Commentary: Saluting the dads who raise more than their own children

Reporter Paul Valencia thanks the dads of friends who were always there for him, too.

For those growing up without a dad, the other dads in the neighborhood can make a world of difference

Another Father’s Day.

Another chance to celebrate all the real dads out there.

Paul Valencia
Paul Valencia

For me, that would mean a lot of men who were not related by blood, but were the real dads of my youth. And some who I would meet as an adult and look up to as the type of dad I wanted to become.

I’m grateful. For their willingness to open their hearts to someone not their own, for treating me as their own. 

I’m grateful. For their wisdom, for showing me the value of being a family man.

I’m grateful. For their time.

Oh, I had a real, biological father. We even shared some good times. His love for sports led me to sports. And sports, as a whole, rarely lets me down. (Although there are a few calls against the Raiders that will haunt me until my death.)

As far as teaching me about life, well, I guess you could say he had a say in it: Whatever he did, do the opposite. Seriously, just a terrible role model. He left when I was 9 years old. An absolute blessing.

That allowed some of the great dads in my neighborhood, the dads of my friends, to take me with them when their families went camping, when they went to the arcade, when they went to the college football game, or to the movies.

One friend’s dad, Nick (rest in peace, my hero), would always pick me up on the way to this game or that game. Even after I moved a little farther away from the neighborhood, there was Nick. Spending the night at my friend’s house, those countless times, well, on those nights, I was a father’s son. Thank you Scott for sharing your dad with me. 

Into high school, I found other dads who would always be there. Tom said the door was always unlocked at his house. I was not allowed to ring the bell, to knock. His home was my home, too. Just walk in and say hello.

Rich is one I have known since I was in the second grade. Every conversation I have had with this man, whether as a teen or into my 40s, has been an education. He has always been a calming influence.

I’ve met some great families as a journalist, too, and I’ve been able to hang with some of the dads of the athletes I have covered. 

There’s Jake in Roseburg, a giant of a teacher and man. 

There’s Kevin in Hermiston. I would swear his house was built not just for his large family, but for the rest of Hermiston.

In Clark County, I can think of Kurt from Prairie, who inspires through his measured words and patience.

No need for last names. They know who they are, and this is actually a salute to all others out there just like them, raising other men’s children. There are so many Nicks and Toms and Jakes in this world.

Happy Father’s Day to you guys, from your sons who aren’t really your sons. 

By the way, this is not meant as a knock to the divorced fathers. At least not the ones who remain in the lives of their children.

There are many of us, though, who were not too excited about Father’s Day as we grew up. At 12 or 13, Father’s Day was just dreadful for me, thinking about the phone call that was about to put a damper on the weekend.

As I got older, matured, I was able to celebrate Father’s Day by thanking all the men who did so much for me.

All of those men I noted above are married to the same woman they were married to when I first met them, or died still married to those great moms, too.

My wife and I have been married for 23 years. We have a 14-year-old. Father’s Day is cool and all, but I don’t really need a “Day.” I’m dad every day. There might be plenty of days that I’m not a great dad, but I’m dad, every day.

I’m here. 

This is not by coincidence.

These men shaped me, raised me. They showed me the way.

My salute every Father’s Day is to them. 

And to those just like them.

Thank you gentlemen.