I have been asked numerous times throughout my life what my dad is like. I have always asked the person to clarify if they want to know about my dad or my stepfather. Both have been a very important part of my life; however, they have significant differences. The same question always arises: If a man is my father does that automatically make him a dad? I believe anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad.
My biological father stands about five-feet ten-inches tall and reminds me of Santa Claus in a way, with his big belly, white hair, mustache and beard. From the time I can remember my father has always had a three-bedroom house big enough for his current wife and her child. Our weekend visits usually meant spending time with our stepmother and stepsister. Since my father was a truck driver he was gone most of the time. Weekends when he was at home I recall spending much of my time fighting for his attention, which left me feeling emotionally closer to him when he was on the road rather than when he was in the same room with me. I still have these same feelings after all these years. I never enjoyed seeing my father hugging and kissing my stepsister and pushing me away when my stepmother was in the room.
My father claimed he held high family values; everything he did was for his family. The part he frequently left out was that this only applied to his current family, not the children he had left behind, emotionally and physically. My father worked long, hard hours driving an eighteen-wheeler truck across the United States to provide for his family. Unfortunately, he did not use his money for his biological children. My mother stopped receiving child support payments when I was around six-years old. One day when I was around 11 years old my father told me “I will always be a truck driver. This is the only way I can stay away from the house and make my marriage work.” My father quit school in the 11th grade and began driving trucks when I was approximately four-years old. He did not believe then or now that having an education would help anyone succeed in life. Life experiences are all the education you need, and if you need something someone will give it to you. Unfortunately this is my father and the way he is; luckily for me he was not the father figure in my day-to-day life.
Now to introduce my stepfather, he has been in my life since I was five-years old. My stepfather stands six-foot two-inches tall. Although he is very tall, he has always been a slender man. I remember to this day the large, six-bedroom house we grew up in; everyone had his or her own room for privacy. I can still remember playing baseball in the backyard, table tennis in the den and having my stepfather at my soccer games cheering me on. Although there were a total of five children in the house my stepfather always spent one-on-one time with each child, making us feel important and loved. I will never forget the Christmas when I was nine-years old; all I wanted that Christmas was a red fur coat. I found out fifteen years later that my stepfather spent two months driving around and calling every major store in an hour’s radius of our home looking for a red fur coat. It was the last present I opened that day and though I did not know it at the time I learned what the true meaning of family and loving someone is. My stepfather was a very quiet, cold looking man on the surface, but when it came to family he was the warmest person I knew. He always seemed to know when I needed a hug to cheer me up or when I needed to be left alone to sort things out.
I believe my stepfather holds high family values; he was very focused on his family. He worked very long, hard hours in management for an aerospace company. He believed in being home every night with his family with an occasional business trip a couple of times a year. My stepfather once told me, “If your family needs help you should be there to offer any support you can. Always put your family before your career; it is the only one you will ever have.” My stepfather graduated from college and went straight to work; he held one job his entire life until he chose to retire. From the time I can remember my stepfather always challenged us to be the best we could be at whatever came into our lives; he instilled in us that if we want something badly enough we will work hard enough to get it. He challenged us to attend college so we could have a career; a job is a job but a career will make our family successful.
Both my biological father and my stepfather have had major effects on my life. Although I do love my biological father, after all he did help bring me into the world, I do not consider him to be my dad. I will always consider my stepfather to be my dad; after all he has always provided the love and guidance that I needed while growing up. Anyone can be a father, but it takes unconditional love to be a dad. My father has taught me what kind of life I do not want, while my dad taught me how good life can be. Caring, loving and nurturing through the good times and the bad are some of the values that make a dad.