He didn't have to be

I was born and raised in a family that has a tremendous love of music. Some of my earliest memories in life are of my family caroling at secluded houses along the country roads of Pleasant Plain, Ohio. My Uncle Ronnie led the music ministry at our church. My mamaw got up and sang Scarlet Purple Robe whenever Ann Skinner asked her to. When it wasn't Sunday my mother was introducing us to Fleetwood Mac, Carly Simon, Patsy Cline, and of course Johnny Cash. I learned early that music was the soundtrack of life, and have kept that lesson close throughout the years. There are a thousand songs I could hear on the radio right now that would evoke a thousand different memories. Some great, some not so much, but all set to music over the years of my life.

I remember that morning like it was yesterday. Mom couldn't drive, so I would take her to work every morning. On that day we heard a new song by a relatively unknown artist that, when it was over, left us both in tears. I told her that song could have written by me. And to this day, "He didn't have to be" by Brad Paisley still makes me misty eyed every time I hear it.

I was 12 when my Mother introduced me to Michael Bromberg. A quiet, somewhat intimidating man, he quickly won the approval of my siblings and I by taking us out to dinner and the movies. We soon began seeing a lot of him, and before too long I was proud to be standing by his side as he married my Mom. 

 Mike was a tremendous role model for us as we grew into adults. Always a fair and honest person, he taught Josh and I how to be men, and taught my sister that she could do anything she wanted to do. As we aged, and had kids of our own, he added adoring grandfather to his list of titles. He was so nervous before the first one came along, saying he had "never been around an infant before" and wondering what they would call him But now, his grandchildren, all 11 of them, think their Poppa hung the moon.  

He and my mom were so happy together, and when I look back on the marriage they had, I realize that it was the model of what most people dream about having. I saw him open the car door for her. Every time. For 23 years. I never heard him raise his voice to her. Ever. In 23 years. He treated her with respect and adoration. Everyday. For 23 years. And I saw the look on his face, that lost empty look in his eyes that turned my stomach when she was taken way to early after only 23 years. 

I cannot thank him enough for happy he made her. Or how much he did for Angelia, Joshua, and myself. Our lives, both individually and as a family, changed the moment he made the decision to be our Dad. So when I heard that song as I drove my mom to work that day, the words really hit home with me. "I hope I'm at least half the Dad that he didn't have to be". And I still do to this day.

I spoke to him earlier tonight. I called him to wish him a happy birthday. It's funny how even now, at 38, I strive everyday to make him proud. And while I haven't always done the best job of that over the last few years, hearing him say those words mean as much to me now as it did the first time I heard him say them.

Happy Birthday Dad. And thank you.............for everything.

Good night all..................

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