Updated: July 30, 2013 7:35AM
Dear Mama, thank you, in the absence of my father, for teaching me to be a gentleman.
Thank you for standing by my side. For comforting me as a little boy. For drying my eyes when my daddy should have been there but had long since abandoned ship.
Thank you for telling me to stand tall, proud and strong. For teaching me right from wrong.
Thank you for never insisting, even in stepping in to fill his void, that you were both my mother and my father.
For if you had, I might never have come to understand the root of that deep longing for father. For masculine affirmation. For male identity. For paternal connection.
For even though I was formed in your womb, you represent only half of me. Thank you, Mama for respecting fatherhood, maleness, manhood.
Thank you for your acceptance of the eternal truth that — even as my rock, protector and hero — you were never meant to, nor could you ever, fill the shoes of a father.
Thank you for understanding that
even though you raised me to adult male-hood, you could never teach me how to become a man. Never usher me into the fraternity of manhood. Into the brotherhood of masculinity. Or show me how to act like a man. Stand like a man. Walk like a man. Talk like a man. Be a man. Because you are not a man.
Thank you for being humble enough to accept that you could not bestow upon me this crown of maleness that is birthed only through the process of mentoring in the company of good men.
Thank you for not distrusting all men simply because your heart was broken by one man who deserted us.
Thank you for placing me in the company of good and decent men: All were father to me, even if none completely filled the paternal hole in my soul.
It was their wisdom, instruction and counsel, presence and conversations — the resonance of bass in their voices, the splendor of masculinity and bravado in their walk, their shouldering of the responsibility of manhood — that filled those spaces you could not. For theirs was a father’s touch and yours a mother’s touch.
And yet, you were never deficient.
Your love has carried me. As a man, I stand today because of you.
I stand because, in ushering me toward manhood, you were wise enough — as you later told me — to commit your baby boy by prayer to our Heavenly Father who preordained that you should be my mother and that a man should be my father — even if he gave me his DNA and his name but little else.
I stand, dear Mama, blessed, because you found no ill or slight in being mother, not father. Even though it hurt you to see my paternal lack. Even though you sometimes cried quietly when I questioned why my daddy never showed up. Even though it pained you when I expressed my disappointment and hurt over his absence.
It hurt late at night when I saw tears fall from your eyes as you stared out the window. And yet, you never failed me.
Thank you for not being bitter. Thank you for not believing that as a single mom you earned the right to be honored on Father’s Day.
From where I stand today as a man, I am certain you could never have been my father. Truth is: I never needed you to be.
Thank you, dear Mama, for having the good sense to know that.
Thank you for simply being my mama.