Gary Gardner (grgardner) wrote,
Gary Gardner

My Three Dads

Looking at the calendar last week and realizing that Father's Day was approaching, I found myself in the card isle at Target looking at the cards for something appropriate.    I guess I'm luckier than a lot of folks -- I have had two Dad's in my life -- actually I guess make that three.   The first is the unknown man who participated in the biological process that created me.  I have no idea who he is, where he was from, what he looked like or became.  As I get older I realize that there are some genetic unknowns that may haunt me, and maybe I get my bulldog/fireplug shape from him, or my greenish eyes and lack of hair on my head.  But beyond that I was born in Denver, I don't know anything at all about him or my biological Mother, but nonetheless, I'm grateful that he enabled my existence.

I'm lucky that I was adopted by my Mother and Father -- as they say they "chose" me.  George is the Dad who raised me -- and he passed away a few years ago.  I've written about Dad in the past -- and how to this day some things will cause me to tear up.  Being the oldest son I was fortunate in many ways.  And although Dad and I were about as different as two people can be, he was my Dad and I know he loved me as I loved him.  As I was writing this, I went looking for some pictures, and I was surprised I really don't have many.  Maybe its because Dad was always the one taking the pictures.   But this one is perhaps one of the best.  It was taken in the early 70s, we were in Canada on a lake somewhere going fishing.  The sun is shining and Dad's smiling.
The other picture was taken in the mid 1960s just after Mom and Dad adopted my sister Jill -- it's me on the left, Jill on Dad's lap, and my brother Gordon sitting next to me, and was taken in the front yard of the house I grew up in in Salt Lake City.   In my mind this is how I still remember my Dad, and how I always will.

After my parents divorced and we grew up and moved our separate ways Dad lived in Phoenix for a time -- the same time I was going to Graduate school and for a while after.  He moved back to Salt Lake and married again while I stayed in Phoenix and then moved up to Seattle.   Dad and I didn't spend a lot of time together after that -- just the holiday's when I'd come home to SLC, or in the Seattle airport as he was flying to Alaska to go fishing.   When he died in 2007 I was privileged to give the main eulogy.  It was one of the most difficult things I've had to do.   I mentioned some of it in a post here

My third father is Ron, the man who married my Mom back in 1986.  People often think that Ron is my "real" father as we share a number of similar traits -- short, stocky, bald, talk loudly and with our hands, and we are both always right even when he's wrong and I'm not.  We both love cars and motorcycles and skiing and reading and trying to one-up each other with BS stories.
And while George was my Dad growing up, Ron was, and still is, my Dad as an adult.  In many ways he feels like a Dad, even though we met when I was in Phoenix and already pretty much an adult (though I'm sure he'll tell you I was still a know-it-all college kid far from being an adult). He married my Mom in 1986 and their marriage has lasted longer than her and George.  They are made for each other.  In the picture above Ron is helping me put down the tile when I remodeled my Olympia condo.  He flew up from Salt Lake to spend a week on his hands and knees with me cementing, grouting, and putting down flooring with me in a hot un-airconditioned apartment on the seventh floor of a high rise.  If that isn't love I don't know what is.

Your Dad as a kid teaches you things like how to tie your shoe or mow the lawn or fish and how to drive.  Your Dad as an adult teaches you how to be an adult -- how to be a man, and how to have the courage of your convictions and the willingness to take a risk.  How to deal with loss, and pain and struggles.    When my job was going nowhere and I was frustrated with it, it was Ron who helped convince me to set out on my own and open my own firm.  It was a scary jump, but I haven't regretted it for an instant and is what made me the success that I am today and I'm indebted to him for that.  Ron had his own firm up until he retired a few years ago, and we still share the same accounting firm to this day.
Like George, distance and time keep me from seeing Ron as much as I'd like to.  But I know he's always there when I need him.  It's got to be difficult marrying into a family of grown adults and having to deal with them, but I'm very fortunate that he did.  We talk on the phone fairly often, and I share in his struggles and pain as he shares in mine.  Family is more than blood, in fact "chosen" families are in many ways better I think.  Blood family carries with it some obligations at times and in many cases those obligations are undeserved.  Chosen families don't have those obligations, they must be earned.

So in Target I found a card -- I only had to send the one this year.  It made fun of an elderly Father's computer skills, and was totally appropriate for Ron, since like me, he has the patience of....well, he has no patience, that's the point -- another reason folks think he's my "real" Dad.  George is gone and I miss him.  Bio-Dad I never knew nor will I ever, but I said a silent "thanks" to him as well.  And to Ron -- my grown-up Dad -- Thanks.  I don't know what kind of man I'd be without you having been there.

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