Today my Dad turns 62. Wow.
We used to call him "the boy" because when my Mom married him, he was 14 years younger than she was. Yes, my Mom robbed the cradle as they say.
I will always be thankful for the time that "Joe" came into my life. My "real" Dad died when I was just 10 years old. My little world was shaken and I could not grasp the reality that I would grow up without him. I missed
having a Dad.
Joe was a friend of my parents for years prior to my Dad's death. He was no stranger to my Mom and he was among one of the single men that sought to take her out to dinner in an attempt to get her living life again. Although Joe was a part of a big family - one of seven children - he did not have his own family and had little experience with children in general.
When he and my Mom started officially dating, she came with a package! My sister Jennifer and I were just kids - ages 10 and 12 at the time. Our oldest two sisters were married but certainly still very much a part of our close knit family. If Joe married my Mom, he would have a ready made family and would also be giving up starting a family of his very own.
The two main words that I believe define Joe's character are: sacrificial and loyal
I remember one winter when we were experiencing a snow storm and driving was near impossible. My Mom really wanted to see Joe (they were still just dating at the time) but the several feet of snow was keeping them apart. In a gallant effort to be with her, he put on his skis and actually skied to our home! As a young girl at the time, I thought this was the coolest most romantic thing ever.
For not having any experience with children, after marrying my Mom, Joe jumped right into his role as Dad. He never tried to replace my "real" Dad; he was himself. He was learning as he went along. I'm sure my sister and I presented many challenges to him, but his love and care for us was always marked by sacrificial love and loyalty.
I can see Joe's face among the crowd at my many, many softball games. Sometimes I would have 3-4 games a week and he was always there. Always.
I can see Joe sitting beside me in a car in a parking lot at Villa Cresta Elementary school, patiently teaching me how to parallel park.
I can see Joe waiting up for me when I came home from dates with boys.
I can see Joe's smiling face when he became a grandfather for the first time.
I can see Joe's face and imagine his arm supporting mine as he walked me down the aisle on my wedding day.
I can see Joe's scared face beside my children's scared faces as we rode the Tower of Terror together at Disney.
I can see Joe's face in airports as he waited among the crowds to meet his grandchildren that were adopted from Russia. I can see both Stephen and Abbie in his arms.
I can see Joe' face in a courtroom in Bel Air, celebrating our adoption of David and Jayda. Long before we even knew we were adopting these precious children, Joe embraced them as if they were already his grandchildren.
I can see Joe's eyes tear up just about whenever he reads a Father's Day card from one of his daughters or grandchildren. His sensitivity is a refection of his love for each of us.
I can see Joe's face and hear his laughter as he spends time with our big loud family. He is quick to laugh at himself and even quicker to help any of us when we need it.
I don't know why my "real" Dad died when I was just 10 years old. There is never an easy explanation for things like this, but if ever something amazing could come out of something terrible, Joe is that for me. He has truly been the very best father a little girl could ask for!
Happy Birthday Joe, Dad, Pop-Pop.....You wear many hats and have many names!
I love you for each and every one!
*Note to readers: the various pictures show what a good sport my Dad is! In my family, dressing up in various costumes is part of the fun!