My father's mother died when he was four years old. He was left with an abusive father and raised by his older sister. He never fully experienced love from the woman who gave him life and never received support from a father who was supposed to love and protect him - he vowed to not repeat his past and to be the best father he could be.
He married at the age of 22 and lived off a small military salary raising four kids. Because he was such a great money manager, my mother was able to stay home until all of the kids finished high school - she always said he could turn a nickel into a dime.
With no foundation of what a family should be, he loved his children and never raised a hand to us - he only used a firm voice. As a young woman growing up I cannot remember a time he wasn't there. Every time I hit a home-run while playing softball or made a great play during a basketball game, I would look in the stands and there he was proud as ever. Every social event, play, teacher conference, broken arm, broken heart, broken dreams etc he was there!
Because my father was there, I survived the death of a sibling at the age of 14, being raped at the age of 18 and losing my virginity. The last straw was when my ex ended my 18 year career because I finally found the guts to leave an abusive relationship. Recognizing that I may be giving up, my father allowed me the appropriate time to grieve, held me in his arms and firmly told me, "No kid of mine is going to give up - it is time for you to stand up and take your life back!" Because he was a strong father figure I was able live through my life circumstances without turning to drugs or finding ways to ease my pain. I often wonder how I can repay this man for all he has done and for making me the woman I am today. There are moments in my life that take my breath away when I think about how much my father loves me, I am so grateful and appreciative.
My parents are still together after 53 years because my father said, "no matter how hard it gets I will never leave my children". He never let his past become his present. What a great man he is, he loved us enough to stick it out.