For the majority of my life I’ve hated Father’s Day. A day meant to honor that man in my life that was a solid foundation. A steady presence. A protector. A day set aside for a man I’ve never known.

That not knowing is tough. Harder some days than others, harder than I’d like to admit. Of all the genetics I don’t know of one thing I’m certain, I have a bit of my mother’s independence. I hate the idea that I could need someone else to fill in the missing bits of myself. I’ve tried to ignore the longing to know but at times I’m helpless to the curiosity. While I know it is completely reasonable to want to know what is intrinsic for most it still frustrates me.

I was well into adulthood before ever meeting another fatherless person. There is a kinship in that unspoken pain. Our stories so different but the same pages are blank.

I don’t share this pain much, partially because I fear my mother might be hurt in the process and partially because I feel I’ve fought to not let that void define me. I’m grateful to not have slipped into stereotypes of looking for love in the wrong places. I found myself a guy who is everything that Father’s Day commemorates. I thank God for that.

A few years ago during a church service I realized that I’m the beloved daughter of the very best Father there is and I let that fill in some empty space in me. Space that I could never have filled on my own.

Wholeness has still remained elusive. I was so fortunate to have a loving mother and grandparents. I lived in a decent neighborhood, I went to college, I had friends, I stayed out of trouble so I feel almost guilty for feeling what I feel. Like I’m not entitled to the hurt I sometimes feel. I feel cheated of one of life’s basic goodnesses. And that’s okay, it is my story.

Because it is my story I get to write the ending. When I watch my husband in his best fathering moments my heart nearly bursts. I am so aware of the gift that our son is receiving. We are not perfect parents but he knows we love him. He knows he gets his eyes from me and his mechanical abilities from his dad. He tans like his dad and has a soft heart like his mom. He is painfully shy like both his parents. He knows where he came from.

Where he goes from there is up to him because it is his story and he gets to write it, we’ve given him a solid prelude.

My husband tells our son he is loved each and every day. Those words ring sweetly in my heart and deep into my soul. Those words, despite how fundamental and ordinary they may seem to others, hold such magic for me.

You see neither myself or my husband grew up hearing words of love from our fathers. My husband grew up with a father who loves him but doesn’t speak it.

My father-in-law is undoubtedly a good man. A steady source of support. A constant. He showed up, he led, he provided, he loved but he didn’t talk about it.

Even now his response to our son’s proclamation of love is a hearty hug, no words. The silence always disappoints me.

We know he loves us of course but I’m convinced there is power in speaking those words. Speaking love gives those powerful words a chance to echo in the heart of those on the receiving end long after the speaker is silenced. Like your favorite song, you play them on repeat during hard times.

The showing up day after day is the important part. It is more valuable of course than someone who would speak love and not act lovingly. I’m grateful he taught his son by example how to show up and how to stay.

I grew up wanting to feel whole. My little family fills a lot of gaps, faith fills the rest, most days that’s enough. I needed a guy who wasn’t going anywhere. My deep seeded abandonment fears bubble up from time to time. Those fears and the anxieties that come with them are not my husband’s fault and I’m careful not to make him pay a price for a debt that’s not his.

All of this to say that Father’s are important. They play in role even in their absence. To my husband, thank you for being the kind of father that is worthy of a special day. I’m beyond grateful that you followed the best parts of your dad’s example and added the words “I love you” to your vocabulary.