On being a childless dad


Jamey was an odd duck.

He dreamt not of financial success.

He didn’t really have any ambitions to have his “career take off”.

Although a hard worker, he was not a “go-getter”.

He had no dreams about climbing the corporate ladder, having a nicer car, a bigger house or a thicker wallet.

He dreamt of having a wife, a home with a white picket fence and, most of all, being a dad.

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Caeley’s first Christmas–2 months old

Ok, maybe a lot of men lack avarice and desire such a humble, traditional, stable life.

Jamey was just very open about his.

And it took him a while to get to the life that he wanted–he married me when he was 34 and became a dad at 35.

And he didn’t get to live his dream for very long–about 13 years.

But that’s not to say he didn’t get to experience what being a dad was like for a shortened period of time.

Although he may not have had a lot of “practice” on the whole female relationship issue leading up to me, he had tons of practice on the whole dad front, thanks mainly to his nieces and nephews.

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Jamey only ever felt comfortable in two places, on the soccer field and when surrounded by family and one or two close friends.

But he truly lit up–he was totally himself and at ease –when interacting with children.

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In his last year or so, when most memories of me and Cael had been long swept away, it was memories of his own childhood that remained etched into his memory.

There was something about childhood and being with children that was so simple for him: so joyful, easy and pure.

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He loved his nieces and nephews dearly and longed greatly to interact with them in a fatherly manner.

He wasn’t their dad. But he had a whole lotta fun goofing around like one.

(Ok, even though it wasn’t for a niece or nephew, I wanted to add the whimsical Winnie the Pooh-themed mural he painted for a co-worker. He adored Winnie the Pooh. Caeley still has an sleeps with Jamey’s childhood Pooh Bear named Poohbly.)

And it wasn’t just the fun and silly “Uncle Jamey” activities that he cherished. It was the little things as well.. like a handwritten birthday card his oldest nephew Kevin gave to him:

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The fact that he kept this after all these years speaks to the man Jamey was.

I can only imagine this must have touched him enough on an emotional level that he simply couldn’t part with it. He cared enough to keep a handmade birthday card torn out of a notebook.

Although he was only a biological dad for 11 years, his time leading up to his own daughter’s birth was spent forging relationships with his nieces and nephews that were, if not fatherly, paternal in nature.

He taught them soccer. He took them swimming, He slid down slides. He climbed up ropes. He picked them up. He put them to bed. He laughed and loved and listened to them.

He connected with them on their level because, in a sense, their level was his as well.

Caeley no longer has Jamey in a physical form. And her memories of Jamey teaching her soccer and taking her swimming and sliding down slides and climbing up ropes are, sadly, fading.

But just like Jamey played a “not-quite-fatherly-but paternal in nature” role in the lives of children, Caeley is also fortunate to have boys and men in her life that fill similar roles.

So today, I want to honor that “Dad in Waiting” role that “Uncle” Jamey once played and the “Dad”  Jamey role that he adored.

But I also want to acknowledge the men–young and old–who have stepped up to take over where Jamey left off. I want to thank family, dads of her friends, neighbors, coaches, teachers, “annoying big brothers” from karate–anyone who has connected with her on a level I try to, but simply can’t. I’m not a dad….ok, I call myself a “mather” now because I try to take on the roles of mother and father, but I’ll never be able to fill the shoes Jamey wore.

On one hand,  it literally wouldn’t work–my feet were bigger than his–I’d overfill his shoes.

On the other hand, well…I really wouldn’t want to fill his shoes.

No one–not me, not another man–no one would or could or should ever try to fill his shoes.

They’re his.

And his alone to keep.




3 thoughts on “On being a childless dad

  1. This one made me cry :(.
    God, I hate brain cancer and how it erases the person.
    Those are lovely pics and stories. What a good dad! He deserved every Father’s Day that he was able to have.
    Nice post and thanks so much for the glimpses of your hubby before his illness.


  2. I will never forget how touched I was that Jamey so enjoyed my kids, his second cousins. He played soccer with them in my parent’s back yard. He took them to Lawrenceville Elementary school where we went as kids (and our dads and grandparents went too) to show them around, run on the playground and climb the jungle gym with them. He took them to the fire station and let them put in his gear and climb in the fire trucks. Heck he let them climb all over him as the human jungle gym! Jamey was in his element when he was with kids. If he got a do-over I’d like to see him become a teacher. I will always be grateful for my “little cousin.”


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