Happy fathers’ day to all my fathers

photo collage of Bill Trampleasure

On Fathers’ Day this year, I heard a sermon by Rev. Vanessa Rush Southern at the Unitarian Church of San Francisco that challenged member of the congregation to think of all the ‘fathers’ in our lives. Bill TrampleasureAs one who is not a biological father, and has only experienced a child’s early years with my granddaughter—both my stepdaughter joined my life when they were over 13—I was moved by this idea of celebrating the ‘unusual fathers’ in our lives. I reflected, and came up with five fathers I have had.

Scott UllmanMy first father, my biological father, is Bill Trampleasure. Bill passed away almost five years now, and he was with me my entire life. My second father was Jack. Jack was a PE teacher at my junior high (ML King in Berkeley), but I never had him as a teacher—instead Jack had a group of kids who went out running before school. My third and fourth fathers were Scott and Steve. Both these men were about ten years older than me, and I was involved in peace/anti-nuclear work with them for several years in my late teens/early twenties. My Steve Laddfifth father was Jose, my boss from about age 20-33 (with a four year gap in the middle).

OK, fathers, here come my thanks.

Bill. Dad, you taught me about being a man who didn’t need to conform to traditional male stereotypes. As a man of born in the 1920’s, you were fairly traditional, but you weren’t afraid to cry, tell me you love me, and wear some wild colors. You also taught me about learning how to do something because it needed to get done, even if you weren’t quite sure how to do it. And you showed me that we men don’t need to be defined by our anger. While you did give me some ‘bad examples’ of fathering, you often owned up to them, and apologized when appropriate. You taught me the value of being an individual peacemaker as well as a global one.

Jack. Somehow, Jack, you got me running before school. I wasn’t involved in athletics before that, more inclined to keep busy with math or science or building something, but somehow you got me and a bunch of other tweens out there running around Berkeley early in the morning. You taught us to love the activity, to not worry about how fast or far we went, or what place we got in races. You did help us think about improving our speed/distance, but it was competing against ourselves that was important, not comparing to others. I kept running off and on during my life, switching to the bicycle at times, but I have you to thank for getting me to believe that exercise could be fun.

Scott and Steve. You guys taught me about being an activist, how to organize, and how to work with others. You were examples of men committed to nonviolent change, and remembering that how we work in groups is as important as the message we send out from our groups. Steve, I remember your stories about standing with the Berkeley Peace Brigade in a line between the protestors and the ROTC building, sending the message that destruction is not a way to advocate for peace. Scott, I remember your focus on helping our groups learn about processes for working together, as well as how to raise money—that thing many organizers hate to do. Thank you both, for all the tools you helped me put in my toolbox that I still use in organizing (and teaching) today.

Jose. Oh, Jose. I think you may not know how much you helped me. At age 20, you put me in charge of concessions at UC Berkeley sporting events. Wow, what faith you had in me: a longhaired, somewhat cocky, young man. You kept your eye on me, but also gave me much more control than perhaps many others would have. I think, in general, I returned your trust with follow through—but I know there were times here and there where you probably thought to yourself “What is that guy going to do next?” I learned a lot about business and record keeping from you; and some you let me learn on my own (I remember taking the spreadsheet you provided for concession stand inventory check in/out and making adjustments to it so it would total all the remaining inventory and help me determine how much I needed to order for the next game).

So, to my five fathers, I say “Happy belated Fathers’ Day.” Belated both in being a week or so late, but also belated for being years late. I’m sure there are other men, and women, out there who appreciate the fathering you did for them.

If you, my gentle readers, have a “father” you wish to thank, go ahead and thank them. You can do it by email, ‘classic mail’ (no ‘snail mail’ in the son of a letter carrier’s blog), or write a comment below and point them to this blog post.

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