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The Father Factor


Lessons From My Grandfather

I joined the National Fatherhood Initiative in early December as a recently married man of five months. Coming to work for NFI as a newlywed has given me a pretty unique experience. Before getting married, my wife and I had talked about our hopes for a family and being parents. Working in an environment that affirms and builds up the role of the father, I’ve had time to “think ahead” and prepare for my hopefully growing family.

Hearing and sharing stories in the NFI office of our experiences at home, and also of our fathers, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on my youth and childhood. I had a very happy childhood and am blessed with the parents I have. But there is one thing that I keep to myself mostly—how much I wish I could have known my grandfather better.

I only had the privilege of seeing my grandfather a couple times before he passed away. He was, as I remember, a quiet man. Not serious, but quiet. He had experienced a lot in his life. In hindsight, what I thought was a serious grandfather was more a man, who in seeing his son happy with his children, found peace in reflecting on his own life.

Perhaps he found consolation or healing in seeing his son carry on a tradition. I think he found joy and was proud of my dad for all that he had accomplished. He was a man who knew that it was not the material things that make a man wealthy, but the richness in his love for and from his family. I’m sure my grandpa was proud of my dad.

I owe a lot to my grandfather. Listening to my dad talk about him, I can see that he showed my father how to be a man, how to be a father, and how to love. My grandfather taught my dad everything that my father has passed on to me. Because of my father's example and his daily service to his children, I learned what fatherhood is. My father laid down his wants, desires, needs, and sacrificed his own life for us. I hope I can be the same kind of father to my children as my dad was to my brothers and I.

The most important thing my father taught me was how to love my wife. Yes, like all families, my parents disagree from time to time. But there has never been a doubt about just how much my father loves my mother. I’ve heard it said, "The greatest thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother." I believe that to be true. My dad showed me how to love my wife by his loving and steady example. And again, I hope I can love my wife, Lacy, as well as my dad has loved my mom.

While I give great thanks to my dad and grandpa, I also am deeply grateful to my mother. Witnessing her gentleness, mercy, and care for my father, I have learned how to be loved. My mother "completed the picture" and witnessed to me how I should accept love from my wife. I saw how happy she made my dad, and she showed me that as a husband, I too one day deserved to be loved in the same fashion.

I am excited for what lies ahead. With the great examples my parents have given me and by God’s will, I feel that I will be ready and prepared to be a father for a growing and loving family.

Losing Grandpa

Two weeks ago, my father-in-law passed away unexpectedly from heart failure. My wife is terribly saddened by the loss of her dad, who was only 52 years old. I am certainly sad in my own right, as I will miss my father-in-law. But much of my sadness stems from how his passing will affect other people, especially my wife and our son.

My father-in-law, who went by Meco (his real name was Arquímedes), was a very loving and fun-loving man. My wife, Claudia, has been telling me how his childhood was not all that great because his parents were not very affectionate people – they did not show their children much love. So, my father-in-law decided that when he had children, he was going to be different than his own parents. He was going to make sure his kids knew every day how much he loved them.

He made good on that promise - he used to call my wife nearly every day just to see how she was doing, and he would always ask about everyone else – me, our son, my parents, even my dog. My wife has told me several times since his passing how much she misses his hugs and kisses and him simply saying, “I love you” to her.

Meco was also the kind of guy who never said “no” to anyone who needed help. In fact, his immediate family would often get frustrated that he spent so much of his time, energy, and even money lending a helping hand (or two, or three!) to friends and extended family in need.

It was easy to predict that a man with so much zest for life and love of family would also be a very proud grandfather. He would often joke with my wife when she was only in her early 20’s that she was “getting old” and needed to give him grandkids soon. To say the least, he was elated when our son, Vinny, was born last January. Other than my wife and me, he was the first family member to hold our son. The pictures we have of him on that day are priceless; he was on cloud 9.

In fact, only 4 days before he went into the hospital (6 days before he died), Meco took Vinny on a long walk – just him and his grandson. One of my wife’s cousins saw him across the street from his house, walking Vinny in his stroller. He asked him, “What are you doing by yourself out here with Vinny?” Meco replied, “I just wanted to spend some time with him.”

This is what causes me the most sadness when I think about Meco’s passing – that my son will not get to know his mommy’s daddy. It breaks my heart to think of all of the wonderful times that they won’t get to spend together. I know they would have had so much fun (and made a lot of trouble!).

But my wife and I will do everything we can to make sure Vinny knows what kind of guy his abuelo (Spanish for grandfather) was. That he was a man who truly loved his family and lived his life for them.

And I will be proud to tell my son one day that one of the last things your abuelo did while he was still with us was to take you for a nice, long walk because... well, he just wanted to spend some time with you.

Vinny with his grandpa, Meco

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