I don’t know whether I’m a good father. Sure, you’ve seen happy pictures of me and my daughters, and you’ve read blog posts that make you think that I’m a good dad, but I’m just not sure. No really – I don’t know. I have no reference point.
I was born James Edward Wicker III. My namesake wasn’t around much, and so I was raised by my mother and grandmother until my mother remarried when I was six. At seven, I stood in front of a judge down at the county seat and told him that I wanted to change my last name – as per the coaching of my mom and future dad. Except, calling this man dad wasn’t easy. Especially with a father popping in and out of my life every couple of months. I had no loyalty to anyone. I didn’t know who the hell I was.
So eventually, I made myself.
But this Father’s Day post isn’t an attempt to bash the two men who were part of my upbringing. They did the best they could. It’s not easy pushing aside conflicting agendas to give yourself completely to children. Especially when the world demands so much of you, and when it used to be that the role of caregiver was primarily thrust upon women. Men had more important things to do.
Sadly, I suppose, I can’t say I ever loved either my father or my dad. I think there were times in my life when I tried to love them, but internal conflicts (both mine and theirs) got in the way of that.
My father died a few years ago on Christmas. Alone in a motel room on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Too many fingers and toes lopped off from diabetes as the result of alcoholism. He was once a giant of industry with millions in the bank, hundreds of employees, boats, houses and respect. But the same destructive gene that runs deeply in my veins, finally got to him.
As far as I know my dad is alive somewhere in Texas. From the time I was 15 until the day I left to join the Air Force on my 18th birthday, we didn’t speak. He and my mother divorced a few years after that, and sometime later we tried making a go of the father-son thing. But the love just wasn’t there. Everything was forced and inauthentic. And so we haven’t spoken in about 10 years.
And all of this is cool. Like I said, they did the best they could. I have no resentment toward either man. One taught me how to fish, and one taught me how to throw a curveball. I’m grateful for the time I was able to spend with them.
Today, I know firsthand how it is to be a father. And here’s what I’ve learned: It’s not very hard at all. The primary requisite is caring. And I suppose it’s not for everyone. Sure, the “real” world of commerce does its best to get in the way of this by attempting to shift priorities away from the “pretend” world of raising a family, but the life that my wife and I have built is strong enough to balance these ideas. Thankfully. Because being a father is absolutely the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my life so far. Yes, kids can be a pain in the ass, and yes, they are expensive. But once you experience that moment when you look your child in the eyes and see yourself? It’s pure magic.
No, I don’t know whether I’m a good father in terms of ‘doing it right.’ I mean, I’m pretty sure I make mistakes daily. And because of my unique position, combined with the fact my wife lost her father, I’m the only male influence in my daughters lives. But one thing I do know is that my children will never have to wonder about their own father and his commitment and love for them. They will know that as long as I live, no man will ever love them the way that I do.
Jim Mitchem. Father.