My Real Father

Tina M., Fairfax, VA

When I was nine years old, my biological father skipped town and joined a carnival to avoid paying child support. Soon after, my mother started dating George, who lived across the street from us. George had no children of his own, and he and I got along well. During the summers, while my mother was at work, I spent hours out on jobs with him while he repaired TVs, video games, and jukeboxes (this was the ’80s).

It was George who got me interested in computers, which started me on the path to my current career as a software developer. One Christmas, I expressed a wish for a racing car set, so when he and my mother were out shopping, he started looking at some, and she said, “But she’s a girl!” George’s response: “It’s what she wants.” I got racing cars that Christmas.

My Real FatherFrom the time I started playing the flute in fifth grade, through high school, George came to—and videotaped—all my school concerts and show. When I was in the pit orchestra for “The Music Man” my senior year, and he wanted to videotape it, I had to tell him to make sure to get the actual play, and not just keep the camera focused on me. When I graduated college, he got there hours early so he could make sure he got a good seat. For my graduation, I wrote him a card to express how much he’d meant to me and how he’d helped me achieve my goal of being the first person in my family to go to college.

Just after I finished college, I unexpectedly ran into my biological father when the carnival he worked for came to my area. My mother told me George was feeling hurt, thinking I was going to forget about him. I assured him that I knew exactly who had been there for me all those years and who hadn’t. There was no contest. I couldn’t even bring myself to refer to my “real” father as “Dad,” because it didn’t feel right. He was a stranger to me.

A few days before his sudden death when I was in my mid-20s, George came to my new apartment and hooked up my stereo for me, spending a couple of hours making sure the speakers were exactly balanced for the best sound. He wasn’t feeling well that day (though none of us, including him, had any idea he would be gone a couple days later), but he came anyway.

I think that to George, I was his daughter, biology notwithstanding. He was certainly my real dad, in fact if not genetically. He’s been gone 20 years, but I still think of him often and wonder what he’d say about this or that piece of new technology or current event.

Any man can be a biological father, but it takes a special person to step up and be there, especially for a child who’s not your own.

Originally published as HeroicStories #874 on June 3, 2015

9 thoughts on “My Real Father”

  1. This story brought tears to my eyes. There certainly is a world of difference between someone who is a “father” and a DAD. How lucky you were to have George in your life!

  2. Our friend L., a single mother of five children, asked my husband Brian to be a father-figure to M., her son whose father is the only one not there for his child (four different bio-dads). Of course my husband said yes because although we wanted children of our own, it didn’t happen. M. has been such a blessing in our lives. M. since has started referring to Brian as Dad; I am Mom #2 (L., of course, is #1), and the other guy is simply not talked about or referred to as “bio-dad” because M. thinks of Brian as his “real father.” Whenever people tell us “what a wonderful thing [we] are doing!”, I honestly tell them that we get more out of the relationship than M. does.

  3. What a wonderful story! George should have been named Father of the Year for all that he did for Tina! Thanks for sharing and may your life continue to be blessed by all that he taught you and did for you. He was one special man.

  4. Gail Davies, a very underrated country singer/songwriter, dedicated her first album in 1978 to her stepdad, the man who married her mother and took care of her four children. There’s a song called “Soft-Spoken Man” about him on that album.

    When she came to Dallas to promote her album in ’78, I got to meet her and several members of her family. He didn’t know she’d dedicated the album to him until that night, and I remember speaking to him. He didn’t say much, but the absolute joy and pride was visible in his face.

    There are so many good men out there–too bad they don’t get the recognition they deserve.

  5. I have been “George” for all of my children’s lives. One, who has a solid footing in this world, knows the truth; the other, who is not so well rooted, may never know.

  6. My son’s birth mother was seriously bipolar, and he spent years living with his dad and me after we married. We were the ones who primarily fought for him when he became an addict and who stood by him, making certain he took responsibility not only for what he did wrong but for what he did right as well.

    One day at a yard sale he bought two cups, one of which had a Bible verse on it and the other of which was dedicated to the World’s Best Mom. I was shocked when he gave that one to me, until he said, “But you were the one who was always there for me, and who truly loved me enough to say ‘no’.” I treasured that cup….

  7. Your HeroicStories (My Real Father) recently really caught my eye…

    Some ten years or more ago, my grandson earned his Boy Scout Eagle award.

    As the special ceremony was planned to honor him, he was told there would be a pin to honor his father and his mother.

    He explained that he needed two “father” pins, one for his birth father (who lived in town but had sadly failed his role as father to his two sons) and his Real Father, the man who married his mother and raised him like a son.

    When the Scoutmaster explained they only had the one ‘father’ pin, my gradnson quickly told him without the pin they could scrap the ceremonies.

    Out of fairness he wanted to recognize his birth father, out of love he wanted to honor his Real Father.

    We were very proud when he was able to honor his Real Father and recognize his birth father both with their own Boy Scout Eagle ‘Father’s pin’.


Leave a Comment