I wanted to take a quick moment to wish all the dads out there a Happy Fathers Day!
Today got me thinking, what is a dad? We all are accustomed to thinking of dads in terms of biological fathers, adoptive fathers and stepfathers. However, that has not really been my experience.
There are lots of unsung dads out there, who deserve the title as much as (or more than) those we normally think of as fathers. They can be grandfathers, uncles, or even friends of the mom when there is no dad in the picture. I find those men to be extraordinary individuals, since they become dads purely out of love, and not due to obligation. Those of us who have those dads are especially lucky, because we can honestly say that our dads chose to be our dads.
Papaw with his dog Bear, sitting at the end of the driveway to my childhood home on the hill. This was taken circa 1985, after he got sick, and about a year before his death.
My dad was my step-grandfather, who we called Papaw (pronounced pap-paw). He was an extraordinary man, simply stated. He started taking in his step-grandchildren very shortly after marrying my grandmother (who he barely knew when they married, but that is another story for another time), starting with my brother and me when I was only a few months old. He eventually raised four of us from infancy.
Papaw worked his fingers to the bone in order to provide for us, but he never once complained. He was not very educated, though he was also neither illiterate nor stupid, and he valued education for us kids; he worked most of my life as a local truck driver. Though he could have made much more money driving long distance, since he had the license and skill to do that, he wanted to be home with us every evening.
I do not remember him ever taking a day off, or even a vacation day. We certainly never went on any vacations of any type, because there was just not the money to do things like that. We lived in a very poor part of town, in a rundown little house up on top of a hill so steep, with a road so winding, that you could not even get up or down it when the snow fell, unless you walked. Papaw used to park his car at the bottom of the hill and walk on snow days so he could still get back and forth to work, both arms inevitably filled to overflowing with groceries.
It takes a lot of food to feed four growing kids, after all, and Mamaw took in babysitting for extra cash as well, so there were always at least three or four additional mouths to feed (but usually even more than that, especially when their mothers could not get up the hill to pick them up). That translates into daily trips to the grocery store just to keep food on the table, but as always, he never once complained, even when he had to carry those groceries on foot up that steep winding hill in a big snowstorm. Instead he would walk in the door after working all day and then taking that long freezing walk, Mamaw would make him some fresh hot coffee in her old percolator on the stove to warm him up, and he would come into the living room with a smile as big as the whole outdoors, to play with us kids and watch the news while Mamaw cooked supper.