(Originally published on Opinions for Nothing.)
My dad was 19 years old when he married my mom. She was 16 years old, and three months pregnant with me. My parents separated when I was five years old, and divorced when I was nine years old.
My dad wasn't known for his lawful behavior. He didn't make court-ordered child support payments. He infrequently took advantage of court-allowed visitations with his children. He did not adhere to laws prohibiting the possession, use, and sale of illegal drugs. Two of the three things on that list caused him to be in and out of jail for much of my childhood.
My dad was book smart without a college degree. After he left the Air Force, he was an engineering technician until the recession of the late-'80s and early-'90s. After that, he drifted from odd job to odd job, preferring those that paid cash so he wouldn't have to make child support payments. It's unfortunate that he never grew up.
When I was in college, I made peace with the fact that my dad was never going to change and never going to be the kind of dad I needed. He was family and I still loved him, but as long as I expected him to act like a father, I would be disappointed. I resolved to treat him like an uncle -- not even a favorite uncle. After that, we had a much better relationship.
Eventually, my dad paid off the back child support with an extended jail term. I was well into my 20s by then. When he was released, he moved to New Mexico to live with my retired grandmother. He had a steady job and had been promoted to a supervisory position when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Eighteen months later, at the age of 50, he was dead. Today would have been his 57th birthday.