I have never met my own father. Father’s Day as celebrated in the US has always been about the father figures in my life, largely my grandfather and my uncle. Neither one my father, but both served as the best substitutes a girl growing up could ever need.
I spent a lot of time with my grandparents when I was growing up. Each summer until I was 14 or 15, I would spend with them. From the time I was 7, this would often involve trips to various destinations across North America in a fantastic motor home they bought for their retirement. My grandfather would mostly drive, although occasionally my tiny little grandmother could be seen behind the wheel of that great big huge thing. It was grand. We’d drive from historical site to national park, all the while my grandfather quizzing me on state capitals and past presidents and other factoids which I still remember without blinking.
I also remember his lovely imitations of Santa Claus with a deep East Texas twang on the cassette tapes he’d send to me before Christmas, advocating on my behalf that I had indeed been a good girl and deserved more than a lump of coal in my stocking. He was the perfect grandfather and I can’t help but smile when I think of him. He spoiled me rotten, and I worshiped him.
My uncle lies somewhere between a brother and an uncle. We are very nearly polar opposites on just about everything in life. From our beliefs to our politics to our interests to what we do for a living. I love him dearly because of and in spite of these differences.
Because he and my grandfather shared a dental practice, I would hang out there when I was very young. Just out of dental school, my uncle was working on my mother and a rather common occurrence rendered half of my mom’s face black and blue. It was harmless, but has provided our family with much laughter and chiding in the years since. However, as a four-year-old precocious sh*t watching my uncle at work a few days later, I said something like, ‘are you going to make that nice lady all black and blue like you did my mommy, Uncle Ralph?’ He simply said, ‘Out,’ at which point I left the room. His hygienist at the time stifled laughter I’m sure. But, he did not. And, the patient certainly didn’t.
One of my fondest memories of time spent with my uncle was during a visit home several years ago. He plays golf regularly with a group of very close friends. They’re all a hoot and I certainly cramped their style as the only woman in the bunch. I tagged along with him as his ‘caddy’ (even though they take advantage of the golf carts), and they all behaved as fine Texas gentleman do. It was a bit chilly on the back nine, but lovely and quiet and still in the spring morning. Deer roamed freely through the course (this is Texas, after all), and one of his oldest friends played through 18 holes with him that morning. It was lovely.
He was so happy on the golf course and it was a joy to see him so relaxed and in his element. We went home after a few cocktails in the clubhouse and made ribs (his finest meal by far and a real accomplishment on the BBQ). I helped by making the trimmings. It was one of my favourite days spent with just my uncle. And, I cherish it.
The memories I have of these two men are countless. I love them both dearly and think of them often. The two men are more alike than either’d care to admit, most likely. Proud, strong, stubborn, intelligent men surrounded by equally strong, proud, stubborn and intelligent Southern women. Poor fellas, as we say in Texas.
Happy Father’s Day to my Papa (Ralph Shaw Fuller, Sr) and my Uncle Ralph (Ralph Shaw Fuller, Jr). Thank you both for always being there for me. I love you both dearly and miss you terribly.