Papa Does Preach Guest Post: Searching For Dad

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A Papa and his son

You guys know that I am partial to the type of writing that merges the past with the present, and family history is a specialty of mine. You guys also know I haven’t written anything of my own in a while – I know, I’m sad about it too. Life sometimes gets in the way. But luckily, my buddy Mike from Papa Does Preach agreed to share this story under the Big Top, and it fits so perfectly here. Mike and I met last June at the blogging conference BlogU, and we both listened to each other read posts there. We now even hang out sometimes in “real life,” because he lives only about 30 miles away from me! Here’s a picture of me and the Papa at my 40th birthday party in October.

Big Top Family and Papa Does Preach

Big Top Family and Papa Does Preach

I love that Mike writes about serious issues from his past, as well as funny anecdotes about his life today with his wife and toddler. But perhaps what I like most about Mike is that he’s not afraid to stand up for his convictions, and what particularly gets his hackles up is when people marginalize the role of fathers with dumb jokes and pot shots at the uselessness of men. He takes his role very seriously, and is the epitome of a hands-on Dad. But read that for yourself in this post that made me smile, made me cry, and made me smile again.

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As much as I try and deny it when my Wife laments about it, our son clearly has a preferable parent…Daddy. In a perfect toddler world, his preference would be to have us both within arm’s reach at all times, but that’s not always possible. If the Wife needs to leave the house, the boy will typically fuss a bit, he even might shed a tear or two, but if Daddy has to go? Like every morning when I leave for work? Well, if you ever heard the term Bat-Shit-Crazy, that comes from my son, JSYK. Screaming, heaving his body onto the floor, hitting, kicking, and more screaming. And more screaming.

And it doesn’t stop there. My son follows me from room to room when we’re home, saying things like, “Ko Daddy” (aka Come on Daddy) and “What’d you doing Daddy?” I think the Wife actually gave birth to my second shadow. If I somehow manage to leave the room by myself, he tends to get very whiny, and sometimes very nervous and scared; only be relieved and all smiles when he sees me and runs up and grabs me.

Sometimes I get frustrated by the whining, and at times wonder out loud to the Wife, “Why is he so upset? I’m right here.” My Wife always tells me how much he loves me (which I know), and how I’m his hero. She also tells me to put myself in his shoes; he feels lost without Daddy. It makes me really reflect back on my relationship with my father, or more appropriately, the lack thereof, and one very pivotal time in my childhood where I felt very alone.

Over the years people have inquired about my dad from time to time, as I have spent the majority of my time talking/writing about my mother and the abusive relationship we had.. I never really wanted to talk about my dad. I realize now, that’s because the emotions were far more painful because they were born from a lack of his desire to know me, or even see me.

After a nasty divorce when I was just a toddler, my dad who was in the Navy, went off and lived the Navy life as a single guy. This meant I rarely ever heard from him; never saw him; and many birthdays/holidays passed with little or no contact. He eventually remarried and had more children. I met him, and spent a small amount of time with him in my pre-teen years, but for the most part our relationship was non-existent at best.

In early June of 1992, the week of my 8th grade graduation, my father was in San Diego (where I lived) for some sort of naval training exercise. He reached out to my mom to let me know he was in town, but only for a few days; so meeting up wasn’t a lock to happen. In fact, as the words left his mouth, I could sense the instant hesitation and regret because he might actually have to meet up with me.

I wasn’t super book-smart growing up, but I knew how to read people really well at a young age, so I picked up on his hesitation immediately. Pushing that aside, I decided to go for broke and invited him to my graduation that week, stressing that I really would like him to come. More hesitation, but he eventually agreed and even mustered up a half-hearted response of excitement and sense of gratefulness for my invitation. I knew he was lying, but for all my growing up way too fast and being able to sniff out a bullshitter like whoa, I still was a boy without a father. A boy who had always silently yearned for male connection; something I had none of to that point in my life.

My mom tried to be supportive; her attempts however, could not hide her massive skepticism. If she were a betting person, she knew she would win all kinds of cash betting on my father being a no-show to my graduation. But I didn’t care; I knew he was coming.

The big day came. I still remember it like yesterday. It feels today, like it did then; like a scene out of a movie. My dad hadn’t shown by the time the pre-ceremony chit chat and socializing were over. So what? So I didn’t get to take a picture with him before the ceremony; there would be plenty of time afterwards to take pictures and go to dinner. The important thing is that he’ll see me walk and get my graduation certificate.

We all took our seats as the graduation ceremony began. Nervously shifting in my seat, I turned from side to side, looking back and forth hoping to catch a glimpse of him as he arrived. Scanning every face in the crowd, eyes squinted by the bright California sun, I saw parents’ faces full of pride and affection, but none of them belonged to me. Occasionally I would catch my mom’s face; a smile plastered on her face as if she has just swallowed cough medicine. She was trying to convey pride and joy, but just under the mask of faux-happiness was a tornado of sadness, worry, and angst, along with a dash of “I told you so,” as she watched me desperately search the crowd. But I didn’t care; I knew my dad was coming. I would not acknowledge her worry; I would not give her the satisfaction. This time she would be wrong.

The ceremony came and went like a flash; I stood and walked and returned to my seat. It went by so fast I could barely scan the crowd for my dad for what felt like the 500th time, but I knew he was out there and he saw me, so no sweat; that’s what was important.

