I had a conversation with the man whose DNA my daughter shares five years ago. It was when he lived in Colorado, and he had just driven to Washington to see me and our daughter. It was the third time he had seen her since she was two years old. She was 14 at the time.
Sperm donor: "The reason I don't come and see Cami more than I do is something you probably would never be able to understand."
Mama: "Okay, try me. I'm interested."
Sperm donor: "I travel across several states to see my daughter, and spend time with her for a weekend, and then I have to say goodbye and go home... You have no idea how heartbreaking that is. It is easier to stay away and not know her than it is to see her sporadically and have to say goodbye, not knowing when I'll see her next."
Mama: "You know what? I do understand that. It must be horrible. I can't imagine the heartbreak. Our daughter is a beautiful and amazing person, and to not be a part of her life must be overwhelming. Here's the part that I will never understand: why do you think it is an option to not be there for her? Or in her life, to whatever capacity you can be?"
Today is Father's Day. The day society celebrates and salutes the men who participated in the creation of the next generation. I have two children, who have different fathers. Cami's father is not a dad. Never has been. Cannot justify the sacrifice that would be required to be a part of her life. And it's not just that; he blames me for her struggles. Her fears. Her demons.
It is possible that he has a point. But since he has not been a part of her life, EVER, I don't really care about his opinion.
My son's father does participate in his life. Coaches baseball. Helps with homework. Teaches him how to train his dog, how to change brake pads, how to throw a curve ball. I don't like him (and I'm no longer married to him) but that is beside the point. He is an active part of my son's world. And because of that, even though I don't always agree with his methods, I sent him a "happy father's day" text today.
These are the men that gave me my beautiful and precious children.
There's my dad.
I am 37 years old, and my dad is still my hero. Not my hero now as an adult, not my hero now that I have kids of my own, but still. He always has been.
My dad was the financial provider for our family. It was important to my parents that my mom be able to stay at home with the kids, and so my dad's paycheck was the sole income. He's owned his own business, worked for both good companies and tyrannical bosses, and somehow managed to pay for my sister and I to go to private school for most of our education. He's loaned me money; sometimes requiring me to pay it back and sometimes calling it a gift. He gave me my first job, working at his office. He paid for my long-distance phone bill when my boyfriend was in the Army. He bought a new engine for my 1984 Honda Accord when I forgot to check the oil and it blew up on 405. He loaned me money when my business was struggling.
My dad used to take me on daddy-daughter dates. He took me to Lady and The Tramp when it came out in theaters when I was 5. We stood in a long line, and finally got tickets, and then when I was tired halfway through the movie, he left the theater and took me home. When my homecoming date senior year got cancelled, he made a reservation and was my date that night. He took me out to dinner, and felt horrible when we ran into my classmates that were at the same restaurant before the dance. He used to take me and my sis to the Science Center, and would always drive us home by the Fremont Troll when we would plead to go out of our way. He used to randomly ask me if I wanted to go watch baseball in Kirkland; we would drive downtown on a Friday night when I was in high school. He would buy me a hot dog and some Smarties and we would talk while we watched the high school boys play select ball. Some of my favorite talks with my dad were on those metal bleachers.
My dad was baffled when I got pregnant at 17. I'm sure he was scared, and mad, and confused. And then his Cami was born~ and he instantly had another princess for whom he was a hero. One of my favorite pictures of my dad is him sitting on the couch, reading to Cami while she's snuggled up against him in her jammies. I think she was three. I was 21 and still living at home. He is a grandpa who looooooooves his grandkids.
My dad yells at me when I'm wrong. I write this in present tense, because it still happens. Living 25 minutes away from my childhood home means he no longer has to know every single stupid decision I make or word that I say... but there are plenty of times that I tell him something and he rolls his eyes and shoots a sarcastic response my way. I know as a mama whose daughter is on the threshold of adulthood it is often hard to bite my tongue and let her make her own mistakes. I can only imagine how my dad feels seeing me wander and stumble and fall. He is much, much smarter than me.
Today we salute men who sacrifice for their children. Who play ball when they're tired from an endless day of meetings. Who go to football games to watch their daughter cheerlead for a losing team. Who get frustrated when kids don't pick up after themselves, are disrespectful to Mom, or who take too long to get ready to go run an errand.
I am unfathomably grateful that my children have a Grandpa like my dad. I may not have chosen the best of men to be their fathers, but I could not have hand-picked a better man as their grandparent.
I love you, Roger Alan Baer. You have given me an example of unconditional love that I can't imagine experiencing anywhere else this side of heaven. You are, and always have been my hero. Thank you for being my dad.
A postscript: for the last year I have dated a man who has shown me that men of my generation still have the capacity to be heroes for their children. To That Guy: Happy Father's Day, sweetheart. You're the best.