Somewhere along the line, he met up with my grandma Ina who had lost her own husband Herbert in the First World War. Ina was busy raising my Uncle Vern, a young man with mental challenges. I never knew what was wrong with Vern exactly; I was told he just never grew up.
Loyal and Ina married and had my mom, Vera and my crazy Uncle Ivan.
Gramps was the first man I met who “stepped up” as a replacement father. When my own mother lost her husband Russ in a car crash, it was Gramps who took us in and helped raise us as his own. My mother was a basketcase for much of my growing up, lurching through a combination of depression and anger, so it was up to Gramps to step in and teach me the usual girly things such as riding a bike, cleaning smelt and shooting a rifle for target practice in the basement. I loved Gramps with all my heart, and I was heartbroken when he died of a stroke when I was a young teenager.
But I never forgot that Gramps had stepped up and taken charge, and I recognized what an extraordinary act it was to raise someone else’s children.
My uncles on my father’s side — so many I can’t remember — took on the young children of a cousin and his young wife when they could no longer care for them. I could never quite figure out why they had so many children, they just did. And they needed homes. Not much was said when the gaggle of young children were parcelled out amongst the Simpson brothers. My uncles — and aunts — were fabulous people for raising my cousins as their own, even though many of the uncles were of an advanced age when given the job.
My own brother carried on the family tradition when he met his wife, who was raising a young child many years ago. Gary never had children of his own, but loved, cared and nurtured this daughter in such wonderful and touching way, it’s difficult to remember he used to tease me and call me “Stinks”.
These wonderful men were role models in my life.
Over the years, I watched these tender hearted guys bring meaning to the lives of countless children, who in turn have been able to pay it forward in their own lives.
Which brings me to my own love, my husband Scott who came into our lives when we were drowning. He took on a handful when he took on us — three teenagers and their assorted friends — and he did so with humor and enthusiasm. He drove Marissa to basketball, picked her up after long nights of high school thuggery and shot beautiful portraits of her and the boys for me for Christmas. He baked bread for them, chased skanky girls out of the boys’ bedrooms and spent nights in the hospital with the boys during some of the rough patches.
He is our hero.
Scott has filled the hearts of my children, left broken by their own father, and he has helped make them whole again. He taught the boys how to treat women, with respect and kindness, and he taught my daughter how she should be treated by a man.
He is the most wonderful father, not just because he stepped up when he was needed. He is the best father because — in spite of having no biological children of his own — he seemed to the manner born.
Like Gramps, like Gary, like the Uncles Simpson, he made room in his heart for children and truly changed lives.
Happy Father’s Day to many of these men long gone, but not forgotten.
And thanks to the others for just being you.