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Fathers, and Father Figures - Cherish Them!

In light of the recent celebration of Father’s Day, I would like to dedicate this particular blog to my own father, Walter Haeger, and to my grandfather, James B. Wallace, who returned to our Heavenly Father’s presence in July 2002. Father’s Day has always held a special place in my family’s history, but before I get into that, I’d like to share a brief history of father’s day.

Father’s Day dates back to the Middle Ages and is known as the feast day of Saint Joseph in Europe, and is celebrated on March 19th. The Spanish and Portuguese are credited with bringing Father’s Day to the United States, but it was not really celebrated until the early 20th Century. In the early 1900’s Father’s Day was actually suggested as a day to honor the 250 fathers who had been killed in the Monongah Mining Disaster, leaving nearly one thousand children fatherless. The event only ever happened in the town of Monongah, and was held in July. Over the next decade, several attempts to establish Father’s Day were met with failure. In 1913, a bill was introduced to Congress to make Father’s Day a nationally recognized holiday. Congress resisted. Finally, after much debate, in 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson officially designated the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. President Richard Nixon signed it into law six years later in 1972. (Wikipedia)

With that being said, why has Father’s Day been so special to my family? My parents, Maude and Walter had been married for nine years, and sadly, unable to have children of their own. Then, Father’s Day weekend, 1986, they became the parents, through adoption, of not one, not two, not even three, but four (yes, you read that correctly, FOUR) children all at once. Jamie, Shannon (me), William, and Timothy. (And a year and half later, a fifth child, Johnny.) Our ages at the time of adoption were 7, 5, 4, 2, and less than a year. My parents said that when I was adopted, I really didn’t question them becoming my parents. I think, looking back, that I was really too young to really understand what exactly was going on. I, along with the rest of my siblings, had bounced from foster home to foster home almost from the time we were each born. So, to me, it was just another home to stay in. But, 32 years later, I realize more and more each day what a miracle it truly was to be adopted in such a ‘large’ group of kids all at the same time. I grew up very much a “daddy’s girl,” and to this day still continue to be one.

The above picture is one of my most treasured pictures. It was taken at my reception during my “daddy-daughter” dance. This picture is my most treasured picture because the weekend that I got engaged, my dad was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Up until a week before my wedding, no one in my family knew if my dad was going to make to my wedding. So the fact that he was able to come to my wedding, and the fact that he’s in remission, made that dance all the sweeter.

My grandfather, James B. Wallace, was a naturalist, a fantastic wood worker, an incredible artist and one of the sweetest men I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. One of my earliest memories of my grandfather was maybe a year after getting adopted. My family had gone to visit my grandparents in Illinois. My grandfather picked me up and gently tossed me in the air, much to the displeasure of my grandmother, and then he brought me down and swung me on his arms in between his legs, as if I were truly on a swing. I have many more fond memories of spending time with my grandfather. I was devastated when he passed away suddenly from health problems no one knew existed in him until 2 days prior to his death. He is missed every single day, some more than others. However, I feel like I am able to keep his memory alive because he taught everything he knew to his only daughter, my mother, who, in turn taught all of us kids. And now that my brother has children of his own, my siblings and myself are able to pass on the knowledge taught to us. As I have no children of my own yet, I try to share my knowledge of all things nature, or art, with others, whether they be children at school, my niece/nephews, or kids I babysit. I also feel my grandfather’s continued love surround me every time I hear a bird sing, or see a spectacular sunset, or a rainbow. I am reminded of him every day when I walk past the paintings he painted, which I have hanging in my house.

I realize that I am an incredibly lucky person to have grown up with such fantastic male role models. I also realize that not everyone gets to have this. My heart aches for those who were not fortunate enough to have a father figure or a grandfather figure to love and be loved by. For those of you who are lucky enough to still have these men in your life, cherish every moment you can with them! Life is so unsure and often times much too short. I love my dad and miss my grandpa. I only hope that I can live up to their expectations of me and make them proud!

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