The Daily Prompt asked to nominate someone for TIME’s Person of the Year. I want to talk about my dad, someone I didn’t meet for a long time. I was 20 when my dad came into my life.
For the first 20 years, I thought I had a dad, a sham of a father. He only came around when he wanted, abused my mother and I, looked down on us, and threatened us even after we finally got away. Some of his shit still crops up now and again that mom or I have to deal with.
My little developing child mind fixed that these are the kinds of things a Dad does. He says he loves us, and this is what fatherly love looks like.
No wonder I didn’t want kids. No wonder I didn’t want a family. No wonder I was so okay with being alone my whole life.
Activities from this past weekend brought into stark relief the extent to which I was without for 20 years and the extent to which my real dad is with me now. I’m recently engaged, and my parents threw an engagement party for me and my betrothed. Per engagement party etiquette, there are a series of toasts to be made by each of the brides parents and the groom. Mom was telling me about the preparations my step-dad was making for his speech.
After she told me, I briefly thought back to the “dad” of a previous life, and realized how much my step-dad gives me. Not only support and love for my mother (which every child likes to see) but an interest in me and my life. He tried to set good examples and give me lessons about things like auto maintenance and healthy relationships with other people. During a period after college when I couldn’t live on my own, he was adamant that I could live with them without reprisal or shame and be allowed time to heal and be comfortable until I could live on my own again. He takes care of me.
And he doesn’t have to. That’s the part that really kills me, that I have the hardest time with. He doesn’t have to. The one who did “have to” didn’t and this man did. As I listened to his toast to us at the engagement party, I realized how seriously and intentionally he took his role as father, and I didn’t think I was worth that kind of effort. He intentionally takes care of me; it isn’t haphazard. He does it because he loves me. THIS is what fatherly love looks like.
And his name is Bill W.