Boys without dads don’t have to follow the same rules as everyone else.

I could steal from my mom, cheat on tests or fight at school. I could treat people how I wanted.

My behavior wasn’t my fault. I’d been abandoned by all the fathers I’d had. I was damaged goods.

That was how I saw things most of my life. It wasn’t until my 30’s that I realized I had been telling myself the wrong story all along. I wasn’t a fatherless child. I’ve had three fathers who have each given me a gift which helped me grow into the man I am.

I wasn’t a victim who was entitled to take out my rage and resentment on the people around me. I was the hero of my own life story. And like any hero, I had to go through my own trials, commit my own sins, face my own failures and struggles.

This Father’s Day I am especially grateful for each of the three men I call “Dad.”

 

I was born “Jeremiah Bruce Backus.” My father is John Backus; he is a storyteller. One of my earliest memories is of being snuggled on his lap, completely entranced as he wove tales about the adventures of Mountain Man Roy and his dog Tug. From John, I gained a passion for storytelling that has followed me to this day. John also taught me about the power of redemption. I’ve watched him own up to the choices he made earlier in life, including what happened with my mom and him. Bad choices don’t define our lives. How we respond to them does. John taught me that.

When I was six, my mom married a great guy named Reid Miller. Reid is a scientist and an explorer and we spent time in tide pools at Hendry’s Beach, or tramping through the woods in Santa Barbara County. I passed my childhood digging holes, climbing trees, and catching polliwogs. Reid gave me an unquenchable curiosity to know how and why things happened, and what treasure lay just over the next hill. Reid didn’t lose his childlike curiosity when he became an adult; he taught me not to either.

Reid and my mom divorced when I was eleven. I went through middle school, high school, and college without a father as a regular part of my life.

When I was twenty six, I married Andrea. In doing so, I not only gained a wife, I also gained a father, her dad, Randy.

Randy is a leader. From him I have learned how to be a husband and father. He guides his family with a quiet, confident, loving, strength. He is a hugger, and always tells his family that he loves us. Randy taught me that true strength is demonstrated through humility and vulnerability, not through bravado and arrogance.

This Father’s Day, I will be thinking of the three men I call Dad, and the lessons I’ve learned by watching them. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from your dad?

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