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There are some wonderful Father's Day diaries on Daily Kos. Some have been recognized by Community Spotlight, others by hitting the Rec List, and going through the Recents (at noon Pacific on Sunday) there are other tributes like this, this, and this.

The last several weeks TV and radio ads have been devoted to fathers -- heck, one of the national flower ordering companies has featured a Father's Day gift basket of snacks and golf balls in a portable cooler. (Seems a bit stereotypical, but corporations aren't really known for originality when it comes to holidays.) Go into any card shop or drug store stationery aisle and you find sections of cards for fathers and fathers-to-be. (I once saw a card that said on the front, "Happy Father's Day To My Boyfriend!" and on the inside said, "Scared you, didn't I?" -- that's a warped sense of humor right there.)

But for many people in the world, including many of us on Daily Kos, today's just Sunday.

I never really knew my father, despite the fact I bear his name. Yes, even though I'm female, I was named for my father; he was Robert Franklin, I'm Roberta Lynn. (If I'd been a boy, I would have been named "Matthew" -- God/dess knows why.) One day in April of 1970, he came home from work ill; he'd been home a short time earlier on his dinner break but had returned (he worked just a short distance from home, the 12-9 shift at the grocery store, so came home for an hour about the time I got home from school). My mom had just come home from her job at the local newspaper, my brother was home from high school, my oldest sister was at her home with her two girls (the second just home from the hospital after spending some time in NICU), and my second sister at college in Santa Barbara. He went back to his bedroom to take a nap...and that was the last time I saw him. Shortly after he lay down, he suffered a massive heart attack and technically "died" right there. In 1970 though, there was no concept of "brain death" as such -- the ambulance team "revived" him to where he was breathing and had a heartbeat, but there was no evidence of brain function; he was in an irreversible coma for 3 months until he died.

My sisters and brother went with my mother to see him in the ICU, but being only 11, I was not allowed in his room. Perhaps it's better that way; my limited and fading memories are still of him as a vital and energetic human being, helping to build the deck on the back of the house, going out square dancing with my mom on Friday and Saturday nights, and in his last year the quiet times we'd spend together when he'd be home on dinner break and I'd make myself some soup so I could eat with him and chat about school and other inconsequential stuff.

Life went on after he died, but it was different. For the father-daughter event at Girl Scouts, I was the only one without a father; my brother-in-law stood in his stead but it wasn't really the same. I was painfully aware of how different I was, how set apart, how something was missing. And I still feel that something missing -- I know I have some pretty complex abandonment issues; whenever my spouse is late getting home, or takes too long coming in from the car (he usually drops me off near our apartment then goes to park in our carport space), I worry, although it's usually just the case that he's been listening to something on the radio like a baseball or hockey game and wants to wait till there's a break in the action before rushing in to catch the rest of it. I still fear that day if (when) he doesn't come home ever again.

It wasn't until 1987 -- ironically, the year that my mother had her first heart attack -- that I found a second father, though he officially wasn't a second father until 1991. I had begun dating a man who drove the bus I took home from my night classes at the local community college, though we'd actually known each other back in high school when he was a senior and I was a sophomore. Not long into our relationship, he "took me home to meet the parents" and they immediately welcomed me into their household. We frequently had dinner with them; they were surprised when I offered to bring something to share (usually it would be some sort of appetizer, like veggies and dip) because none of his other girlfriends had done so, but it was just the way I was brought up (our family Thanksgiving and Christmases are almost always potluck, with the host preparing the main dish and everyone else bringing sides). They were also surprised when I offered to help with the clearing up (actually, it was me standing up and telling my then-boyfriend to help clear and rinse dishes). I enjoyed those family dinners very much, chatting politics with my boyfriend's parents (the fact that they were also progressive Democrats was a major boost, since my mother was an extremely conservative Republican), playing games, listening to good music (jazz and classical, for the most part), and becoming part of the family. I was especially drawn to his father, totally opposite to the one I remembered, very spiritual, kind and gentle -- while my father attended church every week and had served as an usher and on the Board of Elders at our Lutheran parish, I didn't really think of him as "spiritual" -- but with an inner strength that I really didn't notice until many years later.

For 23 years -- 19 of which "official" in the legal sense -- I came to love and appreciate my second chance at having a father. Yet, as the saying goes, all good things must pass, and in March of 2010 I had to say goodbye to that second father. And I've learned just how much he did in those years, how much he put off or did without to make sure to provide for his family especially his disabled wife and younger son, and how much he did to help his older son (my spouse) become the man he is today. (Sometimes I wish he'd done just a bit more, like passing on his excellent cooking skills...but that's immaterial.) Going through his personal effects after his death, I learned a lot more about him, including his own family history -- how his parents divorced when he was only 5, how he lost contact with his birth father until he was the father of two young sons and felt the need to search out his heritage, and his sometimes rocky relationship with his stepfather especially when he was unable to qualify for the military due to health issues (his stepfather was in the Army through WWII and Korea, and bore that same military bearing throughout the brief time I got to know him). I think my father-in-law decided early on that he would not make the mistakes of the men before him, and that's what made him such a good husband and father.

Now, it's Father's Day, and I have no father, nor is my spouse a father (we decided early on that neither of us were parental material). All I can do is remember what was, and what might have been, and wonder what would have happened if just one little thing had changed.

Originally posted to Just a thought... on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 12:55 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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