The man who took on the role of my dad, who became my dad in a way that had nothing to do with biology and everything to do with our hearts and love and family, was Bob Flora (to the world) and “Dad” to my brother and me.
He officially became my dad in 1980, but sometime in the year before that, Michael and I were already feeling that’s who he was. I remember Mom and Dad driving us somewhere and I was sitting in the backseat with Mike—I would have been about eleven and Mike would have been about eight. We put our heads together and I whispered, “I keep almost calling him ‘Dad.’” Mike nodded and grinned. “Me too,” he said. Needless to say, after that, we didn’t try too hard to resist the urge any longer. He was “Dad.”
Dad was everything a father is supposed to be. He taught us so much. We learned a strong work ethic—that I know we both grew to appreciate—working on the farm, even if we were cussing and swearing under our breath on cold winter days when we were cutting and stacking wood or on hot, sweaty, sticky days trying to get the hay baled and loaded before he got home from work. As adults, those were some of the fondest memories Mike and I shared—and we loved to laugh about them.
Dad taught us what it meant to have a man in our lives who was always there for us, in every sense of the word. When we looked up from the volleyball or basketball court or the track, we knew we could count on seeing Mom and Dad in the stands almost every time we competed. I remember going to one of Mike’s track meets after I’d graduated and moved away. It was early in the season and cold. Mom had to work, so she wasn’t there yet. But as I approached the stands, Dad came into view. He was already there, in his Carhartts, and Mike knew it.
When we struggled, whether it was difficulties in school or with friends, or later in our lives, when we struggled as adults—as grown children going through divorces or struggling as parents—Dad was there. We could talk to him. He would listen. And then he would nod his head and give us his advice.
Dad shared his love of life with us. He brought music into our lives in a big way. Whether it was his band practicing in the living room late into the night (on a school night) or whether it was his big-band days later in his life, Dad loved to play his guitar and his banjo, and he loved to sing. He grinned a lot, playing his music, and it infected our lives. Michael and I both came to deeply love playing and listening to all kinds of music. That love stayed with us and we’ve passed it on to our kids.
Dad never knew a stranger. Ever. He would—and did—talk to anyone who would talk to him. He loved to tell stories. He loved to laugh. He loved to make people happy. Those are qualities to strive to emulate. He was an inspiration. I love him deeply and forever.
My brother, Michael, loved nothing more in his life than being Ethan’s dad. When the two of them were together, there was a light in my brother’s eyes that burned only when he was with his son. Ethan was Michael’s world, and Ethan treasured his time with his dad.
Michael was so patient with Ethan. There was no story too long to listen to, nor too question too small to answer. Ethan is a smart, inquisitive boy, and Michael delighted in watching his boy grow and he wondered, I know, where life will take his son. I know that we all pray that Mike is watching Ethan from heaven, and that he is guiding his son’s footsteps still, as he did when he was with us.
We all miss Mike more than we have words for, but none of us miss him the way Ethan does. His loss is his own. We are grateful that Ethan is still such a part of our lives, that we are still able to be active in his life, and that we are able to share—all of us together—the love we have for Michael as well as the love we have for each other. Together, we will engage in the blessings of this life, and we will help Ethan become the young man, and eventually the adult, that his dad always knew his son would be.
And finally, there is the father in my life that stepped in and became a dad to my beautiful daughter, my husband and best friend, Terry.
Terry had quite a feat in front of him when he came into Tori’s and my lives. We had been “Mom and Tori” for almost nine years since her father and I divorced. We had a life together. We were very close (still are, thank God!), and we weren’t sure how this was going to work, inserting a man into our family. Because that man happened to be Terry, it worked very well.
Terry came to love Tori quickly, I think, but he respected the fact that she had a father, and he wanted to give her time to get to know him, to trust him, and to allow him into her life. He wanted the best for her always—including the best of himself—and he worked hard to ensure she knew that. I’m so happy to say that she does know it, and I believe she counts on it. That level of trust and faith that you always want your child to have in you—I believe that Tori has that with Terry. As her mom and his wife, I can’t tell you how good that feels.
He has influenced her taste in music and movies and TV shows in ways I never could have done. He brought her the Beatles. He shares her affection for Queen and Green Day. They trade Breaking Bad and Pulp Fiction quotes faster than I can keep up sometimes. When I hear them laughing together—especially if I’m not even in the room—my heart bursts with love for them both. We’ve been blessed by Terry’s presence in our lives. I’m grateful for the dad he is to Tori, as well as what he brings to me as my husband.
Father’s Day felt like a good day to honor my dad, my brother, and my husband. I love them all and am so grateful to have them—because Dad and Mike are still with me—in my life.