Fathers are a lot like movie stars.

They cast the biggest, the broadest, the most all-encompassing shadow in the house.  They inspire, motivate, de-motivate and terrorize.  And all too often, they do it all without ever trying.  The memory that sticks in my mind from my own family features my hubby and Zack, our eldest (now 18 and about to head off to UCF to college although Mommy isn’t sure how she’ll like the dorm room). 

Zack, as a combat crawler at the age when he should have been toddling, had a couple of challenges.  First, his Mom worried constantly that he might be hungry.  (She still does).  Today he can just give me the look, say he loves me, and leave the table.  As a creepy crawler, he didn’t have that option.  So he was a big butterball of a baby and toddling presented size challenges.  Second, his own mental make-up, even at that little age, meant he didn’t want to do anything until he could succeed.  He did his combat crawling while his peers held onto furniture and took lurching little steps. 

Then one day Zack’s dad was in the kitchen and Zack and Mom were in the den.  Dad started whistling and Zack jumped to his feet and ran into the kitchen, chasing the man making the merry noise.  Yeah, his Father inspired his first steps without even trying.

Both boys grew up basking in their Father’s presence and working to avoid his ire.  They learned the Daddy Rules (no hitting, spitting, kicking or biting and especially no lying) at a young age.  As they grew, some of the rules were easier to follow than others.  But they always do their best to make Dad proud, and they always, always basked.  They’d gather round on the floor while Dad sat at the computer playing some game and the kids would spend hours just watching Dad play and cheering him on.  It resulted in our having a LAN network in our house.  At their elementary schools both of our boys taught the teachers computer tricks. 

Daddy Dearest casts a big shadow in romance novels too.  In Brotherly,  the Jamison Father is bringing home a young widow to wed when the train crashes.  Daddy and his bride die, and the bride’s young daughter goes to live with Daddy’s sons who would have been her brothers.  So the whole book is essentially Daddy’s legacy teaching each of his sons different lessons.  In Faerie, sins of the long-ago Father inspired the curse, and the failure of Nial’s Da to avoid entanglements long enough to find his Faerie Fated Forever casts a tragic pall over his household that inspires his vow to avoid his father’s fate.  Heather’s Papa in Faerie is a present force, the wise man who sees the beauty in his daughter and who knows Nial will too – eventually.  In Golden, the sins of Colt’s father cost him his son, and the devotion of Viv’s whisks her away from Colt, forcing him to face the past that is also his future.  In E-mail, Alix’s vow to his father prompts the rebellion that weds him to the Belle Bitch.  That introduces him to his wife’s young half-sister who is the living embodiment of the promise to his Father he will keep.   

In my real life romance, as in my stories, the path of true love has been strewn with obstacles largely of my own making.  Don’t most of us create the very problems we must overcome?  But the rocks keep the route interesting and force us off the beaten path onto side trails where the view is as inspiring as it is terrifying.  Hopefully, the reason he’s still with me (problems and all) is that he knows I love him to pieces.  While he may not be completely perfect, he’s completely perfect for me, and for our children.

One of the many reasons I love my husband is his devotion to our children.  He’s had to practice tough love because both our boys have their issues.  The eldest is an Aspie (Asperger’s Syndrome) and John has had to work with him to set expectations, rewards and punishments and he had to follow through, always and consistently. Aspies are, after all, (brilliant) rule based rut people.   John’s had to be tough when Mom wasn’t.  John’s had to be tough when the school system Mom corralled  couldn’t be.  Today the tough love John practiced has helped Zack mature into a young man with morals and values and standards, ready to begin making his own choices.  Sam is still a work in progress, but John’s influence has begun to guide him to set his own goals and work to achieve them.  Sam too shows early signs of growing into a reflection of the values and standards instilled by his father.

So, Fathers are like movie stars because the essence of who they are infuses, compels, and motivates those around them, particularly, those little beings lucky enough to share Dad’s gene pool.  Unlike actors on a silver screen, fathers are real life heroes who will live on long after the house lights in the theater dim.  The best of fathers, like my husband John, manage to be the foundation of the past and the guardian of the future. 

Daddy will live on through his little dearests.  One day the dearests will be whistling familiar tunes in kitchens of their own, summoning a new generation to carry on the family traditions.

Happy Father’s Day, sweetheart.

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