Are you a father or a dad? There is a difference, I read once that just about any man can father, but not all fathers are dads.
Below is a paper written by my son, Jason. I found it when going through his notebooks after he passed. (You can read that story here). I ran across it again this week and I have to tell you my heart hurt and still hurts for this boy turned man who came to realizations that no child should have to. Before I give too much away, here are Jason’s words:
Why did I come? The first woman he made those vows to was my mother. This was where I finally realized that I didn’t want to be like my dad, the man I used to idolize.
Growing up there were rare occasions when I got to spend time with my dad. I knew all those times, he was an important person. My dad would get us into video game arcades where the machines were rigged to let us play for free. He knew the owner of the slot-car track in South Salem, so we wouldn’t have to pay to race. We could go to stores after hours so we were the only ones shopping. My mom would tell me, “your dad knows a lot of people,” and I’ve come to realize that was all there was to it, but it seemed like more when I was younger.
The wedding was in my father’s back yard. It was western themed. My dad along with the groomsmen all wore suits and cowboy hats. There were barrels laying around. Torches illuminated the yard. As impressive as the wedding was, the only thing I could think about was the fact that my dad had gone through this same ceremony with my mom over 20 years ago.
The first thing I remember is going to the park with my dad. He was pushing me on the swing and I, being the AD/HD 3 year old I was, started wondering what it would feel like to let go. It hurt, a lot. The whole way home I was crying and my dad kept saying, “if you don’t shut up I’m never taking you anywhere again.” It turned out that my collarbone was broken. He’s told me since that he feels bad about yelling.
As my dad stood at the altar, he was slightly taller than an average man and slightly more muscular than the average gorilla. His suit and cowboy hat in stark contrast to his normal gym shorts and t-shirt with missing sleeves. The sleeves were ripped off out of necessity rather than any sense of style. Nicely polished cowboy boots replaced his normal sandals. His straight brown hair stuck out just under his hat, and his beard and mustache were shaved off.
Several years back, just after he divorced his fourth wife, my dad called me. He asked me if I thought he could make money as a computer technician. Three months later he was a licensed computer tech. In another month he know more about computers that anyone I’d met. He’s always been like this. Whenever he gets tired of what he is doing he moves on to something else. About a year after the computer job he took a job repossessing cars. About six months later he called me and asked if I wanted to help him fight forest fires on a helicopter for the summer. He didn’t end up fighting. He tore his Achilles tendon while leg pressing something over 1800 lbs.
The minister performed a traditional wedding ceremony. So, despite being outside, in cowboy hats, the normal vows were read, “Through richer and poorer, through sickness and health, till death do us part.”
My parents got divorced when I was 4. I vaguely remember my dad driving away. I didn’t see him or hear from him much after that. After he married his third wife and moved to California, I only saw him two weeks out of the year. He always seemed to work nights, no matter what his job was. When I did visit I’d play Nintendo and wait for my dad to wake up. He would always have something to do before work, so I’d only get to see him for a few minutes. When he’d get home from work early in the morning, I’d always be awake to greet him. All he’d say was, “I’m beat son, I’ll see you when I wake up.”
His bride’s family owned a catering company. There was rice pilaf, chicken, turkey, spaghetti, punch, soda, wine, beer. The food was as aesthetically pleasing as it was plentiful. In the middle of the cake there were three covered wagons with a working waterfall.
He would miss birthdays. He wouldn’t call for months. He would seem to completely forget about me. But when he did call he somehow made me feel like I was the most important thing in the world to him and I sincerely believe, even now, that at that moment I was. We’d talk about my grades, what I was reading, the latest video games or the computer I was working on building. Whenever we would talk about computers the conversation would end with my dad saying, “well s*** son, I’m impressed.”
The reception, still in the backyard, included dancing. The D.J. played mostly country music. I was expected to dance with my grandmother, the brides mother, the bride. “I’m so happy to be married to your dad.” So was my mom. “He is such a great man.” I used to think so too. “He’s so good with my son.”
(Written by Jason Taylor, September 2009)
I ask again, are you a dad to your kids? Married or single, are you a daddy? I get it, being a single non-custodial parent is hard, it is really hard. Just being a parent is hard, but, they are worth the effort. Our kids deserve the effort no matter how hard it is.
I can’t say that often enough or loud enough, your kids deserve the effort, no matter what the effort is. Don’t let it be too late. Start over, do better, don’t say you’ll do better, do it. You can do it, it will be hard, there will be hard stuff, your kids may act as if they don’t want you. Keep at it, keep trying, your kids are worth your effort. They are worth your best efforts, over and over again. Never give up. Love them with actions not words, not stuff.
In these days before Fathers Day, I am pleading with you, from this momma’s heart, be the daddy your kids deserve.