversations in a really long time, well what I could hear of it over the pulsating Earth, Wind, and Fire Music he blasted through the sound system. That audio was so clear that I could easily make out the lyrics, a rarity for me in my state of near-deafness.
Here’s the thing, father’s aren’t perfect. But, I’m not perfect either, far from it. In between the messiness though, there are chances to forgive, to discover our bonds, to learn of what interests us both. To, in short, reconnect. I am glad that this is happening while we are still in this short life, and will always remember not to take such relationships for granted and to be willing to engage in them.
As the above definition indicates, my idea of fatherhood continues to expand. Today, I will venture to Fayetteville to visit my father-in-law at the restaurant where our wedding rehearsal dinner was held, a place that will thus have special memories (and good food!) for me. The place is called Grandson’s and located on Fayetteville’s Ramsey Street. MMM, I can already taste the meat loaf, fried chicken, and of course mac and cheese. Both he and my new mother have made me feel welcome in my enlarged family, and I felt especially grateful to them for making the trip to Queens University to attend my graduation a few weeks ago.
On this Father’s Day, I am happy to discover that my heart has enough room to accept several versions of “father,” all of whom fill some key part of my life. I will continue to appreciate each of them for as long as I am able to do so. Wishing any dads who read this a happy day themselves.