I have thought about this a lot over the years. Most of the time, though, it has been from the point of view of a child that never really KNEW his father that well, except as the guy that would occasionally show up for the errant birthday or take me off for the obligatory weekend visitation.
That is not to say that my father did not love me, I am sure he did. But when it came to communications, there really was not that much there between us. We would talk, but it was, most of the time, because I do not think either one of us liked the sound of silence.
That being said, there really was no template for me to use when I thought about myself as a father. No image I could hold up and say, “This is what a dad is!” Unless, of course, you counted the Andy Griffith, Dick Van Dyke and Ward Cleaver images that some of us grew up with. Images that would not stand the test of time even in their own generation.
Instead, as I grew, I learned about being a father through reading, through what my mother told me a father should be, through watching my father’s interaction with my sister.I had sort of built up this “Frankenstein” image and understanding of what a father really could and should be.
It would not be until years later, as an adult, that I would start to really understand what being a father was, when I would adopt people into my life as my mentors and father-figures. People that represented, to me, what a father should be to their children and those around them. People like James Baier (Major, USMC), Jack Bell, Paul Eidmann, Clifford Ayers (My Dad-in-Law) and Russell Petrone. None of them are perfect, far from it, but their hearts are all in the right places, and their kids have all grown up to be good people. Many of their kids are my friends to this day as are they… though two of them have some issues that they need to work out before I kick both their asses (you know who you are.)
The other person that I have to give kudos to for being like a dad to me, oddly enough, is my mother. Barbara E. Wright. She force-fed me the education to be who and what I am today. When I was not in school, she was teaching me manners, principles, ethics, right and wrong, and would occasionally instill the required discipline when I would step out of line. Trust me… there were several times I deserved a good paddling.
It is my hope that the experiences that I have had and the things I have learned from these people, people that have meant so much to me and are a part of my life, even though some of them are no longer with us, can help me by becoming an amalgamation of experience that I can incorporate into my life and help me be a good father.
Someone that I hope, when this child is and adult and I have long since passed, can look at his or her memories of me and say. “I had a great dad!”