When I was five, my biological father committed suicide. It left me feeling as though I'd done something wrong; that if I had been better somehow, maybe he'd have stayed around. My mother remarried shortly thereafter, and this man was my dad until I was nineteen. I called him Dad and used his name all through school. But, when he and my mother divorced, he just walked away. Once again, I wondered what was wrong with me that I couldn't keep a father.
Mother remarried again, and Bob was a wonderful, kind man. I was twenty now and no longer living at home, but I felt a great love and attachment for him. A few years later my mother was diagnosed with cancer and was not given long to live. Shortly before she died, Bob came over to my house alone one day. We talked about a lot of things, and then he told me that he wanted me to know that he'd always be there for me, even after Mother was gone. Then he asked if he could adopt me.
I could hardly believe my ears. Tears streamed down my face. He wanted me - me! This man had no obligation to me, but he was reaching out from his heart, and I accepted. During the adoption proceedings, the judge commented on all the undesirable duties of his profession and then with a tear in his eye, thanked us for brightening his day as he pronounced us father and daughter. I was twenty-five, but I was his little girl.
Three short years later, Bob, too, was diagnosed with cancer and was gone within the year. At first I was hurt and angry at God for taking this father away too. But eventually the love and acceptance that I felt from Dad came through again, and I became, once more, grateful for the years we had.
On Father's Day I always reflect on what I've learned about fatherhood. I've learned that it is not dependent on biology or even on raising a child. Fatherhood is a matter of the heart. Bob's gift from the heart will warm my soul for eternity.
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