As soon as all the pomp and circumstance concluded, we were released out into the world; but first back to our parents. My mom found me so quickly it was almost as if she materialized out of thin air. She was beaming with pride, tears in her eyes telling me how proud she was of me, and how much I have grown up, hugging me tightly; too tightly. That’s when I knew; my father never arrived. Even though I knew the truth the lonely, sad, boy inside would not be shoved aside this time. I blurted out, “Where’s dad? Did he see me?” My mother stared at me blankly for a moment, and just as I looked away I spotted the slightest of smiles form on her face. Not only was she not sad; she was happy this had happened. Victory was hers.

So yeah, my son hovers around me, and follows me from room to room. And yes, my son has to be involved in everything I’m doing, but you know what else he does; he bursts into the room on my mornings to sleep in and wakes me up by jumping on the bed, smothering me with hugs. So my son whines when he can’t see me, or cries like a crazy person when I leave for work, that just means there is a super happy running hug with the scream of, “DADDY” when I get home.

I don’t begrudge him for getting upset anymore; well I try not to at least. And when he calls out, “Daddy, where are you?” I make sure to hug him a little tighter these days when I say, “I’m here buddy”…because I’ll always be here.

If you loved this story as much as I do, go visit Mike over at Papa Does Preach or find him right here on Facebook!

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Papa Does Preach Guest Post: Searching For Dad

20 Comments on “Papa Does Preach Guest Post: Searching For Dad”

  1. Larry

    Very touching post.
    When my sons get clingy, I like to remind myself that one day they will not want to hang out with me. They’ll be teens and I won’t be cool. So, I should enjoy it now. Besides, it can be flattering – when you get past the annoying part. It’s nice to be able to mean so much to someone.

    1. Ashley

      I agree, wholeheartedly! Mine are mama’s boys, mostly, and there have been times that I wished they weren’t because I get sick of hearing my own name! 😉 But I will miss it so much when they don’t want me anymore! 🙁 thanks for reading, Larry!

    1. Ashley

      Thank you so much for commenting, Kelli. 🙂 I know you can relate, as can any parent of boys. That father/son relationship is SO important. I know the mom/son relationship is too, but really, a boy’s image of fatherhood HAS to come from his dad. Thanks so much for continuing to read! xoxo

  2. Mike

    Hello everyone. First I would like to give a huge thank you to The Ring Master Ashley for sharing my post. And I would like to thank all of you for reading and commenting. I am very grateful

    1. Ashley

      So many people are relating to this, Mike. You’re one of my favorite bloggers ever, and it’s so nice to have a dad’s perspective here. Many people who haven’t even commented here have said this post made them cry. It made ME cry, for sure. Thank you so much for sharing it here.

  3. Uncle Dubs

    Thanks for sharing such a great story from Mike.

    I have been missing you, Mz. Ash! The other night I was gonna go to your site and see if you’ve posted anything that I might have missed, your poor unknown Unk having been purged from yer list as a bad bad fella for last commenting in the Mezozoic Era. I always read each and every word but may not comment due to general chaos and occasional mayhem here in the DubCave. DON’T BE SAD! You are mulching and that is a very valuable time, take it from this Mulchmeister! PLUS yer up for an Oscar in Boyhood! Good on ya, kid! And Happy Birthday baby!

    xoxox Yer Doting DubBuddy

    1. Ashley

      I love you and have missed you, Uncle Dubs!!! Thanks for the chuck on the chin – I needed that! I’m gonna pull on my big girl britches here soon and write something new as soon as I figure out just what in the HELL to write!! But trust me, it’ll come. (That’s what she said? Ew. Thanks UDub!!! xoxo

  4. Jo-Anne

    Bloody awesome post, I have three daughters two of which are and have always been daddy’s girls the youngest is a mummy’s girl and I know my family is not the average family in that we are all pretty close, we see each other weekly, ok many times a week to be honest but even my girls had times as teenagers they didn’t want mum or dad around but those times were few and far between so as I said not your average family I guess. My grandson Leo doesn’t have a father and I wonder how this will affect him when he gets old but he does have his “papa” and he calls his cousins father “dad” a lot so he has strong male role models in his life which is something I guess

  5. Ariel

    It’s incredible to think of how parents make the decision to miss out on their children’s lives. And it’s heartwarming to read how Mike knows exactly what he has with his son – everlasting, unconditional love.

  6. Kristi Campbell

    Love love this. Also Mike read that night? Ugh what’s wrong with me? Anyway, my son is like that with me “Mommy” but also similar as my mom left us when I was 13 so my dad is my hero and that I am my son’s go-to is fine and all’s right with the world when it comes to that. Still, what a lovely share and heartbreaking past. xxoo to all.

    1. Ashley

      Kristi, he read after the prom and very late in the night. Actually he may have been dead last. I think there were only a handful of us left! Thank you for sharing how you connected with this post. It is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time, considering that the cracks were filled in with lots of love. Thanks so much for reading and commenting! xoxox

    2. Mike

      Kristi, yeah I was so nervous to read in front of everyone….I attended the post-prom reading, and read very last. I think there were maybe 5 or 6 people left, lol

  7. Liz

    That was a gut punch of a post. Especially his mom’s smile. That’s a tough one. The writing here shows so much humanity.

    1. Ashley

      Yes, it’s so true. What an insightful statement – it shows so much humanity. I love that. Thank you so much for commenting, Liz!

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