A cherished friend of mine has just died. I cried with my daughters, struggling to get the words out as I related how dear Joe has been. I love Joe for the soft kindness he delivered. He gave me a sense of being a full dad every time I saw him.

He told me, “You are such a good man,” and I cry again when I feel those words in the part of my heart that misses him the most. I hear his Czech heritage blend with the Australian tone of the land he chose and see his eyes that have the joyful sparkle of a Christmas tree decoration. My two daughters and I sat down to dinner as I simultaneously broke the news to them and my partner, who was a phonecall away.

When I said, “Joe died overnight,” and my tears choked whatever words came next, my precious youngest daughter put aside herself for a moment and pressed the biggest squeeze onto her old man. We all pressed tight for a few minutes and let ourselves go deeply into the sadness.

On the Shoulders of Giants

Today, I sat with another friend, Bill, who shared that he appreciated my writing and highlighted a few pieces. He spoke of me being a dad “on your own.” “But,” I countered, “I am never doing this parenting gig on my own.”

Of course, most often at dinnertime on a school night or snuggling my earthly angels into bed, it is just my girls and me; yet in all that we do, we carry the people who imprint our hearts. I do parenting from who I am and what feels right. However, I can’t claim who I am as something that is completely mine.

My own parents have a fair claim as to how I ended up. I now choose and invite people into my life who make gutsy efforts, striving for high ideals that they set for themselves. They all help me know what feels right. I breathe in inspiration from them and merge some of their skills and ideals into my parenting.

Encouragement

They can certainly know that they contribute to how I parent. Joe made a big contribution. He never told me what to do. He simply looked on, smiled and acknowledged: “You are such a good dad.” He helped me feel right about me. Most appreciated though, was that he shared his belief in how I went about being a dad.

Joe remote co-piloted my parenting in a way that was soft, sincere, generous and caring with great depth.

Being a single parent might feature being on my own; however, I am definitely not alone.

When I am ready to second-guess myself… when one of my girls is laying it on thick that I am a “meanie”… when the niggle in my head is upping the volume on “it is getting tough”… when it is 8:15 in the morning and school lunches aren’t done and my fleeting shave and shower is about to be measured in nano‑seconds… Joe was there!

Community

My mum might get a call. My partner sends a witty text. A memory of my grandfather tops me up. A mate calls me in for dinner. One of my children’s teachers talks up my daughter.

No, I don’t parent on my own. There are people around me, most of who probably don’t appreciate the full scale of the contribution that they make.

Thank you! Even you, the anonymous readers, hold me up. I take you into my parenting, because I have an audience that lifts me to greater effort.

Over Easter, we visited dear Joe in hospital. A long illness was troubling him and a broken hip had set him back. As was his tradition, he gifted us even through his frailness with a block of chocolate.

I ended up grating the Cadbury family block to be used as sprinkles on hot drinks. So, this morning, we remembered Joe in his chocolate gift. As a tribute to Joe, my daughters and yours truly were treated to a hot chocolate with breakfast, Joe’s kindness sprinkled on top.

And so, here’s to you, dear Joe. I love you fully for the over-and-over gift of believing in me being a dad. I will hold you with me in all my parenting adventures.

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Photo by Alena Darmel.

About the Author: Greg McInerney

Greg is the father of two daughters.

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