This post is part of a Facebook tribute that I wrote shortly after my father Paddy died. It was a tribute to him, and to Norm, the dad who raised me. An adoptee, I met Paddy when I was 48. The first thing he said to me was, “I’ve missed you. I prayed for you every day, and I love you.” I’d missed him too, without knowing it. I’d yearned for my birth mother, and had felt the pain of separation, even though my adoptive parents loved me unfathomably, but I had never really considered a father.
My birth parents looked for me, and they found me: a 48 year old orphan who was separated by distance from the brother I grew up with. None-the-less, I was surrounded by a raucous and loving household which consisted of a husband who is my high school sweetheart and our three offspring, prodigies each in their own way, but that’s another story, and yes I’m super proud of my children, and so were my two dads.
So, how can I explain the deep affection and admiration that I have for my fathers? I am no longer worried that in doing so, I might lessen or disregard the dad who raised me, because I’m not; Norman taught me all that there is to know about patience, and unconditional love. He taught me how to swim, ski, ride a bike, and appreciate the beauty and power of nature. I had years with my first dad to absorb all the good things; he filled up my happiness reserves enough to sustain me when he died, and enough to sustain me even now. Paddy didn’t replace my dad, he simply arrived at a time in my life when I needed another father, especially one who I could love as much as Norm.
. . .
Paddy told me that he regretted not being able to see me after I was born, or say ‘good-bye.’ In the short time that I spent getting to know my new father, I learned the generosity of his love; it is reflected in my beautiful mother Catherine, and in my siblings. Paddy was battling cancer when we met, so I knew there wasn’t time to waste. Saying ‘goodbye’ to him was something that neither of us wanted to do, but at least we got to tell each other how much we loved each other.
I didn’t get to say ‘goodbye’ to my first dad; Norm died suddenly following one of our regular morning phone chats (I live in BC, and he in Toronto). I was flying out with my husband and our kids to visit him the next day. We were devastated. I hope Norm knew how much we all loved him, and what a positive impact he had on me, my brother, and my children. Mostly, I miss my dads, especially on Father’s Day.