Greg Blass at age. 4, with his father Harold.

Let’s share some thoughts for Father’s Day, to celebrate our fathers. This is as well for the step-fathers, grandfathers, big brothers, or male guardians who have been fathers for countless, grateful kids. It’s a time to understand how blessed we are to have our fathers in our lives.

This is when we rejoice in fatherhood itself, and the central figure in our lives that our truly loving and responsible fathers have been. He fills our world with joy and discipline as we grow, and with some enduring memories for us as adults.

So Father’s Day is when we take the time to remember Dad in whatever ways we can.

It’s interesting how love will find its path into our lives in many forms, and one of them is our father. As with our mother, our father’s love is unconditional. The great basketball coach, Jim Valvano, reflected about his father in this way: “My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person: he believed in me.” Our father’s unwavering faith in us has much to do with who we are.

On Father’s Day, we celebrate Dad’s role as a mentor, a provider, a protector, and caregiver, without ever expecting anything in return. Even so, he gets our love and respect, which grows over time, often when it’s too late to show it.

Consider this: there will be more than one occasion in our lives when we look back and realize, at times in a compelling way, that without our father, life today would not have been so beautiful and rewarding.

Many homes, and many families, however, have not been as fortunate, and never had a father figure. This is where mothers have had to fill the demanding role of both parents. It brings to mind how single mothers, and an increasing number of single fathers, have performed miracles in this way for their children. But often those single mothers and single fathers have gained a true pillar of strength by having had a loving father in their own younger lives.

And there are homes and families where fathers have failed, where there seemed no love at all, leaving deeply an empty place in each child’s heart. Yet even in this instance we celebrate the idea of responsible fatherhood. It is where some of us have the chance to be good fathers ourselves, to protect and provide for our loved ones in ways we may never have had. In a sense, those fathers who never really had a father of their own can compensate, and generously carry out that vital, fatherly role in their children’s or step-children’s lives, filling that space in their children’s hearts that never happened for them, and erasing that void in their own hearts at the same time.

And one need not have children to gain the wisdom of fatherhood. “It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father,” said Pope John XXIII. Though not literally a father himself, he grew up in a family where father figures unconditionally loved and mentored him. He saw fatherhood from a young age as among the most important bonds one can share.

Father’s Day is celebrated on different days of the year the world over. It’s modern observance began in the 1800s, but special notes that rejoice in fathers have been found from over four thousand years ago in ancient Babylon. Perhaps there’s a timeless, natural, unconscious desire in us to recognize gratefully one of the most influential people in our lives.

My own father, who passed away several years ago, left me with something that took a long time to appreciate: learning from his example, without his intending to, showing me and my brothers and sisters the right thing to do in any situation.

Often he did not know, or did not seem to know, nor did we understand at the time, how closely we observed and absorbed so much of his actions, reactions, and the paternal bonds he forged.

He instilled in us the value of hard work, to do our best at any task, large or small; to be kind to everyone; to behave with good manners, being polite and respectful, and keenly aware of others’ feelings; to keep an open mind, and to be tolerant of people of all backgrounds and learning from them; to see each day as a new gift; to fight for your health; to strive to be happy, and make others happy, with simple things; to live within your means; to make for yourself a daily routine of early-to-bed-early-to-rise; and always to keep moving, because “motion is magic.”

In many respects, Dad was a person well ahead of his time. The bond between him and me probably started the day I was born, which was Father’s Day that year. Just as the rest of his children, I took him too much for granted to realize then, as we all do now, that he was our hero.

Then I was twice blessed as an adult when marriage brought me the best father-in-law one could have. Life generously gave me a second father, a loving, kind, and mentoring father who had enormous confidence, and instilled it in others, and who also proved to be a fabulous grandfather for our children. He was a wonderfully unique person, a true and wise individual – a courageous member of the legendary, Greatest Generation.

Both my father and my father-in-law lived into their 90s by what you might call an old-school code. On this Father’s Day, if not every day, I never forget them – they’re part of me. They are my heroes, and I’ll always look up to them. It’s that bond that makes our fathers a life-long part of us.

Happy Fathers Day to all the Dads, to all who play a Dad’s role, and all the Dads-to-be!

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Greg has spent his life in public service since he enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a teenager. He is a former Suffolk County Family Court judge, six-term Suffolk County legislator and commissioner of Social Services. Now retired, Greg is active in volunteer work and is a board member of several charities. He lives in Jamesport. Email Greg