My daddy died when I was 26. 

At the time, I thought I was so grown up, but now that I am in my mid-60s (how the hell did that happen) I realize how very young I was when he passed. Not like some of my friends who lost parents in their teens, not like the kids I babysat for whose dad died of cancer when they were barely out of nappies, but I was still young. My daddy never knew me as an adult.

I have older siblings... like, much older than I. My brother's kids are the same age as me. My late sister is six weeks older than my mother-in-law. I was my daddy's baby and my mum's only. 

And he was my daddy. He was my brother's father, he was my sister's father, but he was my daddy. And I realize now how lucky I was to have had him in the younger years of my life. 

We weren't close, and I regret that. He was 50 when I was born, and he was never healthy. For most of my life he was just a ridiculous old man who got in the way of my fun with his silly jokes and his stories of growing up during the depression, one of the youngest children in a family of a dozen or more. My Uncle Eddie was born in the 1880s. My grandparents were alive when Custer fell. It doesn't sound real, does it?

The year before my daddy died, I came back from England on a visit. We went to Dogtown, where he grew up, gazed upon the field that was where his family home had stood, and paid a call on a few elderly family members. We spent the weekend with my brother and his girls and their families, and on the way home we stopped at an old 76 truck stop. We were sitting at the bar, me with my tea and my daddy with his coffee, and he made some stupid wise-crack. My kneejerk reaction was to roll my eyes and ignore it—the habit of a lifetime—but all of a sudden I saw this man not as my daddy, but as a person. I mouthed back some equally smart-arsed retort, and he nearly spit is coffee across the counter with laughter. 

That moment opened up a channel between us. It bridged the age gap. It started real communication. All of a sudden I realized that I'd been writing to my college friend's grandmother regularly to pick her brains about 'the old ways,' but I never knew what my own grandma's name was or what my granddaddy did for a living. 

Dad and I spoke a lot the next ten months. I was back in England but I would talk to him on my weekly chats with my mum, rather than just asking him to pass the phone. I learned so much; and I realized that all the times he'd come to stay with us and been showing me how to make jam or pickles or wine, he was sharing such wonderful pearls of wisdom with me—not with recipes (that was my mum-in-law) but rather, about living with the Moon, planting by the signs, and other old-timey lore that he didn't just know, he'd lived. 

I lost my father to a heart attack less than a year after our truck stop bonding. I could beat myself up for not having him longer, for all the years I'd wasted, but I don't. I rejoice that he died knowing how much I loved and treasured him, and having gleaned information from him like a thirsty sponge to pass onto others. I had no children when he was alive, but my only child—a daughter—is named after him. 

I remember him on Father's Day by saying his name, by singings the songs he used to whistle, and by busying myself in the kitchen; his favorite place to be. I realize that not everyone is fortunate enough to have had a loving father. Some relationships are downright toxic! However, the fact that we are here bears witness to the undisputable fact that we were fathered. 

And then there are those like my wonderful husband, who—because of personal circumstances—was unwilling to have children of his own, but who stepped in to father my three-year-old as if she were his own. In fact, when we asked her what she wanted for her fourth birthday, she asked if he would be her daddy. Can't get a better recommendation than that! And I'm happy to say that, despite some lumps and bumps, we're still tight. I think the lumps and bumps just made us stronger, eventually, though they were unpleasant at the time. We're so very fortunate.

It's easy to connect with good and kind fathers and delightful memories. It's easy to honor the loving ancestors; but what about those who were absent, or who left a wake of terror and sadness behind them? There's nothing wrong with acknowledging that legacy, and then doing some kind of a ritual or ceremony to keep them the hell away from you. Just as you might appeal to the gods to leave you alone, to let you live in peace and not to create havoc in your life, you can appeal to your not-so-pleasant ancestors in the same way. 

Shakespeare said, “The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children.” I'm here to tell you that's bullshit. You are not responsible for the sins of your father. I'll say that louder for those in the back. You are not responsible for the sins of your father, or any other of your ancestors or anybody else, come to that. You do not have to make peace with them. You are here because of them, perhaps in spite of them, but you are not responsible for their actions. Yes, they may have paved a hard road to walk, but that does not mean that you have to carry their karma. Do whatever you need to do to break the cycle. Create your own destiny. 

I don't know who needed to hear that, but there it is. Whether you're embracing Father's Day, or dreading it, or just trying to forget it, I hope you find a path of peace, and a way to celebrate your own authenticity, regardless of the relationship that you have with the one who fathered you. Thank you for letting me share my daddy with you.