Memories of the Men Who Raised Me

Aunt Thelma and Uncle Lincoln

As a child, I walked next to him with my tiny hand wrapped around his giant index finger. I listened to him chuckle softly at his own jokes. I ran to him when my aunt, the disciplinarian, scolded me, and I sobbed on his shoulder. He was my uncle, but he was also my second dad. He loved me unconditionally, as if I were his own daughter, and he showed me what a father should be.

I went to live with Uncle Lincoln and Aunt Thelma, my father’s older sister, shortly before my mother’s death. They were in their fifties and had already raised their own two children and numerous foster kids. Their decision to take on a toddler at that stage of their lives is just one example of the loving, nurturing, selfless people they both were.

Uncle Linc was my buddy growing up. I adored him. He walked me to the bus stop each morning with our collie, Chipper. I worked with him in his vegetable garden, planting row after row of sweet corn, cucumbers and leaf lettuce. I helped him feed and water our horse, Blue Betty. When a new Disney movie came out, he took me to the Westborn Theater, which he managed, and I sat happily in the back row munching on Raisinets.

When I was 11, my father remarried and I moved in with him and my stepmother. My dad was a stoic, distant man. I knew he loved me, but it was not easy for him to show it. My teen years with my stepmom were tough, and my dad was no Uncle Lincoln.

In my early ’20s, I spent a fair amount of time dating the wrong men. I found myself drawn to troubled, enigmatic types, guys like my dad. That changed when I moved to Chicago and met the rock star (not really, but he is in a band). Our first date lasted 24 hours, and I had never felt more at home with anyone. Within six weeks we were living together, and this year we’ll celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary.

What made him the right guy? After years of dating men like my father, I finally found an Uncle Lincoln. He laughs at his own jokes. He holds me together when I’m falling apart. He loves me unconditionally.

When I took the rock star home to meet my family, my father, a retired Detroit police officer, sat him down in the kitchen with a yellow legal pad and grilled him about his education, employment and family. When we went to visit Uncle Lincoln, he and my future husband sat outside in a couple of lawn chairs and had a casual, quiet conversation. I love both these memories. My two dads looking out for me and making sure I’d found a good guy.

It took time, distance and having my own family to repair my relationship with my dad. I had to become a parent to recognize what he had been through — World War II, being a police officer, losing his wife — and how it had affected him. Both my dads are gone now, and I miss them every day.

As I watch my own little girl unabashedly favor her father over me, it tickles me. I know she is bonding with the most important man in her life, and he is showing her what a father should be. He is her example. I hope she’ll find someone just like him some day, just like him and Uncle Lincoln.

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56 thoughts on “Memories of the Men Who Raised Me

  1. This is so beautiful, Kathleen. I love how you weaved both of these important men in your life into a Father’s Day tribute. You’re a great daughter — and writer. Kudos.

  2. Kathleen – this post is so beautiful and touching. I’m in the car on the way to Warrior Dash, reading your post in tears! My daughter is a daddys girl too, and given my untraditional, and very casual relationship with my father, I wouldn’t have it any other way. We are very lucky. 🙂

  3. Many things to say, but you know them already. I had to laugh, however- at the image of Uncle Bill and the notepad. Oh that’s too much! xoxo

  4. Farrah, it was hysterical. He sat down at the table with the notepad and O asked if he wanted some iced tea. He said, “No, I think I’m going to need something a little stronger.” You just know that he called his FBI buddy the minute we left and ran a background check on D.

    We are very blessed to have had your Papa in our lives. I’m happy that you found someone as wonderful as him too. Love you, cuz!

  5. They were both awesome men!! My dad always talks fondly about the summers he spent with Aunt Thelma and Uncle Lincoln and how they practically raised him also.

  6. I really thought i commented on this the first time i read it-must have been a dream.

    This is magnificent. Everyone should be fortunate enough to have a man like Unlce Lincoln in their lives. Thank you for sharing him with us.

    Welcome to the dark side…yeah write 😉

    • Thanks, Robbie! We talked about it on Twitter, so maybe that’s what you’re remembering.

      I appreciate your feedback and support. You rock!

  7. This was so beautiful.
    It sounds like you had two men who loved you very much, each in their own way.
    I’m glad that you had your Uncle Lincoln who showed you that outward kind of love, and it’s wonderful that as an adult you were able to see why your Dad was the way he was.

  8. Your brought tears to my eyes. The power of the father/daughter relationship (or father-like/daughter relationship) is so underestimated. We usually don’t realize it until we are adults ourselves.

  9. What a beautiful post. I absolutely LOVE this. I’m so glad you found such a great guy and that you found a new found understanding for your father. What a great life in which you had three great men love you dearly!!

    Great post, thanks for sharing!

  10. Oh the tears. I didn’t have that relationship with my father and now watching my girls adore their daddy, it just melts me. What a fabulous post!

  11. Touching story, and nice that you and your father were able to establish a good relationship despite a difficult beginning.

  12. I lost my father when I was a little girl and his sister’s husband played a similar role only not as involved and 3 blocks away. He did what he could though I his love was no less than that of his own children. At 41, I recently realized that my mom was more that just a widow, a single mom. I realized how deep her feelings for her two little girls who lost their father was. Great post.

    • Ah, the insights we gain about our own parents after we have children! To be able to see things through their eyes is priceless and helps us find peace.

      Thanks for your comment, Kim.

  13. You were blessed to have two men in your life (three now with your husband) who cared for and loved you so. I enjoyed reading your thoughts.

  14. What a beautiful story. It is great that you were able to appreciate the differences in both of your “dads’ and not resent your father for being the way he was. I was never able to do that. And your daughter is a lucky little girl!

    • Thanks so much, Maria! Believe me, I resented my father for many years. I couldn’t see him as anyone other than the man who left me until I had my own kids and realized why he did it. Before that, I thought it was a selfish move, but it actually would have been more selfish for him to raise me himself in the emotional state he was in. But that is another blog post…

      So glad to connect with you. I really loved your post on Yeah Write.

  15. love that you see all of these men for what they are, and the role they played in shaping you. also? love the picture. i’m in love with old photos.

    • Me too. I have some great ones from my side of the family and my husband’s. They cover our family room walls, and first-time guests always stop to look at them. Each one is it’s own story.

      Thanks for reading, Tara.

  16. I love this post. My father was not around through most of my childhood and I spent many summers with my grandparents. I planted vegetables, picked peas and apricots and rode on a tractor with him. He was much like your Uncle Lincoln. Hooray for those wonderful men who step in when we little girls need them.

  17. That last part got me teary!! Very nice post. I find it to be very true how having our own family puts our families of origin in perspective.

  18. Well said! I refuse to settle for less than my “uncle lincoln”…and I’ll remain single until I find him. 🙂

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