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Happy Father’s (?) Day

Editor’s note: This is a touching true story that illustrates how Father’s Day can bring a mixture of emotions, and how very powerful a father’s love and approval can be in a son’s or daughter’s life…no matter the age. Perhaps this will prompt all of us to get beyond our comfort zone and use those words, “I love you” to our fathers, sons, grandfathers. Tami Jackson

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By Cameron Gray

We’re not parents of children, we have what some call “fur babies.” Our two dogs are named Max and Vegas.

That picture [below] is of Max, a Boston Terrier we rescued last summer.

At 43, I can’t imagine I will ever have actual children. I think I’m too old at this point, I’m kind of selfish and like the freedom of not having children, and my wife isn’t exactly pushing us to have any kids.

Max

On Tuesday, my brother, from whom I have been long estranged, turns 42. Not married, he has no children either. Additionally, both my aunt and my uncle have no children. I probably have one of the smallest families you can imagine. Our branch of the worldwide Gray family tree (which for us, more closely remembers a Bonsai) will probably end with us.

I have ascribed my not ever being a parent to the examples my parents set for us. Rightly or wrongly, I have thought that since my father set such a poor example, that I would repeat his mistakes. Usually when I say that to people, I always get back “No, you are not your father” or “Now you know what to do differently.”

But none of that ever made a difference. I have never wanted kids. I will occasionally wonder what it might have been like to be a father, but the curiosity has never been strong enough to actually bring another human being into the world.

My dad was, admittedly, a terrible father, and a worse husband. He should have never gotten married to my mother. But he did, they had us, and it lasted about ten years, with a few reconciliations and breakups mixed in for good/bad measure.

Fast forward to the mid-80s. We had moved from Long Island to Central Virginia (#CultureShock), and my parents decided to break up for the final time. My mom went back to Long Island, taking my brother with her (which was the genesis of our current estrangement). Worried about my father being alone, I decided to stay in Virginia.

He rented the top floor of a huge house, which was pre-divided into two apartments, so beginning in high school, I basically had my own place. He made dinner occasionally, and we talked here and there, but there wasn’t that storied father/son bond.

My dad would tell me many times that I should think of him more as a friend than a father. He never felt comfortable with that title, nor with the responsibilities it brought. I will never forget birthday cards from him during that time. He would always sign them with “Your Father (?)”

He was a high school dropout, preferring to hustle people in Manhattan pool halls. My dad was a master scammer. Street smarts like you’ve never seen. There was always an angle, a cut, a crew, a deal. It probably will come as no surprise that he ended up selling timeshares, some to Russian immigrants who lived in Brooklyn, to give them a false sense of American land ownership, real classy stuff. He had no use for higher education.

When it was time for me to pick a college, I was allowed to apply to only one school, as he didn’t want to “waste” money on multiple application fees. Thankfully, the school I chose, George Mason University, accepted me. When it was time to go to college, I packed my car and we said goodbye. I was the only student in my dorm that arrived alone.

It was about that time that we slowly stopped talking, not really out of spite, well maybe a little, but because neither of us had anything really to say to each other. That turned into mostly silence for years. The birthday cards with the ever present question marks were about the only communication we had. He was 90 miles away by car, but a billion miles away in spirit.

Thankfully, nothing lasts forever. I don’t remember exactly when, why, or how, but something changed. There were phone calls. We hung out. We enjoyed being around each other. He was still a curmudgeonly pain in the butt, but he was my curmudgeonly pain in the butt father.

When you start dating someone, and things become serious, there’s that point where you tell each other you love them. My dad was NEVER the “I love you” kind of dad. But at end of a phone call one day, he stunned me with “Hey son, I love you.” I hung up and cried for probably an hour (In all honesty, I am crying as I type this). It hit me so hard how much something I never heard, was such a gaping hole that I didn’t realize needed filling until that exact moment.

They say that time heals all wounds. I think time made my father realize the wounds he was inflicting on himself and me, and I am grateful, he has since worked to never again be the father of my youth. The father of my adulthood still has his flaws, and can drive me crazy (“Oh really Dad, you had to return something else to QVC”), but we never end a phone call or visit without saying we love each other.

I know people reading this have had the vast spectrum of dads from the Ward Cleaver to Mel Gibson. For those with the former, envy is a terrible thing, but I envy you. Thank your father every day for that. For those with the latter, I can only hope for you the same breakthrough that happened for us. I know for sure that my father and I are both better people for it.

Happy Father’s (!) Day.

First published at Ricochet

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Cameron Gray (On Twitter: @cameron_gray) is a broadcast media professional, with over 25 years of experience. He currently works for NRA News and Compass Media Networks. In the past, he has worked for SiriusXM Satellite Radio, CBS Radio, and the Washington Redskins Radio Network.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Cameron moved to Central Virginia for high school, then moved on to George Mason University in Northern Virginia. There, he earned a BA in Speech Communications and an MA in Telecommunications.



 

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