It wasn’t my husband. Of course my dad was deservedly the first, but he and my mom were very young. They needed their village. Luckily, they both had many siblings who were willing to help out, including four of the least likely sources: my dad’s younger brothers. Barely attending high school when I was born, these four men adored me, and I them. We were together all of the time through my formative years.
As we all grew, they went on with their lives, to college, getting married, having their own kids and families. We still spent time together, but, as is life, we all got older and as the years went on, relationships changed. Except for my Uncle Mike. He has always been there, supporting me, guiding me, genuinely caring about me, despite eventually having five of his own kids and a family. He is the second man I ever loved.
When I reflect on his influence in my life, I’m astounded by a few things. The first is how effortless he made it seem, particularly to stay relevant and involved during my awkward teenage years. It isn’t easy for a father, much less any other adult male, to find relatable ground with a teenage girl. But he found a way and he didn’t let me push him out of my life. The second is that he still found time for me, despite having his own family. He was always able to ground me and help me find peace, no matter the stage of my life. He gave me advice ranging from what was good music, how to shoot a free-throw, what college to attend, and how to find my faith. From my birth, to the birth of my own kids, whenever I needed him, he was there.
He didn’t help me with my homework, cook me dinner or attend every basketball game, but he quietly gave me confidence, support and most importantly, unconditional love. Even now, with a family of my own, he is still involved and still teaching me lessons. Most importantly, he showed me that its never to late to follow your dreams.
There’s so much focus these days on the importance of fathers and I could not agree more. But in that discussion, other male figures can get lost in the shuffle. I have an amazing father AND an amazing uncle. I wouldn’t be who I am without my dad, or without my Uncle Mike (or Uncles Jim or Ric or Gary for that matter!) While my incredible father was undoubtedly the leading male in my life for most of my life, Uncle Mike was right there in the shadows. He deserves some credit too.
So on this Father’s Day, I encourage you to express your love and gratitude to your own father, the father of your children and any other male that has helped shape who you are.
What man besides your father has had an important influence in your life?