I don’t have a dad. I would give you a long back-story, but I honestly don’t have one. I don’t think my “father” – and I use that word loosely, even knows my birthday. I’m sure he hasn’t been around for one. I reached out to him years and years ago when I graduated high school, and again thereafter. He’s never made an effort to be in my life and I finally gave up on extending the invitation. – So no, I don’t have a dad. I do however, have a Gary.
Since I was a very tiny human, I remember Gary being in my life. He’s not a blood relative, but this is the only time you’ll get me to say it. Gary is my grandmother’s husband. They met when I was about three years old and we’ve been best friends ever since. For those of you who know a bit of my story , you may remember that My Mother Lives with Schizophrenia. Because of this, I spent a great deal of my childhood being raised between two homes: my mother’s and my grandmother’s. It was a difficult time for me. I was always really attached to my mom. I didn’t have another parent to bond with. She didn’t do everything right, but she tried. Through all of the rough patches in my life (and her’s) I always knew she loved me.
Transitioning from one household to another was complicated enough. Not to mention all of the moving parts like school, social anxiety, puberty, my new chronic condition. – The list goes on. It was all very difficult, but Gary helped. – A lot.
I remember holding in a lot of anger growing up. Although, just like now, I could fake a smile when I needed to, I was still overwhelmed with emotions of sadness and rage. I was mad at life. At just about everything. I was mad that my mom couldn’t be around. I didn’t realize it then, but looking back I know I caused a lot of hurt to a lot of people. I was also very angry at my body. I was mad that I couldn’t just “be normal.” – I took those feelings out on a lot of people too. Because I was so distant with a lot of people in my life, I lost them. They couldn’t understand me and to be honest, I couldn’t understand myself.
But my relationship with Gary was different.
From the moment he and I met, we just clicked. We became best friends very quickly. I trusted him and that’s something I rarely do. – Especially back then. I was just a child, but I’d experienced so much loss, I couldn’t bare losing anyone else so I chose not to allow people to get too close. I didn’t want to get attached to temporary relationships.
Through the years, we’ve only become closer. He’s been more than just an “in-law” to me. He’s more than just a husband to my grandmother. He’s been (and is) the only father figure I’ve ever had in my life.
Being a father is a huge role. It takes a lot of love and a lot of patience. – Two things Gary has always had with me. He’s played a huge role in raising me. Molding me into the person I am today. I still remember a lot of the lessons he taught me growing up. The main one being: to respect and honor my mother. Although Gary is a very sweet and kind soul, he holds his values close.
Growing up I remember watching the races and cheering for Dale Earnhardt (Senior) together. Sneaking and watching cartoons like King of the Hill and other shows with cursing in it (that my mom absolutely hated). Driving around town getting junk food! I remember one time in particular. – The Rugrats Movie had just come out and Burger King had released the colorful watches! They had every character in their kids meals, but I wanted Kimmie! I told Gary about the watches and he knew how badly I wanted one in particular. I begged and begged so we drove all over, to just about every BK in town, buying kids meals so I could get the watch I wanted! We continued on our mission all day. At the end of the day I had checked all of the boxes. – Still, no Kimmie. I was upset. Gary saw how distraught I was and headed out for the rest of the night, searching for my Kimmie watch! By the end of the night I had sooo many BK kids meals, so many watches. – Only one Kimmie! All thanks to my Gary!
I know raising me wasn’t easy. Heck, I know it still isn’t. Being a father is a job. Not everyone is cut out for it. Not everyone who creates a child, is a parent. It’s a privilege to have that kind of title. I’m glad I have someone to give it to. If you follow my blog you may already know, Gary was recently diagnosed with Lung Cancer. It broke me. It killed my spirit. It stole my hope. It broke my faith. – But he’s fighting.
Happy 66th birthday Gary! You are one of my best friends in this world. You’ve been such an amazing father figure and role model to me for so many years. You’ve taught me patience. You’ve taught me respect. More than anything, you’ve taught me that love and support have no boundaries. From teaching me how to use a hammer, to helping me move into every apartment I’ve ever owned. – You’ve been there. From crying at my college graduation, to physically carrying me into the hospital when I was laying in what could have easily been my death bed, vomiting uncontrollably after surgery.
Husband. Grandfather. Friend. Veteran.
You are what every man should be. I love you so much! #CheersTo66More!