Human nature causes us to have a tendency to reflect on our lives and on the people who have impacted us in a positive way.  In the month of June, we honor fathers for the crucial role that they play in shaping their families. For many people, however, fathers are absent in the home, and other people step up to fill that role.  As I celebrate Father’s Day this year, it is not hard for me to remember the three important men who have encouraged, supported, and loved me unconditionally throughout my life:  Terry, Pete, and Ken.

     There was a picture of me as a preschooler standing next to a newlywed couple on the steps of a church.  I was supposed to be with my mom decorating the newlyweds’ car, but somehow I was drawn to the excitement happening in the front of the church.  The bride was my mother’s sister, Trish, and the groom was Terry, who became my uncle that day.  Early on, I felt compelled to hang out with him.  I loved to watch him work on cars, and he could fix most anything.  When I went off to college, he promised to look after my mother, who was recently divorced.  He kept my Volkswagon Beetle running, even putting new tires on it when I could not afford to purchase them.  When I asked how I could repay him, Terry assured me that making good grades in college was sufficient.  When I bought my first car after college, he was the one who helped me with my decision and negotiated with the car salesman.  Since Uncle Terry had kept my VW Beetle running all of those years, it was an easy decision to give him the car.  Being a great listener, Terry helped to fill a void in my life.  Whenever I was having troubles, he was sympathetic and encouraging.  He shared his personal stories helping me to view things from a male’s perspective.  When my big day came to walk down the aisle, I asked Uncle Terry to do me the honor of giving me away.  I cherish the fact that he filled in the gaps throughout my childhood and treated me like the daughter he never had.

     Another important man in my life was Pete, my father-in-law.  I began dating his son my junior year of high school.  Pete was a fun-loving person who always had a great story to tell.  He traveled extensively with his job as a furniture representative for the state of Georgia.  He never met a stranger and could relate to every person he encountered.  He was generous to a fault.  When I was driving back to college one weekend, he asked if I had any money.  He was not trying to embarrass me, but he was aware of my family’s tight financial situation.  He gave me twenty dollars with the stipulation that I did not have to pay it back if I ever had to use it, which is not standard procedure when a person receives a loan.  Of course, I used the money at some point, but, when I had a summer job, I stuck a twenty dollar bill in his shirt pocket while his hands were in a sink of dishes because I knew he would protest.  Possessing a sensitive side, Pete was the one to cry as his son drove off for college as a freshman, and he was the only one of our parents who shed a tear at our wedding.  Pete loved to laugh and to make others laugh.  He would never admit it, but he was the culprit who hired the entertainment who interrupted our wedding rehearsal dinner.  It was a PG-rated performance since the minister and his wife were in attendance.  The minister later was heard saying that he had never had more fun at a wedding rehearsal.  Pete loved his family dearly and showed it with his many acts of kindness.  His five grandchildren were the apple of his eye.  I cherish all of the fond memories that I have of him, and his legacy lives on in the hearts of his family and friends.

     It is hard to put into words how much this last man has impacted my life.  My husband, Ken, has been my biggest role model of unconditional love and support.  He possesses so many great qualities that won my heart in adolescence.  Ken and I attended school together from third grade through college.  When we began dating in high school, we discovered that Ken’s family had lived in the same neighborhood as my Uncle Terry and Aunt Trish when he was younger.  We vaguely remembered playing together in the neighborhood when I would visit my uncle and aunt.  It seemed our paths had crossed sooner than elementary school, and we were meant to share our lives.  Ken and I will celebrate twenty-seven years of marriage in July, and we are blessed to have our three children.  From changing diapers to teaching life-long skills, Ken has been a devoted father who has always been involved in all aspects of raising our children.  He has been faithful to be present at games, dance recitals, school programs, emergency room visits, but also he has made himself available when our children have needed him, such as speaking words of comfort and truth to mend our daughter’s first broken heart to accompanying our son out of state for his first job interview.  Ken has encouraged our children to follow their dreams and has instilled in them a strong work ethic by his example.  Following the role model set by his father, Ken loves his family dearly, possesses a great sense of humor, and believes the best of others. 

     I cannot imagine how my life would have been altered had I not had these three individuals in my life.  I am forever grateful for their positive influence.  I wish a Happy Father’s Day to all of the fathers and father figures who have made a difference in the lives of their families and of others.