dads are the awesomest…

It’s Father’s Day in the Americas and I’m waiting for it to get late enough in Korea for me to call home. Every year, I feel like I don’t quite know how to act. I mean, don’t get me wrong – I obviously know the day is meant to shower dads with love and appreciation. What I mean to say is, sometimes, I don’t feel like I know how excited (or not) to be.

If you’ve been reading A Little Bit Brave for any length of time, you probably know that my dad passed away nearly two decades ago when I was 8 years old. As a result, I’m well acquainted with this “sadness” that seeps into Father’s Day for some. I am sad with those who have lost someone this year – sad for them and sad for myself. It probably shouldn’t, but it puts me in a strange position.

My mom remarried a few years after my dad passed and I now have a slightly dorky – but totally awesome – step-dad. When Father’s Day comes along, I try to let my “pops” (as I’ve taken to calling him in the last few years as his hair has grayed) how much I love and appreciate him.

But it wasn’t always this way.

Mark  (“Pops”) joined our family at a strange time for me. I was 11, going on 12, and experiencing awkward hormonal changes and fighting a continuous uphill battle with my mom that so many girls fight at that age. In my mind, he tried to take over too quickly. He wasn’t my dad. I literally hated him and remember calling him a “jerkasaurus” in my head and to my friends. (That’s the best I had back then. My vocabulary has since grown more colorful, for better or for worse.)

By no fault of his own, Mark and I had a rocky relationship from the beginning. I hated my mom and I hated my step-dad. He was NOT my dad and I was NOT his daughter. I wore that badge with honor. I was angry for a long time about not having my “real” dad and I fought any attempt by my “stand in” to create a relationship with me.

I went off to college and it wasn’t until after my first big heartbreak that Mark really became a “dad” to me. We had several phone conversations where I cried so hard I couldn’t breathe through my nose anymore. I remember sitting in the hallway of my dormitory on the phone with him, crying because of the breakup and I had been feeling sick and was coming down with a cold. I had no money – barely enough to buy OTC drugs just to get me through the last few days of the semester before Christmas break.

He was loving and encouraging and exactly the “dad” I needed in those fragile moments. For the first time, I felt so lucky to have him. It was in those moments, sitting in that hallway in Spence Hall, when Mark really became a “dad” to me. 

I went home for Christmas several days later and he had bought me my first car – something I thought I would never receive from my parents. He paid for my car insurance throughout college. He bought me my second car when the first one finally died.

And then, after college, I moved to Colorado and took the worst job on the planet. I cried every night for months. I would call Mark and I would weep uncontrollably and he listened and encouraged me. He was the “dad” I needed. Once again, I was so grateful to have him.

At some point, we’d had a heart to heart and worked through some of the mess we had when I was younger and still living at home. I left behind my anger and my determination to hate him for eternity. I’m so glad that I did.

So, how does this story relate to my earlier point?I have two dads – a living one and one who passed a long time ago. When Father’s Day comes along, in the past, I felt like I had to mourn my daddy that wasn’t here anymore, but I was still supposed to be appreciative to my step-dad, whom I haven’t always had the most appreciation for. It’s a hard place to be in.

I feel guilty sometimes for not “missing” my real dad so much. It’s been nearly 20 years since he died and I didn’t know him well. I’m now an adult and my ideologies and ideas about the world have changed dramatically; we likely wouldn’t agree on much. But it’s Father’s Day, so shouldn’t I be sad that he’s not here?

I say no.

I love my daddy. But I also love Mark. I celebrate him for the dad that he has been over the last 16 years, even through those years that were the rockiest. I wish that my dad was still here and that I would have had the opportunity and honor of knowing him as an adult, but I also recognize how much of a positive impact Mark has made on my life.

I don’t want to dishonor my dad, Mike Driver, for the person he was or would have been if he was still with us. I want to show my gratitude for both my dads. They were and are special in their own ways.

To my Daddy:

I am so thankful to have had you for the few years I did. You were my hero and I looked up to you so much as a little girl. To this day, I admire your bravery when you moved our family to a new country to be missionaries. I admire how determined you were to beat cancer, regardless of how it ended. I admire your undying faith in your beliefs. I admire the love and passion you poured into the lives of others. I am thankful that you poured into mine.

I wish I had an opportunity to know you now. I think we would be great pals. I love you so much and I miss you.

Love,

-K

 

To Mark T.:

I love you so very much. You have been such an important force in my life. I am so grateful for your patience, your wisdom, your generosity, and most of all, your love. Thank you for not giving up on me. Thank you for always being “there” for me.

Happy Father’s Day, Pops. Thank you for being my dad. I am proud to be called your daughter.

Love,

-Kristini

If you’re a dad, Happy Father’s Day.

Thanks for being awesome. 

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