This Father’s Day, I’m taking the time to appreciate all the surrogate dads in my life

My dad is an amazing guy. I’ll definitely send him the traditional Father’s Day picture of my dog and celebrate everything he’s done for me. But I want to take the time this year to remember all the surrogate dads in my life.

I’ve been lucky enough to have some men other than my father who changed my life in dad-like capacities. Some of them I loved, some I loathed, most I admired, and a few kept me from dramatic fates. All of them helped to shape me into the sarcastic, anxiety-prone, passionate, driven, blossoming flower I am today. Which is essentially what dads are supposed to do, right?

To My Godfather 

I love that you and your wife (surrogate mama) kept their cool when that tornado hit Smithsburg. I love that my only memory of that dangerous event was you and your family talking cheerfully and then cracking up when we lost power and my five-year-old brain came up with, “My daddy and sister light candles on Hannukah!”

To Big Eric Who Saved My Life 

When I was three, I wanted nothing more than my actual dad’s attention. I remember mimicking his pacing up and down at the deep end of the YMCA lap pool, and I will always associate the smell of chlorine with him.

Do you recall, wherever you are, when I slipped in the pool? My hands were clasped behind my back in an attempt to mimic my father, and they lifted in terror as I plopped into your lane. During those seconds of being underwater I hoped my father would dive in and save me. I felt your broad arms around me when you brought me to the surface, and I gasped for air as we broke the crest of the blue water.

I was so excited to tell my mother when she came to pick me up after work, “Mommy! I drowned!” I can still see my dad’s un-laughing face, though I’m not sure if it’s a real memory or an expression I later created when thinking about that day.

To My Friend’s Parents 

Thanks for feeding me like I was one of your own, especially during those times when I needed a little extra nourishment. I didn’t mind the teasing or the nicknames. Sometimes I truly am a fat snake.

To The Boarding School Staff 

Boarding school is truly a unique experience. Far away from your parents, the staff of the establishment become parents from far away. Boarding School Dad makes sure you participate in meals, finish your homework, and go to bed at the right time.

Boarding School Dad encourages you to get involved in extracurricular activities because, “sitting around the dorm is boring anyway.” Boarding School Dad threatens you with a work detail for bad behavior. Boarding School Dad can be terrifying and will call you on your nonsense, but you would strive to reach the highest of heights to make him laugh.

Thank you guys for not understanding me, but still loving me as a parent loves their adopted daughter. A lot of the time I wish you hadn’t been so into sports, but I guess that’s just the way some dads are.

To The Bosses Who Terrified Me

It’s hard to come up with something nice about you or any sort of thank you.  You probably think it’s my dad’s fault that I became a liberal snowflake — too much acceptance of my tears, not enough tough love. But some dads scare their children, and that’s another part of growing up — learning your dad isn’t perfect, that he’s human.

I think the thanks I have for you is reminding me that people are flawed. You also taught me, most definitely not on purpose, that even though I am exceedingly flawed, I can and will improve. And I have to admit that sometimes I dream of rubbing my hopeful eventual success in your faces.

To That Guy Who Taught Me About Comedy 


Admittedly, it was pretty weird I called you “Daddy,” but it was just a bit.  It was weirdly funny and made our friends amusingly uncomfortable, and I stand by it. And you felt like a dad in a way, like the father of my comedy knowledge.

Your crappy apartment was a home. It was a mouse-infested place where a comic friend of yours from New York was always crashing on the couch underneath the deer head. Sometimes that someone was me and my dog.

My own father is a quiet man, but you are not that. Conversation with you was an influx of comedic information, but it was never overbearing. Eventually, after hours of insider baseball, I would fall asleep to the muffled sounds of the campfire shop talk. Thanks for the lullabies.

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