The word "dad" never meant anything at all to me until one day in the late seventies when I was holding the hand of a four-year-old and crossing a busy street in East Lansing. On our way to a baseball field, he looked up and called me "dad."
My heart smiled when he called me that. That's the first time in my life that the word dad had ever had a positive meaning for me. Up to that point, my lips could never make the sounds that go into that simple word. To me, a D-A-D was somebody who threw you off a moving train to let you fend for yourself.
I spent a good chunk of my life looking for an older man to be a father figure, somebody to affirm that I had worth and that I had hope for being a productive and happy member of society. I had uncles, twelve of them, and I spent some time with each of them. They were nice people, but they had their own families and their interaction with me was always clipped and very short.
What I've learned about life and how to live it has been on my own. I'm self-taught for the most part. I can't underestimate the role of my mom. She was a template of a strong-woman who had strong values and whose life was centered on love for God and for others. But, as a young guy, there were limits to what a mom could pass to a growing son.
After high school and graduation from college, my friends started having their own kids. To me, being a dad seemed to be a topic out of reach for me. My understanding of it was influenced by my experience with my own father.
Then, my four-year-old friend lit a small fire in me. Being a father had a growing attraction. It grew and then it became a reality.
Why am I sharing this?
My dad vanished when I was 18-months-old, leaving my mother and me without money with barefly a roof over our heads. I've been blessed beyond my ability to count each one. But I was left with a lifetime of observations and learning about what happens to a guy who was thrown off the figurative train by his dad.
One lesson: You can feel the sting and the scars of being abandoned and deserted by a parent and become a loving and productive parent.
What job from my life have I liked the best?
Being a dad!
More to come.