If you ever had a father figure in your life, you are blessed. If that person isn’t your blood, but treats you as such, you are even more blessed.
Those words really pierced my heart, because they were posted by my son Sam Gorena on my birthday a couple of months ago. They touched me because it confirmed to me that I had done a good job in helping raise this young man, a young man that I became aware of when his mom was 6 months pregnant with him and I attended her baby shower. Little did I know that I would be a part of his life for so many years after his father passed away.,
They also touched me because it made me realize how I had learned to love Sam as my own. I learned it from my Dad. He came into our lives in 1965, when my little brother Art and I were 9 and 7 respectively. My “father” had walked out on my mom many years before that and we were raised by my mom, with some help from my grandmother and my wonderful grandfather. We did not have a father figure in our lives until my Dad came into our lives and swept us off our feet.
From day one, after he married my Mom, we were “his” boys. He was not “Don” to us, he was just Dad. He was hard on us at times, and we did not really understand why he worked us so damn much. I would have rather been roaming the streets with my friends than back at home rebuilding cars, going to salvage sales, or recycling aluminum and tin to make a few extra bucks for the household. But when I am able to rebuild my brakes, change out a clutch, or build a raised garden bed from discarded decking material, I have my dad to thank.
I was a total butt to my dad as a teenager at times. I challenged everything he said, I was sarcastic, and I even at times ridiculed his ideas. But at the end of each night, when it came time to go to bed, he always said “I love you son.” I guess that is why I never uttered those words that many stepdads end up hearing – “You aren’t my real dad.”
After my mom passed, my dad’s relationship with me changed. He now relied on me to help him with important decisions, make medical and financial decisions, and work out some pretty intense feelings of anger, loneliness and resentment that he had built up over his life. We talked often, even when he left El Paso and moved all the way across the state to DeBerry, Texas. (Yeah, I didn’t know where that was either.)
I told him it worried me that he was 6 hours away and that I was afraid something would happen to him and I would not be able to be there right away to help him. My worst fears were confirmed when I got a call one late December evening telling me that my dad had suffered a heart attack and was found laying out on the back porch. We had talked just two evenings before, shared a few laughs, made plans for me to go with him all the way back to El Paso to see his cardiologist, and talked about some ideas he had to remodel some stuff in his house. His last words to me? “I love you son.”
Sitting with my brother one day several months after my Dad’s passing, my brother said something that still sticks to me to this day. He said our dad taught us a lot – how to work, how to survive, and more importantly, how to love. Sam’s words to me were directly the result of what my dad gave me; it was his legacy to me.
I would give anything to hear those words again – I love you son. I miss you Dad. Happy Fathers Day.