I grew up without a “father.” But I have many fathers.
I had a father in my grandpa, who showed me full, unconditional, no strings attached love.
I had a father in Mr. Gerry, who was always available when me or my mom needed a helping hand.
I had a father in Mr. Isaac, who helped me learn to ride a bike when I was 16.
I even had a father in Pastor Langstaff, who, though we grew apart for important reasons, taught me to trust my own intellect and stand up for the power of my mind.
I also have fathers in men I don’t know.
Men like Marvin Gaye, whose music, like What’s Going On, taught me that yes, it’s possible to put art to complicated, personal, socio-political emotions.
Eckhart Tolle taught me to know, heal, and be gentle with, but aware of, my ego.
Black Elk made vivid for me the darkest sides of “Manifest Destiny,” and revealed to me fundamental truths about the country I call home.
People whose ancestors were systematically forced apart by the United States cannot afford to prioritize the cultural constraints and obvious limitations of the nuclear family. It is not the only model for family. Cultures across the world, past and present, have shared the responsibility of parenthood — and that structure is making a modern comeback for good reason.
If we shatter the lie that fathers exist only within the structure of nuclear family — if we decolonize family, we open possibilities for responsibility, care, resources, and love. We all benefit when community encourages men to father as a verb, rather than restricting it to a noun. There, fathers abound.
I used to think growing up without a father was a detriment to my life. But really, it’s given me a valuable, realist’s perspective, and the authority to call a spade a spade. The nuclear family is an unsustainable, unrealistic, and purposefully exclusionary construct — engineered to maintain hierarchy and a specific, patriarchal order.
We don’t have to live that way to be well, and we don’t have to be in nuclear family to be fathered. I know because on the other side of 30 years without my biological father, I am okay because I was and continue to be loved by many fathers.
So happy belated Father’s Day to men who set the example for how to live. I thank you, I look up to you, and I value your contributions.
Happy Father’s Day to you who choose to father.