I was lucky; I had someone to teach me about the pitfalls of life, love and the pursuit of happiness. I had several people actually. It takes a village to raise a child, right? Although my father was absent, I still had some male presence in my life. Doing laundry, mopping floors, cooking, washing dishes; and I ain’t talking about loading a machine either.  Not to mention gardening; planting fruits and vegetables.  These are chores traditionally associated with women, but my grandfather taught me those things.  He would pick me up on the weekend and during school breaks. He’d tell me that a man needs to know how to take care of himself. He’d say “Son, you never know where life is going to take you; you may be single, like me and need to do these things for yourself.” He also taught me how to cut grass, clip hedges, hang out at the barbershop or neighborhood mechanic’s garage and talk with the boys. As I got older he would tell me the stories about what happened with him and my grandmother; why they divorced. My grandfather had 5 children and he was not always the best husband but he did work, and he did sacrifice his dreams to provide for his family. I get my work ethic from him and I miss him.

I also had my uncle. He’s only 6 years older than me, and at first we were more like brothers. But there is a lot of learning that goes on in 6 years, my uncle began to experience things that I had to wait for. He began to take on more of a mentor and fatherly role in my life. He is my role model. He laid down a blue print for me. He also made some hard choices and never asked for a hand out. When money for college ran out, he went to the military. When he needed something, he didn’t ask for any gifts, he went out and got it. When we found out he was going to be a dad, he went back to school to make a better life for family. He always encourages me to be my best. I can call on him any time and he is there when I need him.

On this Father’s Day, I want to give a big shout out to the two men that taught me the most about life, work, love, survival, discipline and sacrifices. If that isn’t fatherhood, I don’t know what is.