Dad Is Just a Word

By Rachel

Everybody has a dad, the person half responsible for giving you life. It’s a word that we all use, but it’s just a term of endearment really. It’s a title, a formality that establishes the male figure head from the matriarch.

Tomorrow is Father’s Day and I have more than one person to be thankful for and for more than one reason.

Many know that I am a single mother, and by single, I mean I play the role of both mother and father full time. It’s exhausting. It is mentally and physically draining. Not having that extra hand to enforce rules, to give me a moment’s peace, to help me financially is more than I can handle some days.

Knowing that one day I will have to explain all of this to my son eats at me all day every day. When we watch movies or read books, it is actually quite common for their to only be one parent. My son often asks where the other parent is, yet he has never inquired about his own absentee parent. Each time this comes up, my heart gets caught in my throat. I’m terrified that this will be the moment that I have to tell him something, anything to satisfy his curiosity until he is old enough to know the entire truth about where his “dad” is.

I have been blessed with an amazing father and grandfather. My dad has been there for me through every single phase of my life, every step of the way. He has never missed a softball game, taking pictures of me and a date before a school dance, or any of my adult accomplishments and life events. He’s very active in my life and I know I can tell him anything. In fact, when I had to tell my parents that I was expecting, I told him first.

Then there is my grandfather, one of the most caring and noble men I have met. A Korean War veteran, a retired police officer with the City of Pittsburgh, and the only grandfather I have ever known.

He is not my grandfather by blood. I did not know this until I was a teenager. I never bring it up around him because it doesn’t matter. He was there the day I was born and the day my son was born. He has never treated me with anything but love. He adopted my mother and uncle when he married my grandmother and raised them as his own. He is a real man and someone to be admired and respected.

My son doesn’t know his “dad.” I won’t call him “father” because to me father indicates exactly what my own father and grandfather have done: been there.

My son’s dad has never been there at all. He’s never stayed up all night with a vomiting child. He hasn’t spent nights at the hospital with an asthmatic child. He never saw him walk. He’s never heard him speak a word. He’s never played catch with him. He’s never watched him blow out birthday candles or open gifts on Christmas morning. He’s never hugged him goodbye when he dropped him off at school or sang him a lullaby at bedtime or read a bedtime story.  He’s never held his hand as we walked through a store or a park or crossing the street. He’s never watched him excitedly run from house to house Trick-or-Treating. He’s never done anything.

My son is lucky though. He has my father and brothers in his life. They have stood in as his father figures. My son calls my dad his “Pap Pap” but if you ask him how they are related, he says that my dad is his dad. I haven’t corrected him because it doesn’t matter. Dad is just a word. My father is the closest thing my son has to a “real” father.

My dad has been there for every birthday party. He has been there every Christmas morning. He has come Trick-or-Treating with us every year. He’s been to the hospital with us. He’s dropped him off and picked him up from school. He’s taken him out shopping, for ice cream, to the Aviary, to the park, to Kennywood. He’s hugged him when he was sad and kissed him goodnight and read him bedtime stories. He’s fixed scraped knees when I was at work, given baths and put him to bed when I was at school, and built as many vehicles as my son asked out of Legos. He does everything for my son that he did for me.

While it may shatter my heart that my son’s dad isn’t around because he deserves better than that, in the end he actually does have what is best. He has a grandfather, a great-grandfather, and two uncles that would do anything in their power to make sure that he is loved and cared for. They go above and beyond what is necessary for their respective relationships.

So as I sat here tonight and signed my Father’s Day Card, writing in it to thank him for being a dad to both me and my son, I couldn’t help but shed tears and they continue to fall even as I write this now. It is beyond confusing feeling grateful and yet so full of rage at the same time. It is difficult to deal with knowing that my son has what is best for him but at the same time was so horribly wronged.

Eventually life will sort all of this out, but in the meantime, I will just enjoy having the greatest Father of all.



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