As Father’s Day approaches it can be a hard time for some. If your father wasn’t in your life, or wasn’t the best role model, Father’s Day can be a challenging reminder of what you’ve missed.
My father wasn’t around growing up. I barely knew him. He called a few times and I saw him a few times, but definitely never knew him. I don’t remember it bothering me because it was my normal. I wasn’t one of those kids who longed for their absentee parent. When I did see my father I was distant and I’d be ready for him to leave. And then he did, for good. He died unexpectedly when I was in middle school.
As I got older and became more aware of what “normal” was supposed to look like, there were times I resented that my father chose not to be in my life. But with that awareness, I also realized I did have a father figure in my life, my uncle Charlie.
I spent a lot of time with my uncle Charlie and his wife, my Aunt Mary in my early years. They showed me the kind of love I deserved. They made me feel like precious. My uncle Charlie was a kind, church-going and hard working man. He worked at Kroger grocery store. I never knew what he did there, I just remember the blue uniform with his name on it. There are a few standout memories of my uncle Charlie, the only father I’ve really known.
I remember after church he would come home with a bucket of Church’s chicken–greasy, but delicious. And sometimes, Sunday mornings he would make water cakes – at least I think that’s what they were called. I also thought they were delicious. But my favorite memory of my uncle is when he went against his better judgement just to make me happy.
I loved my uncle Charlie so much. I always wanted to be with him. One day he told me he was going to the city dump. I don’t know what he was looking for, but I wanted to go. I don’t remember how old I was but I was little. It was summer and really hot. He told me I wouldn’t like it, but I insisted. I started crying and begged him to take me. He finally gave in, probably just to stop the tears.
We got into his truck, and it was hot. My legs were burning on the seat. We drove to the city dump and as soon as we got there I wanted to leave. It smelled awful and there were a bunch of flies. I wanted to die. He said, “I told you, you wouldn’t like it.” He knew. He knew I’d hate it. He was right. I sat in the hot truck with the windows cracked miserable and sweating the whole time. When we got back home he laughed so hard telling my aunt how much I hated it. And then, we probably had chicken…
It took me a while to change the narrative of my life that I didn’t have a father, and reframe it so that I could honor the only father I did have. I don’t think I realized how much he meant to me as and adult until he passed away. When I heard he was gone I went into a deep depression. I couldn’t leave the house for over a week. I could barely get out of bed. At the time I didn’t realize what was happening to me, but it was profound grief. My aunt Mary passed away about a year later. I believe she died of a broken heart.
My uncle Charlie and my aunt Mary were my first loves. Sometimes it’s hard to think of them because I miss them dearly, but I do hold their memory in my heart. So as Father’s Day approaches, I’m going to honor my uncle Charlie, he was my dad. He was there for me, only for a short time as life took him away too soon, but he was there.
If you didn’t have a biological or traditional father in your life, maybe this Father’s Day you can take a moment to recognize and remember the men who may have served as a father figure, if even for only a moment in time.