Numerous times throughout my life, I have been asked 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 called “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. On the 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. I still have the 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. According to these words, everything he did was for his family. Without a doubt, a lot of people may find it sweet and start secretly wishing to have the same kind of parent. However, the reality is that the part that 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. He exerted every effort in order to provide for his family. But the negative side of the story is that 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. That’s my life, and that’s how it works for me the best way.” My father quit school in the 11th grade and began to drive trucks when I was approximately four years old. He did not believe then or now that having a degree would help anyone succeed in life. According to his words, only life experiences are the education that we all need, and if you need something, someone will give it to you. Unfortunately, this is my father, and he is not going to change either today or tomorrow. Luckily for me, he was not the father figure in my day-to-day life.
Now let me introduce the other person that plays a significant part in my life. My stepfather 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. In that house, every one had his or her own room for privacy. Every family member respected the right to have privacy and some me-time. 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. It was so sweet to see how he supported me and sincerely wished me all the best. Although there were 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 that lovely Christmas when I was nine years old. At that moment, all I wanted for 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. Even though I did not know it at that time, I finally had an opportunity to learn what the true meaning of family and loving someone was. My stepfather was a very quiet, cold looking man on the surface. However, 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 is the person who knows that family is the most important thing in life. For that reason, he is very focused on every family member and his or her needs. He worked very long, hard hours in the management department for an aerospace company. He believed that being home every night with his family was the right thing to do. That is why he has only occasional business trips, just 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 because they are the closest people on earth. Always put your family before your career. It is the only one you will ever have. You can always change your job and find some better options, but you will never find another family.” My stepfather graduated from college and went straight to work. It may sound strange for some people today, but 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. Was it a game or a high school exam? He was there to support us and let us know we always had him for us. My stepfather instilled in us that if we wanted something badly enough we would work hard enough to get it. He challenged us to attend college, so we could have a career. Of course, 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 (he did help bring me into the world, after all), but I do not consider him to be my dad. I will always consider my stepfather to be my dad. 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 and bad times are some of the values that make a dad.