I just love that so many of my friends are posting photos of their fathers on Facebook! I've enjoyed seeing many pictures of men who were dear to me as beloved friends' dads! I wish I had a photo of my own dad, but he passed away almost 15 years ago. Dad and I had a weird relationship, not exactly what I wanted, but he most certainly loved me in the ways he thought were important. I've thankfully had several other father figures throughout the years and each of them gave me love in their own way.
Bobby Graves was my father. He was born in 1920, and was almost 50 when I came along. Now that I'm almost 50 with a preschooler I completely understand why he wasn't always warm and fuzzy with me! He was exhausted by then, having already raised two boys and daughter. My sister was his princess who came along 10 years after the boys, and when I came 10 years after that he must have been tired! Even though he wasn't exactly an overly involved dad, he did have extremely high expectations. I'm forever grateful that, even though he never graduated from high school, he INSISTED that I finish college. He bought this small town girl a blue Chevy truck when I was 16 and then made sure I could drive anywhere! He never missed a basketball game or a football game if I was cheering. He never made much money, in fact I remember that he made $13,000 the year he retired from the US Forrest Service when I was in high school, but somehow I had more than I needed and was allowed to travel more than most kids in my small town. Most importantly, he made sure I NEVER EVER missed church, and I used manners. The best memory with him was when he took Mom and me to Germany when I was in college to visit where he had walked and fought in WWII. I'll never forget watching that hard man sob at the site of the Remagen Bridge, where he fought bravely and lost so many friends. I was changed by that experience and learned so much about him during that visit. He died when Justin was only 6 months old, and I wish my children could have known him.
My brother Ronny Graves was the father figure for me for much of my teenage and early twenty years. He is 20 years older than me and has two daughters, Kristal and Karmen, who were so much more than nieces! His girls were like sisters to me so he treated my more like a daughter than a little sister! Though Ronny was always stationed far from home in the Army, we visited him and his family every summer. He and my sister in law, Nancy, always treated my like their very own! They took me to see my first movie. They were cool parents!! Going to the pool with them on base at Ft. Hood was like visiting the Hawaiian Islands to me! Ronny is a teacher, and I can't tell you how much I still learn from him! He's patiently taught me everything from German, cake decorating, horsemanship, and scripture. He's the father figure that hugged me and told me he was proud of me as a teenager. He even rented a sports car for us to drive one time in college, and I've never forgotten it! I always wanted to marry a smart man because Ronny was smart and could converse about any topic! It's been fun to watch Ronny and my husband, who is also smart, talk about everything from religion to politics to family. I love my brother Ronny so much!
Larry Graves is my OLDEST brother. I love to say that to him! He's actually the closest thing to a father I have today. Though Larry and I hardly spent time together as I was growing up, we're making up for lost time now. Larry and I talk almost every Sunday night. What means the most to me is that he really keeps up with what's going on with my children and my everyday life. Honestly, Larry is exactly what I need in a father figure these days: he knows what I'm involved in and he keeps up with what I'm accomplishing. He says words like, "I'm so proud of you" and "You're doing a great job." He and my sister in law, Milly, drove all the way from Houston to Kansas City to visit us, and that means the world to me! He gives me great advice when I need it, but he realizes I'm an adult! I honestly wish that we lived closer to each other because not only do I think he's the best, but my children really love him. He's the closest thing they will ever have to a grandfather on my side of the family, and I love it when my children get to spend time with him! I love my OLDEST brother Larry so much too!
JV McKinney is my father in law. I knew I was in for it when we first met because he interrogated me about all sorts of things. I assumed the interrogation came from his desire to not waste his son's time with a dingbat, but after 25 years I've decided that he just enjoys conversations about issues, And though we don't often agree on the big issues to him, I'd just bet that he at least appreciates that I have opinions. JV is the absolute best photographer I've ever known. Any great photo I have of my children was taken by him. He's also generous beyond imagination. He never charges anyone to take photos because it's just his passion. And speaking of passion, the man is 100% passionate about whatever he's doing. I like that...and I'd like to say that I've developed some of my passion about life watching JV. Since he and Blake are SO MUCH alike, I guess I'm most thankful to JV for creating the atmosphere in which my amazing husband matured. The single best thing about me is my husband, and JV did much of the work raising Blake! I love JV!
Of course my favorite dad in the world is my husband. Blake is the absolute dream of what I always thought a dad should be! He's patient, kind, affectionate, and gentle. He has extremely high expectations and is a wonderful motivator for the kids. He's warm and fuzzy, smart and passionate, full of wisdom, and more humble than anyone I've ever met! He accurately portrays our Heavenly Father to our children, to me, to our church, and to anyone he meets. Now that we have Sarah, I see so much of his relationship with her as exactly what I wanted and needed as a little girl! I realize that my own father lived in a different generation and he just didn't have anything else to give...but I'm so thankful that I get to relive that dream by watching Sarah and Blake!
Happy Father's Day to these dads in my life!