Father figures: figuring it out

on Tuesday, 12 June 2018. Posted in Columns, Opinions

By: Philip Maenza

You know Father’s Day is fast approaching when the commercials for grills, tools, and cars all start airing a little more frequently. Father’s Day from the view of capitalism is all about getting the ‘right gift for dad’. Some argue that the right gift is something heartfelt while others argue for a more practical gift, such as power tools. Regardless of the gift that you decide, the day is ultimately a time to reflect on fathers and the impact they have had in our lives.

The thing that the commercials don’t show you is that not every person has the same narrative when it comes to the subject of ‘fathers’. Some people didn’t have a father in their lives. Fathers come in all sorts of different forms such as teachers, neighbors, uncles, or in some cases fathers can come in the form of a mother. The truth is people can have multiple father figures in their lives that fill all sorts of different roles. Personally there for been many people in my life who have been father figures to me other than my own biological father.

During college I had a professor who was very much a father figure to me. His name was Professor Douglas Gaerte. He was the chair of the communication department and my academic advisor throughout my undergraduate career. I spent many afternoons in his office talking about politics, communication theories, and of course our mutually favorite TV series, AMC’s The Walking Dead. Gaerte showed such kindness and interest in my life. He provided me with advice about both academics, friendships, and my future. I look up to him immensely as an educated person who lives truthfully, kindly, and purposefully. It was his influence in my life that has given me the confidence to start my master’s degree and pursue a career in journalism.

Another father figure I have in my life was not even someone who was old enough to physically be my father. A friend of mine, named Kevin, had a very big impact on my life in a very fatherly way. Kevin was a friend from college and ultimately a roommate by my senior year. Kevin is an old soul. He often jokes about “being a 40 year old man trapped in a 20 something year old’s body”. As a result of his more ‘mature’ personality, he was often very fatherly to me in our friendship. Kevin helped me with my car issues, made sure I was taking my medicine and getting to sleep on time, and always screened my friends to make sure they were “good influences” for me. This friendship allowed me to have a father-type figure in my life that has benefitted me greatly despite the closeness in age.

Despite there being many different types of father figures out there, often the main focus of Father’s Day is biological fathers. Keeping this in mind I feel like it is important to talk about my father. First of all, we share the same name, which was always very stressful growing up. My father is a 5 foot tall Italian man with a mustache and a love for pasta and meatballs. He is a pastor and an avid NFL fan, specifically the Buffalo Bills despite their tendency to avoid winning games.

Growing up my father and I never really got along. That’s not to say that we were hateful towards each other, we are just two very different people. Despite our indifference towards each other during my childhood he was always there doing his best to provide for me and my siblings. He was able to afford to send us to private school, we never worried where our next meal was going to come from, and he always made sure that Christmas and our birthdays were extra special. He would often go out of his way just to make sure we were happy.

My relationship with my father has changed a lot over the years. Our sense of indifference has begun to disappear and we are actually becoming a lot closer. Over the years I know it hasn’t been easy on him, but I feel that we are both coming around. Ultimately, I am his son and he is my father. Despite our differences at the end of the day that is what truly matters. I hope that my relationship with my father continues to grow. As he learns to love and accept me and I him, we can hopefully have a stronger relationship in the future.

That all being said, Happy Father’s Day to every father figures out there. Keep doing what you are doing. Even if you don’t get the appreciation, or that new drill that you might hope you get remember that what you do is so important in the lives of those who look up to you.

Who are some of the father figures in your life? Do you have a story about what it is like being a father? Let me know by emailing me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..