My earliest memory of my father was of him putting his foot up my ass.
In fact, a large majority of all the memories that I have of my dad are just that: his foot going up my ass in a forceful, horizontal-to-vertical motion, over something I did or did not do. He was just a mean-ass bastard that wasn't particularly affectionate and carried some sort of big fucking chip on his shoulder and took it out on everyone at random as if he was playing emotional darts with his personality.
I used to wonder why he didn't love me.
I feared him. Then I hated him.
The relationship we had as father and son felt so unnatural. We literally shared nothing in common. I didn't look like him. I didn't act like him. And then I discovered that his blood wasn't even in my fucking veins. The motherfucker that had been putting his foot up my ass and treating me like a stepchild wasn't even my biological dad to begin with.
I did eventually meet the superhero I know as Biodad with his power of potent sperm and superhuman ability to disa-fucking-ppear. When we met, I was well into adulthood. I was 30 years old. In fact, I was already a father myself—three times over. And soon I realized that despite our attempt at recapturing lost time, our relationship, just like the relationship with my other ass-kicking father, was unnatural, too.
Didn’t stop me from trying, though. God knows I gave it a shot. But something about two grown-ass men playing catch in the backyard wasn't exactly what I envisioned for the rest of my life. So, even though I have no ill will toward Biodad at all, I just kind of let our relationship drift apart like two boats on the current of life. I accepted a truth in that a father/son relationship can't be manufactured.
In 2013, my adoptive dad, the one that kept his foot up my ass, passed away. Even as his body was being gutted by a type of cancer called Multiple Myeloma, he continued to do what I've always seen him do: work.
That's probably one of the biggest lessons that I learned from Jerry Henry Boyed Sr. I learned to work. To provide. To strive and grind. I got through some of the most gut-checking parts of my life by simply pushing forward because that's what I thought I was supposed to do. That's what I've always seen.
That’s when I realized that the lessons from my father have never been taught to me. Instead, they’ve been learned.
I learned that I don't always have to flip out and kick ass over every little mistake. I learned to let my kids be kids and that silence from little ones is not to be expected. I learned that being endearing and showing love isn't weakness nor does it diminish respect. I learned that endearment is actually what strengthens relationships. I learned to be a father from what neither of my fathers was to me.
Fatherhood is one of those things that is underrated and overlooked. Fathers—great fathers—have always kind of been of an after-thought when it comes to the institutions of life. Fathers have always seemed to play 2nd noodle to mothers. Hell, good fathers even play 2nd noodle to bad fathers on Father's Day the way some people rant about deadbeats. More is said about what mothers do and what bad dads don't do than the contributions great dads have given to many of our lives. Oh, the irony.
So many men who are dads have influenced me as a father. The little things have rubbed off on me and helped me hone my craft as my quiet version of a superhero known as UltraDad. And hopefully, I have had the same effect on other men, because the truth is fatherhood is a community-based institution in which we raise our boys to men. Together. Directly or indirectly. Because the greatest lessons we learn from our fathers are not from the things they say, but from the things they do—for us, with us, around us.