Seeing Father’s Day Through A Different Lens

With Father’s Day a week out, many are beginning to feel the reverberant waves of emotion, the highs and perhaps the lows, that accompany this uniquely American ritual of remembrance and reverence, reserved for that person(s) in their lives called Dad. For many, the designation of “Dad” is pretty straight forward, at least in the traditional sense…it’s your Father, the human male half of the equation that brought you here. 

But the traditional definition of “Dad” doesn’t quite work for everyone. For instance, some grew up without their paternal father in the picture, or, in an estranged relationship with the “father” in their lives. For some, it was Mom who pulled dual-duty and became the source of strength, courage and guidance during the formative years.That pretty much sums up my story.

My Dad left us when I was 5 and by the age of 8.

As a freshly minted Cuban refugee coming to America with my Mom and my Sister, I was on a fulltime hunt for a father…anyone that could provide that sense of completing our family. And for me personally, someone I could call Dad, just like all the other kids on my block. With the naiveté of a young child desperate to have a Dad, I went as far as introducing one of my schoolteachers to my Mom in hopes of creating a match! None of that panned out…Mom had her hands full, working two jobs and little time or interest in bringing a man into our tight little family unit. As the years passed, and I was able to fill in the father gap with a couple of kind and charitable men, both outdoorsmen, and each married without children of their own. They took me hunting, trapping, fishing and taught me a lot about wilderness and wildlife. Looking back, it was a perfect match of convenience that served all of us well.  

By the time I turned 14, I was living summers on my own, working on sportfishing boats in Beach Haven, NJ…

a two-hour drive from our house in Doylestown, PA, and a universe away from my pigeonholed life as a slightly overweight kid, with curly hair and a funny sounding name. Until the time I got my first truck at age 17, Mom and Sis would drive me to The Beach the day school let out and picked me up three months later, the night before school started up again. A collect call to check in with Mom each Saturday, 5pm was all that was required.

And there, on the docks at Morrison’s Marina, is where I met “Uncle Jack” (Scheimreif) and “Capt. Bob” (Gaskill) who became the most influential men in my life.

I somehow got hired on as the mate on Capt. Bob’s boat, the Bee-Dee, a brand new 48’ Pacemaker. She was the queen of the fleet at the time in Beach Haven. Uncle Jack was the mate on the Dottie G, which was a sport fisher docked right next to the Bee-Dee. I pretty much adopted both men. Some say I was “stuck to ‘em like a blue crab on clamdigger’s toe”…they couldn’t shake me lose! They both had well established families and kids of their own, but somehow they made time for me and over the years, ours became a special bond.

The adventures they took me on and what they taught me about life, work and the outdoors are at the core of who I am today. As a grown man, with three kids of my own, I would call Uncle Jack and Capt. Bob every Sunday morning without fail. I remember my calls with Uncle Jack always ended with him telling me he loved me and that I had “made his week.” While both have passed on, they remain enduring examples of what it means to live life right – with purpose, gratitude and authenticity. And perhaps that is why I remember Uncle Jack and Capt. Bob most vividly each year around Father’s Day.

As for my paternal father, he reached out several times during my teenage years, and regrettably, I shunned his overtures. Maybe it was the pain and disappointment that I just didn’t want to revisit…a foolish arrogance with which I have come to terms. In the end, many years after he passed, I realized that he was a good man who refused to let his shortcomings stand in the way of trying to show how much he loved me. A hard lesson learned late.

So, with humility and gratitude, to all I suggest:

Look broadly and dedicate some time to remember and revere those men who have made a positive difference in your life and know that you too have likely had an equally powerful impact on theirs.

June 16, 2020 — engle saez

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.