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Dear Dad: Reflections on Fatherhood

Father—a child’s first hero, a key universal figure for us all. A father’s impact is both profound and lasting. Good or bad, our experience with our fathers helps shape our lives. Good fathers lie at the foundation of the success of future generations. For those who have known the love of a father, nothing is comparable.
 Neither does anything compare to the pain of those who have suffered fatherlessness. There is hope to be found, within these pages, both in the lasting impact of the men who chose to be a vital presence in the lives of their children, and in the remarkable resilience of those once fatherless children who found life, success, and reconciliation, despite their father’s absence.

Excerpts from Dear Dad:

The Father in Me
Lee Bey

The Dream
I walk into the kitchen. My father is there, dressed for work; the afternoon sun, shining golden through pattern of the kitchen windows.
“Daddy,” I say.
 “How you doing, Chip?” he said, calling me by the nickname my mother gave me.
“I miss you,” I tell him. “We all miss you.”
                                                * * * *
  My father was Lee J. Bey. He loved us all. My mother, Lula; my older sisters, Claudette and Deneterius. Our relatives. When I was a small child in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he’d pack our kinfolk in his car and bring them over to our house. The food, the laughter, the music. And my father, handsome and funny, holding court over it all.
     My father and I were the only males in a house full of women. We were virtually inseparable. Unless I was at school, or running the sidewalks with my friends, I was with him, picking up the tricks and lessons of manhood.

Dear Dad Excerpt II:

The Truth at Last
Nichole Christian
    Years after my daddy died, I finally laid down my superhero image of him too. Two decades after spreading his ashes, facts I’d never known about Daddy began to surface and collide with the fiction I had cherished as a child. It turns out Daddy was more human than I could ever see.
        It’s funny to me now the way I once romanticized a man I knew so little about. And sometimes I cringe, thinking of the many nights, the many ways I prayed death upon my mother, while forgetting and forgiving Daddy, who’d gone AWOL first.
      He had ducked out of their marriage not long after doing the honorable thing and marrying my pregnant mother. By the time I was fourteen, they were both dead, departing one after the other—first her (by a drug overdose), then him, with just nine months between them.
        Through it all, Daddy remained golden to me because he was the one who bothered to come around. My mother had parked me at her parents’ house while she divided her time between getting high and her stints in jail for petty robberies. I never understood how he knew, but Daddy always managed to show up when she was at her worst. The more he showed up, the more people swore they saw him in me: his eyes, his chin, his highbrow humor. Daddy bought me Underoos—Batgirl and Wonder Woman—before anyone on the block had a pair.

Dear Dad Excerpt III:

Dad’s Lesson:
Life Is About Now, Not Then
Donald A. Hayner

n the morning, I say good-bye to my dad from inside the clean and cheerful confines of the nursing home where he lives. It’s an assisted-living home for Alzheimer’s patients. Mornings are always best. His thoughts are clearest. We’ll sit together, or walk through the gardens outside. I often find myself studying his face. Some days, he looks old and remotely recognizable. Other days, he looks like the dad I remember as a kid, the same guy I saw walking across my high school athletic field thirty-three years ago.
I was a sprinter on the track team, practicing starts, when I heard a teammate say, “Who’s this? Some Olympic scout coming to check me out?”
I looked up and saw my dad. Why wasn’t he at work, I wondered. He was wearing a business suit and trench coat. He was short, built like a bulldog, with a marine’s crew cut and an all-business walk. He gently motioned me to join him.
He didn’t say why until we were inside the family car. Then, he told me my brother was dead. He had committed suicide in his college dorm room. As he drove me home, I looked out the window, away from him, and cried. It was a short ride. I think it was raining.