A father’s love

| Bryant Ortega | February 20, 2018 | 0 Comments
Fatherhood

iStock/VGENYATAMANENKO

I remember sitting around as a teenager hearing stories of my dad coming to this country to pursue the American dream. The more he told me, the more I wanted to know about the intense experience he endured and why he would leave his parents and loved ones. He always said he wanted a better life and to one day give that to his family. It sounded a bit cliché, like your typical immigrant story told in movies, but I accepted it.

My dad described my grandfather working day and night to provide for his family of nine. He would barely see his dad while growing up, and when he did, it was for disciplinary reasons. My dad desired more of a relationship with his dad, but he never knew how to express it or even if it was a reasonable request. He vowed that one day when he had children he would teach them the value of a solid work ethic, to keep God first and always, always tell his children that he loved them.

My dad stuck to his word, and every day he would make sure to express his love for my siblings and me. The typical exchange: “I love you, son.” “I love you too, dad,” was always followed by his silly addition of, “But I love you more!” There was no winning on the amount of love I could give him, because he would be sure to remind me that he loved me more.

Now, my father wasn’t one to give verbal affirmations other than this. He showed his love for me through his daily actions. He made a solid day’s work and came home every day to greet my mother and each of us individually. My dad always led us in prayer before meals. He proudly taught the basic “man skills” from automobile maintenance to yard work, to building random stuff and being a neighborhood steward. He continued to give to his family even when it was visible that he had a lot on his plate.

My father’s ideals made practical sense to me: provide financially, be the spiritual head, sacrifice for your family no matter what and express your love daily. I knew I would one day instill these same ideals in my own family.

I never imagined, though, how these practical ideals would eventually evolve from a checklist to a way of life. On Feb. 3 at 12:45 a.m., my wife gave birth to our first child, Ignatius Daniel. I’ve heard men describe this as an intense yet beautiful experience.

Sitting helpless next to my wife while she endured such terrible pain, listening to doctors raise concern for our child without the ability to aid the situation, and finally hearing the cries of a healthy baby boy, I embraced my wife, and a strong praise of thanksgiving came from my lips. As these early days of fatherhood pass, my dad’s stories come to mind. All his values start to make a little more sense. Before, they were duties of a dad and basic responsibilities. Now they’re so much more.

I have a son. I want to provide for him financially, and I want to teach him the joys and responsibilities we have as Catholics in this modern day. I don’t need to sacrifice because it’s my duty, I’m sacrificing because my love for him is unique, just like my dad’s unique expression of his love for us in, “But I love you more.”

In these beginning days of my own fatherhood, I’m realizing I’m not my grandfather, nor am I my father. I’m a product of their experiences and ideals, but it’s ultimately up to me to build my own for my family. Being a father isn’t built on a set of black-and-white rules or a history that dictates how my children will turn out. I am my own man of God, my own husband, my own father. My children will see this in how I love them in my own unique way as their father.

Just like our Father loves us.

Born in California, Ortega is a Minnesota transplant with business and Catholic Studies degrees from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. He works in consulting services for the global software company Infor and is a member of St. Mark in St. Paul. Learn about the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis’ Catholic Watchmen initiative at facebook.com/thecatholicwatchmen.

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