As we honor dads this weekend, I hope that you have a good one in your life to celebrate.

My sister and I are so lucky to have grown up with a wonderful father that we love dearly and who dearly loves us back. His influence touches my life every single day, hence the fact that I have written about him more than once.

Every single time that we talk on the phone, our call ends with him saying that he loves me and he is proud of me. I’m not always sure that I deserve it, but I always know that he means it, and that inspires me to try harder to do even better, every single time.

One father in my life that I don’t often talk about, but who truly deserves to be celebrated this weekend, is my daughter’s father, Joe Cook. Yep, the one that I divorced.

You see, years ago, when we were both young and hadn’t yet learned nearly enough about how to live with another person, I decided that it was best for both of us if we went our separate ways.

We had done some really incredible things together and had brought a beautiful daughter into the world, but the strain of being self-employed and together all the time, coupled with our many differences in perspective, had become more than I could bear.

Relationships are hard and ending them is even harder. While an ending can feel like an opportunity to escape the challenges, to start fresh and leave all the worries behind, it actually often opens up even more challenges and wounds and struggles, some of which you hadn’t even considered.

It was a very hard time for all of us, but it was especially hard for Ramsey. She was young, so she didn’t really understand what was happening and why. She very rightfully had a lot of sadness and anger in the matter.

It became clear that, while Joe and I had a lot of feelings and details to deal with between us, the most important thing that we had to do was to work together to make the process as smooth for Ramsey as we possibly could.

In my book, Joe earned the father of the century award for how he stepped up and put his feelings aside for the good of his family, broken though it was, and hard though it was for him to do.

He was so much better at it than I was, which helped keep me on track, as he gallantly and consistently put anger and hurt feelings aside in favor of showing his daughter how to forgive and learn to live with this new reality.

Isn’t this what a good father does? Showing his children how to be a better person, how to lead with grace and compassion and dignity, how to rise above the fray of feelings and act with wisdom?

We were a home divided, and we had to figure out how to check our egos at the door in order to find a way to come together in a different form. The health and future of our child depended on it.

Is it just me, or does this remind you, a little bit, of where we find ourselves as a country right now?

We are a land divided and I am afraid that we are struggling to hear a fatherly voice of grace over the din of shouting voices. Anger and vitriol are ruling the dialogue, but if we are to come out of this struggle with a modicum of progress and peace, we must pause and seek a higher goal.

Whenever the world is getting a little too complicated for me, I love to turn on “The Andy Griffith Show” and consider a simpler time. It is a completely fictional and unrealistic setting, without question, but I cannot help but appreciate the way that Andy steps in with his calm and fatherly perspective to bring a creative and compassionate solution to the table, every single time.

Andy doesn’t feel the need to pound his chest or wield a weapon in order to establish some form of dominance on the scene. His only goal is a peaceful resolution for the good of his town, and he is always willing to put his ego aside to achieve it.

The fictional quality of the Andy Griffiths of the world may make it seem impossible to achieve, but I can tell you from personal experience that a father who can check his ego and put the needs of others ahead of his own exists in spades in the fathers in my life.

The way my father cares for his bride in her ailment, the way that Joe cared for the needs of his child over his own, there is no question for me that the grace exists within each of us if we decide to find it.

Love on your father this weekend and consider how he has sacrificed for the good of your family. Let’s find a little fatherly love to extend to each other as we move forward. The health and future of our world depends on it.

Monica Sheppard is a freelance graphic designer, beekeeper, mother and community supporter living in Rome.

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