In anticipation of the upcoming release of my novel, Call Me Daddy, I asked for stories about family: the fun, the inspirational, the heartwarming moments that make us part of a family. Susan Kennedy discusses growing up without her father and the men who helped fill that void...
When I was five years old, my father died, so I don’t have many memories of what life is like with a dad. After his passing, my mother moved our little family two states north. Her decision gave me a priceless gift: father figures in the forms of my grandfather and my uncle. They welcomed us with warmth and accepted a responsibility neither had ever imagined they would be asked to shoulder: helping raise another set of children. For my grandfather, this was his second time around. His own kids were grown, and he was nearing retirement. For my uncle, we were an addition to the children he was already raising.
If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, you know that my friend Kelly has a marvelous sense of humor. I certainly am no match for her wit nor are my life experiences half as interesting, so I hope you forgive me when you realize that this post won’t make you laugh. I don’t have any humorous tales to tell or a funny take on what it’s like to have two father figures. I do, though, have a deep well of gratitude and a wealth of memories, which appear in my mind’s eye like snapshots in a photo album. Some are more vivid than others, and the oldest ones are not always the most faded. Like the cliché of a picture being worth a thousand words, sometimes snippets of memory can be more revealing than a meditative essay, so I’m going to share my experiences with you as I see them myself: like snapshots composed of words, instead of stories.
· My uncle helped me, as a small child, fly a kite during a family day at the beach. Unfortunately, I don’t remember it, but thankfully someone snapped a picture of us working with the kite string. Twenty-seven years later, in a “Happy Father’s Day, Uncle” card with a man and child flying a kite on the front, I gave him a copy of the photo, which I guess he hadn’t seen in several years. “Whoa!” he said and laughed. It’s a picture that means a lot to us both.
· My grandfather was—and still is—always a good sport. One time when my sister and I were small children, he played Pretty, Pretty Princess (a board game where the object was to “earn” a set of plastic “jewelry” and a “crown”) with us. We sat on the living room floor, and as our game pieces traveled around the circular board, he followed the rules and donned each item as he earned it, even the clip-on earrings! And I think he might have won the crown, too.
· One Christmas as an older child, I received from my uncle an Irish flute he had fashioned from a narrow, fourteen-inch white plastic tube. With a mouthpiece and six perfectly bored finger holes, it produces pleasing notes. That was about the time my friends and I were learning to play the recorder for music class. I have no idea where my recorder is now, but I still have the flute.
· As seniors in high school, a group of my friends and I planned to meet at the prom, some of us sans dates. To drop me off at the dance, my grandfather donned a light yellow suit and tie—something he probably hadn’t worn since he had retired from banking at least a decade earlier—and played the part of my chauffer.
· I have countless memories of my uncle explaining to me how various things were constructed and operated. With a brilliant engineer’s mind, he was—and still is—better than any episode of the Science Channel’s How It’s Made. Not only can he explain how it works, but he can probably fix it, too!
· I have countless memories spanning nearly three decades of my grandfather teaching me about gardening, allowing me to help him by planting seeds, pruning bushes, weeding, watering, and harvesting, which of course was the best part. Those memories include summer afternoons when he and I picked blueberries from his bushes. Sometimes we worked in a comfortable silence, sometimes we talked, especially the comic strips in our state’s daily newspaper. We bonded over “the funnies” the way some New Englanders bond over the Red Sox.
· About three years ago, I tagged along with my uncle and aunt to the New Hampshire Highland Games, an annual celebration of everything Scottish. He and I donned our kilts and we spent the day enjoying the music, food, vendors, athletics, and bagpipe parade.
· At the reception of my cousin’s wedding five years ago, my grandfather and I shared a dance, something we had never done before despite my love of dancing. Courtesy of my aunt’s sister, I have a picture of that moment, and thankfully, I also remember it.
|New Hampshire Highland Games & Festival|
I have so many good memories, and I’m lucky I can still hope to make even more. On Father’s Day this year, my family again celebrated my uncle and my grandfather. I was fortunate to grow up with them, and I am blessed to still have them both. They might not be my dad, but I couldn’t have asked for better father figures.