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Father first, Grandfather second, Father-in-law Somewhere in the Shadows

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This Father’s Day was special. As a father of six children, five daughters and one son, ages ranging from 17 – 39 years old, I have received my fair share of ties, cuff links, slippers, and the usual gifts for the occasion. But this Father’s Day was different. Just a couple of weeks earlier, my second oldest daughter had gotten married, which made me the father of two married daughters.

As a gift for me, one of my other daughters invited all of my children to her home for a special gathering in my honor. The day went nicely, although my son couldn’t be there because he was in college several hundred miles away. My three grandchildren, 1 - 10 years old, were also at the event. The bunch of us traveled in three cars and went bowling then later returned to my daughter’s house for dinner. The thing that was amazing to me was that at some point it occurred to me that I was in a social gathering, for the first t ime since the wedding a few weeks earlier, with my two sons-in- laws.

My first son-in-law of ten years, from Uganda, about 38 years old, who’s the father of my grandchildren, calls me “Daddy” in his African accent. My second son-in-law, of two or three weeks, from Delaware, about 42 years old, calls me - well, I’m not sure what he calls me. It seems that he just talks to me and hasn’t addressed me as Richard or ‘Dad’ or anything. Perhaps I’m wrong, he probably calls me Richard, I don’t know! I’ll listen more attentively in the future.

Nevertheless, I really enjoyed seeing two of my daughters with husbands although I was troubled by the patriarchal position of having two adult son-in-laws. It can be intimating as a man to become the father-in-law of another man who has had the privilege and good experience of having a father in his life as both my sons-in-law have known. My African son-in-law’s father was a local tribal chief in their village in Uganda. My second son-inlaw’s father was a career military man. And me, I never knew my father but I’m the patriarch of the family, umm.

It’s good to see additional men coming into the family. It’s good to see a black family growing in a good direction. Both of my sonsin- law are college educated with promising careers. However, I can’t get my hopes up too high because many educated men are totally ignorant in good commonsense.

So I’m kind of torn between maintaining an unemotional, cordial, fatherly distance and getting close like a closeknit loving family. But I don’t want to get too close because I might have to come to the rescue of my daughters one day and I don’t want to feel guilt about getting “ghetto” on one of them...umm. I guess the thing for a father-in-law to do is to remain a father first, grandfather second, and father-in-law somewhere in the shadows.

Website: www.richardojoneslive.com

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