I spent all of my childhood and part of my adult life not knowing who my father was, but I never went a day without one.
When I was at an age too young to remember, my grandparents took us from the care of my mother who, coupled with addiction, unfortunately did not have the tools to care for us. So as long as I could remember, I always had a father, my grandfather.
Every day I had an example of consistency and hard work. His car would be gone before we woke six days a week, and every evening he came home from his job at the United Postal Service at the same time. As kids, my sister and I would joke about the crackle and pop sound his knees would make when he stood up from his recliner chair. We were too naive to appreciate that those aches and pains provided us the means to grow up in a safe, New England suburb.
I would be hard-pressed to remember a single day that my grandfather stayed home from work sick. As far as I was concerned, if I looked in the dictionary for the word dependable, I would find his smiling face and gray afro.
I cant say there was a specific day that I learned that my grandfather held such title by marriage to my grandmother and not by blood. I dont think it ever mattered because every single day he was my father. As I became a young man, that fact spoke even more to me about what kind of man he was. It takes a special and loving man to raise another mans children.
My grandfather whom my sister and I called Daddy passed away the summer I was going into my senior year of high school. At the time, he was one year into retirement back in his birth state of North Carolina. In my time with my grandfather, he left a lasting impression of what kind of father and provider I could hope to be for my budding family. He did not do it with words because he was a man of few words. He showed by simply being himself and being a dependable rock.
When I think back, I see that I was blessed with a lifetime of reliable, positive male figures to look up to even though none of them was my father. I played sports from the time I could run. Every year and every season from when I was a little kid through college, there was a man who showed up every day to help show kids how to learn and win.
During my pre-high school years, they were all volunteers. Sometimes they didnt even have kids on the team, but they were there consistently. These men didnt just show up; they cared, listened and spent the worlds most valuable commodity of time on us. That dedication says something, and even if I didnt see it or appreciate it then, it set a constant example to be someone whom can be trusted and counted on.
So this Fathers Day, I want to thank all the men, my grandfather, coaches, teachers, uncles and others who were not my father but made it possible for me to know what its like to depend on someone and have him deliver every time.
That example has made it possible for me to set the same example for my own son.
Toriano Fredericks lives in Durham with his wife and 10-month-old son. A graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, he currently works on a drillship in Brazil.