I hopped into the large green car, put to sit in the middle between my two elder brothers, and with excitement I looked to the front seat where my father sat behind the steering wheel, looking straight ahead, not even glancing at my mother as she entered the passenger side, and everyone was silent.
“Where are we going?” I asked excitedly with the happy anticipation of a four year old
“Shut up!” My eldest brother hissed at me.
Silence. Everyone was silent. So I asked nothing more.
We drove for what felt like an eternity, until we pulled up to a two story house, painted grey, with another identical house behind it in pink, the two sharing a long paved driveway. My father did not pull into the driveway, but instead stopped at the curb.
Again, silence. Everyone got out of the car except my father as my brothers, at the time eleven and nine, each held one of my hands as we stood on the sidewalk and watched as my mother opened the trunk and removed a single grocery bag. She closed the trunk and I looked at my father just as he glanced back at us on the pavement.
“Coming?” I remember asking
He just looked at me, his beautiful green eyes showing sadness, and said nothing, turned and drove off. My eldest brother broke down and started crying out for our father as the car pulled off and disappeared around the corner. My mother took his hand and silently led him up the driveway to the pink house as my other brother, showing no emotion led me behind them.
This was the day my mother left my father, a dashingly handsome man with the most beautiful green eyes I ever saw. A man seriously flawed and detached from emotions. A man that came from a wealthy well known family, but never received and always sought the love, attention and acknowledgement of his own father, something he would never receive. And so he would become an alcoholic and eventually be out of our lives all together. There is not much I remember from when I was three or four years old, but that memory is still so vivid, burnt into my mind's eye, and never left.
I have no idea how long after my mother left my father that a tall blond, blue eyed man with a huge mustache began coming around, much to my delight. My eldest brother was not a happy camper, and my elder brother just followed what ever he said. I was always an independent thinker, and I liked this man that came around, and eventually moved in with us.
Not too long after that we moved to another home. I was seven then, and the new man in our lives, whom I would look up to as a dad, was always there for me. My mother was a working woman, an executive at a firm, and my dad worked from home, so anytime I was sick in school, or needed anything, he was the one that I would call and he was the one that would show up, no questions asked.
I remember once my eldest brother telling me that my new dad was just trying to buy my affection. I asked him with what? He hasn't bought me anything. My brother just glared at me. He was in denial. It was now seven years after my mother left our father, but still he believed that our father would be there in our lives. He never was. My father's life had spiraled out of control. He became an alcoholic and lost his job running a large newspaper. His second wife had left him, and everything had crumbled around him.
One day my eldest brother and I got into an argument because my father went to a rehab facility, and he wanted to see us, his three sons. I refused to go, and this angered my eldest brother. He said we should be there for him. He was, after all, our father. I yelled back that he was our father, but not our dad. Our stepfather was my dad. Being a father does not make you a dad. I told my brother that there was no way I was going because he was never there for any of us, and why should I go see him because he wants to see us when he is in a bad way.
We argued for a while and I stormed off yelling at my brother that I was never going to see that man. I went to my room and slammed the door, when a few minutes later my new dad knocked on my door and came in and told me that although it was entirely my decision, I should go see my father at the facility. Not because I was obligated to because he was my father, but because he was a man alone in a facility just looking to get better, and maybe seeing his three sons is what would help him get better and get his life together. I went.
That is one great thing about my mother and dad, they never ever said anything bad about my father. All the negative feelings I had towards him, he all brought about on his own. He never paid child support, and I asked my dad why didn't my mother take him to court and he would tell me is that it made no point because you can never get blood from a stone. And what benefit would it have other than to just bring stress to my mother. My dad and I had many conversations about life, and his way of looking at everything was always positive.
My father always promised my brother a car, and he never did give him, so my dad bought the car for my brother. I remember the day he brought it home and gave my brother the keys, and my brother refused it saying that his father was buying the car, and to take it back. It hurt my dad, so I offered for him to give it to me, although I was only ten at the time. He laughed, picked me up and took me outside. When I asked where we were going he laughed and said to the beach in the new car, and then we are going to return it. He did.
My dad was the funniest and most spontaneous man that I ever knew. He would wake my mother before dawn to drive to the beach to watch the sunrise and have breakfast. He had a wicked sense of humor, quick witted and was the biggest practical joker that lived on the planet, traits that I definitely took from him. I am told that I look most like my father, but my personality is definitely my dad's. If I didn't know better, I would have questioned whether he was indeed my father.
One warm night in May, when I was thirteen, my dad had a massive heart attack at home, and I saw him pass away before my eyes. That day my world as I knew it came to an end. He was my dad, my only support, the only one that understood me, my quirkiness, my humor and my way of thinking. He was the one that would be there when I got home from school, the one that I would confide in. And he was gone. I remember looking around at his funeral to see if my father came to pay his respects. He didn't, and I thought to myself what a bastard. If he only knew how my dad supported him when he was at his lowest. And in that moment I realized that silent charity was the only true charity. He died, and no one knew about that conversation we had. And that was the way it was supposed to be, wasn't it? Support does not mean having to have your name on the side of a building. Just holding someone's hand or wishing them well silently is all that is necessary.
Many years later in my later teenage years, while sitting at a family dinner that would in reality be the last time we all sat together as a family, as everyone was going their separate ways, I told my mother I had a very serious question for her. Everyone was silent.
“Why was it all you had was a grocery bag when you left our father?”
That question caused everyone to burst out in hysterics. My dad had a son from a previous marriage, and when we all settled down, my step brother looked at me and said that was something my dad would have said, and that if he didn't know better, he would say that I was his blood brother. That was one of the biggest complements any one ever gave me.
And that's the way I always faced anything in my life that was stressful. With laughter and positivity. And the person that I have to thank for that was my dad. You were not here on this planet for the last 49 years of my life, but I know that you were there watching to see me grow into the man that I can look at in the mirror and be happy and proud to be the man staring back at me today. Happy Father's Day dad.