Father’s Day in Three Phases

By: Kirk Stepp

Father’s Day over the course of my 40 years have fallen into three phases: Son, Loss, and Father.  

For the first 19 years of my life, I was blessed to have a hard working, caring, and loving father. My dad was an amazing man that could literally build or fix anything.

My childhood home, before I was born, was a one-bedroom farmhouse that my dad singlehandedly built an addition upon that would provide plenty of space for our family. As our rural country living turned into suburban living (I grew up in Short Pump before it was a thing), I learned selflessness and helping others from him.

My father was the guy other guys called to help build or fix something. As I got older, he taught my brother and I the value of hard work and problem solving. We helped him build things and he later helped us with our first cars — my brother fully restored a 1967 Ford Bronco and I fixed up a 1980 Ford F-100.

I think like many kids, Father’s Day was a day I took for granted. I’d make my dad a card, help pick out a present, and help make his favorite meal.

On November 19th, 1999, as a Sophomore at VCU, I was just about to head out to the very first game at the Siegel Center when I got a phone call that would forever change my life. My mom called me to tell me that my dad was working on the car in the driveway and that there was an accident.

I didn’t know what was wrong but knew I had to get home as soon as possible. Pulling up to the house and seeing an ambulance, firetruck, and ultimately the white blanket, I knew the loss that had occurred. 

The ensuing days, weeks, months, and even years were a struggle to find the meaning and purpose. Every holiday after that date had different emotions associated with it. Thanksgiving was Shock, Christmas was Sadness, and Father’s Day was Anger

On Father’s Day of 2000, many of my friends were home from college and were spending the day doing things with dad, I stayed in my apartment by myself. Over the years, my anger subsided but I still struggled to offer a “Happy Father’s Day” greeting to my friends’ fathers.

Father’s Day 2008 was different though. My oldest son, Brady, was now 11 months old. The day now had a new meaning to me – I’m a Dad! Every Father’s Day, I cherish spending time with my 3 boys: Brady, now 13, Colin, 11, and Graham, 9. 

Unlike my childhood, I don’t take this day for granted.

I know that next year’s Father’s Day isn’t guaranteed and they won’t be young forever. I try to enjoy the day for what it is – a day where moms all over remind their kids to be nice to dad and spend time with them – and I take full advantage of it!

The sorrow of losing my father has subsided over the past 22 years but it’s still present and in my mind each Father’s Day. I try to honor his memory by being a loving husband to my wife, Shannon, a present father to my boys, and a man my friends can count on. 

As I stand over the grill over on Father’s Day, I inevitably will wish that I am grilling a steak for my father, not just because it was his favorite, but because there were so many times as a child I totally overcooked it and he deserved better!