Step (up to the plate) Fathers Day

Father’s Day is that one day of the the year where we get a card and some socks, smellies or a beer for our dear old dads and maybe pop round and let them know we’re thinking about them. For those of you who don’t know me, and some of those who do, I wanted to share a little story with you.  So, go to the toilet, grab a coffee and get comfy.  Ready? Then let’s begin.

This story goes back to when I was a young boy – about 9 – trying to come to terms with the fact that my birth father (from now on referred to as ‘Sperm Donor’ – the less said about him, the better) had walked out on my mother, choosing the night before Mother’s Day to go. My mother was trying her hardest to keep things going (and doing a bloody good job), and me?  Well, I was was just about to start the scariest time of any kid’s life: moving to grammar school. After a while, as well as working three jobs, my mother had started to attend a couple of social groups so that she could get out of both the house and work zones, and try to make some new friends. I remember being dragged along to a lot of these events: walks, meals at other people’s houses, etc, and if I’m honest it wasn’t my thing, but if mother was happy, that’s what mattered. What I do recall, though, is one of the guys there who was into running, long walks, music, etc, and who had a couple of kids who were about my age. This guy would end up being around quite a lot over the coming months and, if I’m honest, it was nice to have a father figure around, as Sperm Donor had vanished off the face of the earth.

This man ended up marrying my mother when I was in my early teens.  This was no easy feat for him, as I was not your usual, happy, friendly teenager at all. Over the years we butted heads repeatedly, but even after all that, he has supported me through difficult times, been there for me when no one else was, and stood by me no matter what.  This has extended to my children as well – they know him as ‘Grandad’ and didn’t realise he wasn’t a blood relative until their mid teens. They both had the  opportunity to meet Sperm Donor at a family funeral, but decided that, having watched his behaviour that day, they didn’t want to meet him as he’s not their real grandad.  He made no effort to speak to them.

This spoke volumes to me about the character of this man who had stepped up, taken me on, treated me as his own son and tried to help me, even when I thought i knew best. As a middle-aged man, I now understand how hard this must have been for him.  Then, last year, I had a phone call from my mother to say my dad (I hate the ‘step’ bit – he’s my dad in every way that matters)  had collapsed while playing walking football.  They had had to restart his heart a number of times, and he had been airlifted to hospital. He was in a bad way and needed major heart surgery once he was stronger.  Being a 4 hour drive away from where we live, I  began to realise exactly how I felt about this legendary man.  Yes, of course, like us all, he has his flaws.  None of us is perfect, but I began to think about what my family would be like without him. Fortunately, I haven’t had to find out as the operation was a success and he is back to his old self, for which I count myself lucky every day. I also realised that people like my dad are one in a million really.  He didn’t have to take me on and be a father figure when he married my mother, but he saw a kid with no male role model and stepped up to the plate like a real man.

So spare a thought this Father’s Day for the men who take up the mantle of being dad to someone else’s kids when the biological parent has abandoned them.  They often work – nay, battle – twice as hard to help mould the next generation of mothers and fathers.

To my dad – thank you for everything and I love you loads.

Stay Safe X

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