The first time my adoptive father, Taner, tried to teach me a lesson was over green peppers that had formed a pile on the side of my plate. I was five years old with classically frustrating picky-eater syndrome, and I didn’t want those peppers. But being the new father figure in the previously single-parent household, Taner was proving a point: I was not leaving the table until I finished everything on my plate.
Until that point, having a consistent and authoritative male figure in the house was a foreign concept to me. My biological father Rodney had unexpectedly passed two years before, well before a toddler can possibly comprehend or process into memory a sense of fatherhood.
Father’s Day is a complex day for me and my fellow misfortunates. This is complicated further by the fact that my mother remarried and I now have an adoptive father who, despite our early battle over green peppers, has more than filled the role of a loving, supportive, and playful dad. How do you celebrate your current father, who should receive undivided recognition for his commitment to fatherhood, while also respecting your biological father, who would have deserved the same recognition were he given the chance?
A relationship between a mother and child is indescribable, especially in my situation, where my mom was my sole guardian, teacher, ally, and friend. But a relationship with a father is a unique opportunity to learn, explore, and play. There will always be a part of me who wishes I could have built memories with Rod, but there is no doubt that Taner and Rod shared these roles over the years.
Were it not for Rod, I might not have ended up a history buff working at the Mecca of art history. Now I walk through the galleries of the Met craving the chance to analyze old painting, drawings, and photographs with him.
Were it not for Taner, I would not have passed high school physics taught by an MIT alum unaware that we teenagers were not particularly concerned with what time two cars traveling towards each other will meet.
Were it not for Rod, I would not have the genes or desire to push myself athletically. Success in running makes me feel closer to him despite not recognizing the mannerisms I often hear I inherited. Running is something else we can share.
Were it not for Taner, who would so expertly construct near-Olympic quality luges for the sledding hill? Those memories are the cornerstones of my childhood; the cold, the rush, the tumbles, the laughs, the possibilities.
What I’ve learned from both of them is to make sure to relax and live life with a little humor. It is these parts of life that allow you to find happiness and let others take you on a journey you wouldn’t have known otherwise.
In a recent survey by Comfort Zone, a camp for grieving children, 72% of those polled believed they would be better off if their loved one was still alive. While I understand that my emotional stability was preserved given the timing that Rod and Taner left and entered my life, I believe that my life is not for the worse, it has simply changed.
Is it just coincidence that I look like two different men? Or did Rodney fulfill his fatherly duty to protect those two lost souls by putting Taner in our life—a person who fits so well we fool new acquaintances on the extent of our father-daughter bond? I like to believe it’s the latter.
It is their teamwork that proves fatherhood transcends biology and time.
Gretchen Kodanaz (daughter of Rachel Kodanaz) currently lives in New York City and works for the Metropolitan Museum of Art.