In all honesty, this is the holiday that has always made me more uncomfortable than any other.
All of the perfectly-understandable concentration on dear ol' Dad of course makes me think of my own father, who was alcoholic and abusive to the extent that I've been known to hyperventilate when I see someone who looks sort of like him from a distance. All of my 'phobias'--heights, enclosed spaces, etc--are really nothing more than strong fears by the psychological definition, but a tall older man in a cowboy hat, that sends me into panic mode.
In truth, of my closest friends, very few of them have that storybook interaction with their fathers I always hear about on this day. Erik (for very good reasons) doesn't speak to his own father, although he adores his step-dad. That's actually a relief to me in a way, because it means he knows where I'm coming from in my own life. My ex-husband's father was also an alcoholic, but was there for his kids in the best way he knew how, that almost stereotypical distant-but-loving dad thing. Of course, he's also a total asshole most of the time, & he and I had one hell of a personality clash.
My best friend Mark probably has the closest to the "norm" with his father. His dad loves him deeply, and has absolutely no clue how to show it. Once Mark's mother died, his father started showing him love in the only way he knew how: fast food. This is why Mark weighed over 300lbs in junior high. But he tried, and he is trying even now. The old man has come to the point where he is at least attempting to understand Mark's homosexuality, and to be more understanding of him in general.
So there is that.
And the truth is that I am an inveterate optimist.
I have been telling the girls that their own father does the best he can. I am no longer certain of that. I don't recall if I posted it here, but when he left he made a big point of telling me that he had come to the conclusion that he could be a good father or a good husband, but not both. He made the obvious choice. Of course, his idea of being a good father at the time was to prevent the children from ever seeing me (and as he went right across the street, you can imagine how that worked; there is nothing in this world more heartbreaking than seeing your kids pile into a window and start banging on it and yelling "Mommy!"), and it hasn't gotten much better since. He does still pick them up most of the time, but with next to no forewarning, no regularity, and even when he sets the date and time, he is invariably late. Our oldest is especially sensitive; she is just getting old enough to recognize how fucked up it is. She's told me several times that she doesn't like how his girlfriend is there constantly (this is the girlfriend who once yelled at him so long and loud, including calling him names, that she scared Bobbie; according to her they fight quite frequently). She's told him she doesn't like the gal being there all the time, that they want to spend time with just their dad (and really, is that too much to ask?) but he's just told her "Tough."
And yet, the optimism again. He does love them, & does show it. He does come and get them most of the time. He does hug them and hold them and tell them he loves them. The child support has even started up again. So there's that.
Last night, the girls decided they wanted to make Daddy Erik a Father's Day card. I did not tell them to call Erik that, or encourage it, & nor did he. They were merely told they could if they wanted to once we were married, and the older two pretty much counted down the days. At any rate, to them he is their real Daddy, because he's the guy who's there when they wake up in the mornings and most nights when they go to bed. He's the one who engages them as if they're intelligent human beings (which, of course, they are). He'll have conversations about music with the older two ("This is a song called 'Hells Bells', by a band called AC/DC") and let the youngest clamber over him. He's becoming accustomed to one or more pushing the door open in the mornings and climbing into bed with us. He's taken to this Daddy thing like he was born for it, and maybe he was.
And of course there's another baby to be born in twenty weeks or so, but it won't take that to make him a father.
So I look at the good examples I do see, many of them in the blogosphere--JayG, MattG, BobS, & of course Borepatch jump immediately to mind, though of course there are many others--and it makes me happy. Because some people do get it right, and realize that even when it's hard you just do it, because that's part of being a man.
So, thanks guys. Happy Father's Day to you, and especially to my guy.