My daughter is named for two of her great grandfathers, Perry Maraglio and Denzil Ray Daniel. Two of my nephews share their great grandfathers’ names as well. So it shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone that Father’s Day is a pretty big deal in my family.
I often find myself acting like my dad, Ron. Like when I make a particularly lame pun or when I realize I’m still hanging on to the cell phone I got ten years ago, even though it hasn’t worked in eight years, “just in case.” I also have his strong profile, olive skin tone and appreciation for art and beauty.
My step-dad, whom we dubbed “The Phil” when we were teenagers, took on a daunting task. He married my mother, who brought with her two teenage girls. Never having had any children of his own, it’s shocking that he stayed as sane as he did. He jokes that his training as an FBI special agent didn’t prepare him for the onslaught of cheerleading practice and ballet recitals, not to mention the monumental task of ever being able to use the house phone. Then there were the times I’d ask him to repeat words just to giggle at his Long Island, NY accent.
Me: “Say ‘water’ again.”
The Phil: “Water.”
Me: “OK, now say ‘drawer.’”
The Phil: “Drawer.”
Me: “OK, now say -“
Mom: “Rebecca! Let him finish dinner!”
Anyone who knows Phil, will confirm that he is the strong silent type. He lets my southern, silver-haired, brilliant mother shine.
When my daughter was born, my dad came up often to help me. Because of him, we have a CD full of beautiful newborn photos. A musician, Dad’s music collection is a sight to behold, and when Perry was a newborn, he made playlist after playlist for her to listen to. Old favorites like “Thank heaven for little girls,” and new haunting melodies by Adele streamed from my iPhone at all times of the day and night. There were moments, after Jon returned to work, when I just wanted to shower or drink a cup of coffee, so my dad would rock her and sing to her and let her sleep on his shoulder until she woke up.
My mom, bless her, married both of these men at different times in her life, giving me and my sister the amazing benefit of having our lives shaped by two wonderfully different people.
I’ve learned much from these two men. The Phil once told me, “You can’t control how people act, but you can always control how you react to it.” I have that jotted down on a sticky note at my desk.
Seeing these men become “Zayde” and “Poppaw” to my little girl is one of the best things a daughter can witness. I hope The Phil will be able to intimidate at least a few of Perry’s future boyfriends and I hope my dad will let her stand on his giant feet while he dances around the living room to songs from “A Chorus Line.”
“Raise your arms and someone’s always there…”
It’s because of both of these men that I chose Jon as my husband (or rather, we chose each other). Like Phil, Jon is what my Poppaw would affectionately call, “another Yankee.” And though Phil roots for the Giants and Jon is still hoping the Jets will make a comeback, they’re both from the great state of New York. Like my dad, Jon is musical and goofy. And all men who marry women in my family have a high threshold for humiliation. That just comes with the territory.
As a father, Jon is present. He is silly and sentimental. Most importantly, he never doubts me and my ability as a mother, especially when I doubt it myself. He wants her to be strong and independent, so Perry will grow up watching women’s soccer and the Stanley Cup playoffs. She’ll never hear her dad tell her she can’t do something because she’s a girl and I know he will do his best to make sure she never feels like she needs lip gloss to leave the house (but it’s OK if she likes it).
When Perry is asleep I sometimes catch Jon watching videos of her on his phone, like he just can’t get enough of our little girl. I think he’s crazy, but if he gets home too late and misses bedtime, he’ll scoop Perry up from her crib and carry her into our bedroom. She snuggles into his chest and I melt.
Jon and I knew we wanted children early on in our relationship. We just always saw ourselves as parents. But, like most people, our lives were not without loss and grief. Jon is the most hopeful person I know and for that, I am forever grateful. We prayed hard for our miracle baby and are so thankful and aware of the gift we have been given.
Sometimes, we still creep into her room at night to stare at her. Until she rolls over and opens her eyes. Then we freeze, avoid eye contact and slowly back away.
So all you late-night rockers, skinned knee kissers, college dorm movers and tennis shoe finders, soccer field yellers, driving school teachers, runny nose wipers, hot dog grillers, swimming pool skimmers and potty training wizards, this Father’s Day is for you. Enjoy!