dad-tude-a-thon: day 2072: the father i never had

I had a dad who was complicated. On the one hand, he was quirky, funny, extremely smart, always with his nose (his very big nose) in the Times or New Yorker or a good book. He loved classical music, theater, cooking and antiques. On the other hand, he had a vile temper and he loved to drink more than he loved to be honest about the fact that he loved to drink. This was his downfall as a dad and as a person. And it left many deep wounds in its wake.

Peter’s Dad is to the left, I’m hugging my dad, and Peter is about to hug his mom. Yup, our wedding, almost 35 years ago. I didn’t have any idea how Peter would be as a dad, but I knew he was a deeply loving guy and that seemed like good dad stuff to me.

So, when my husband and I decided to have kids, which took three years because of my infertility (but that’s another story), I knew only that he seemed like he would not be a father like the one I’d had.

From the minute our son Jake was born, Peter was obsessed, delighted and enamored. He didn’t mind waking up in the middle of the night to feed our crying baby. And unlike me, he could easily roll with the exhaustion that came with a tiny infant’s schedule. He was infinitely patient as Jake grew. A trait that had eluded, and still eludes me. Peter was a perfect match for Jake’s extremely active body and mind. I think he had him throwing a ball as soon as he could hold anything. When Ally was born three years later, with a personality that was a little more challenging, Peter instinctively knew just how to handle her. Again, his patience and my lack thereof, made him daddy of the year. While I was more of the disciplinarian, Peter was the endlessly patient parent who could stand by during tantrums and sibling rivalry. HIs work on Alzheimer’s disease, which was very important to him, was still important, but he made time with his kids a priority. He would work until 2:00 AM to spend the daylight hours with them.

Of course with every plus comes some minuses, and in this case, Peter really did hate to, and still hates to discipline the kids. That was a challenge for me, but his other daddy traits were so stellar that while it irked me to no end, I had to ultimately accept the good with the bad. Because guess what, that’s what you have to do in a marriage–compromise.

Because our kids have been so lucky to have a dad who went to not just every game, but every practice, who showed up at each school event, whether it was a class breakfast, play, game, or conference. He coached baseball and basketball, he was the designated driver for Ally’s 1,870,833 years of soccer, a fan at Jake’s baseball, basketball and lacrosse games. And of course he was the consulate cheerleader for all the difficult and hard orthopedic sports injuries our kids endured. He was the homework guy, the obscure answer guy and the ultra positive you-can-do-it guy.

If you don’t have a dad who gives you what you need, you always wonder what that might be like. Well, I was able to find out all that I’d actually missed. Over the last 27 years, it’s been clear that Peter was the father I never had.

Gratitude for the time, effort and love and the always being there-ness that my kids got in the father department. And happy Father’s Day to one of the greats. We all love you, Peter.

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