Growing up, I believed that not having a father didn’t affect me one way or another. But it wasn’t until I married him and he became a father to our children that I felt the full impact of my father’s role in my life.
I chose him for many reasons: he listened to the stories of my childhood; he showed me that I was courageous and valuable; he nurtured my dreams and talked me up; he stood up to my mother and showed me that I could live a life without her; he loved me – all of me – the good and the bad and the unutterably ugly. He made me feel beautiful and strong and respected, and I shone in his eyes as much as I grew in his presence. He was, and still is, my best friend, and I cannot imagine living my life without him by my side – it might be easier, since he is so hardheaded (and here he would argue that I am even more hardheaded, but that is another blog subject), but without him my life would be empty, inconceivable.
And as much as he was there for me, providing me with the unconditional love and emotional security I had not discovered in anyone else, including parental figures, subconsciously, I chose him because he was nothing like my father. This gives me a chill; it makes me wonder what other decisions I have made for myself without actively thinking about them.
My husband is nothing like my father. And this makes my choice remarkable. The father of my children would never flee from his family – he wouldn’t leave at gunpoint, at knife point, and he would most definitely not leave because his wife was bashing his head against a kitchen sink. His wife wouldn’t dare.
The father of my children is strong, virile, complex, and powerful as a man, as a husband, but as a father, he is gentle, soothing, funny, and incomparable. He is a present father – a witness to his children’s experiences and milestones, a kisser of harmless booboos and broken elbows, and a guide towards achievement and success. He is the tallest mountain in our household that protects us from the wind storms of life’s precarious journey; he is the river that propels us forward, through our fears and defenses, past the blockades of our dreams; and he is loyalty personified, grounding us to him with the force of his unconditional love for his family – his wife and children.
My husband would never watch with futility and powerlessness as his wife abused their children, leaving them unwashed and unloved, or lie down beside a wife who rejected his affections for the want of others.
He would never move in with his sister while his children were cast into orphanages, left to beg in the streets, or be exposed to the drudgery of prostitution. He would never deny the love and the name of his children, or forsake them to orphanages, homelessness, foreign countries and adoptions.
He would die first; he would break laws and kill men to protect his children, and that kind of loyalty, that kind of love, is what I never grew up with, but the only kind of love I would choose for my children. They deserve more than I had as a child.
Some people have told me that I didn’t know what he would be like as a father, but this is not true. I knew – I watched him, and I knew, without consciously watching or knowing. I babysat nieces and nephews with him, and while I sat on the couch watching TV, my feet curled beneath me, I observed the way he fathered them. He played games with them, fed them, disciplined them, changed diapers, and read to them.
And when I gave birth to our children, he taught me to change their diapers, he took off from work to help me organize feeding and diapering schedules, and put 100% of himself into his role as a father, never expecting me to shoulder all the parental duties.
Fatherhood is not a job, a responsibility, or a hassle for him. It’s a gift, a second chance to be the father to his children that he didn’t quite have, and he relishes every moment.
I love watching him be a father to our children more than anything.
You’ll usually find me sitting on the sidelines, on the sand at the beach, at the edge of the pool, my feet rocking below the cool water, on a bench at a party, watching him with our children. Armed with my camera, I take shot after shot of the way his eyes caress their faces, and the way their eyes light up with gleeful pride, their laughter ringing with innocence and joy, swallowing in huge gulps the love they discover in his eyes when he looks upon them and knowing that this love is reserved only for them. I click away, capturing still-smiles, my children’s smiles, his smile – a smile that shows his teeth and is as big and generous as his heart, beating loudly against his chest, filling him from the inside with inarticulate expressions of paternal wonderment.
Loving them fulfills him, and watching him love them fulfills me.
Happy Father’s Day to the man who has taught me so much about parenting and about the important role a father plays in his children’s lives.
About the Author: Marina DelVecchio is a writer and a College Instructor. She has a BA in English Literature, an MS in English and Secondary Education and has completed thirty credits towards a Doctorate in Feminst Theory, Rhetoric and Composititon and 19th century Women Writers. Originally from New York, she presently teaches English Composition, Research, and Literature at a local Community College in North Carolina. She has written a memoir under representation on the dark side of motherhood called Drowning Squirrels and blogs at Marinagraphy, a site intended to enrich the lives of women through feminist discourse and agency.