Good men step in to become dads

By Peter Ehrlich

My single mother collected bottles on Miami Beach for money. I know because she told me.

I was on Google Earth recently to learn more about that "beach-bottle" time. I had a frayed document with the Miami address. After I punched it in, I was beamed down to float right above our Miami apartment.

I hovered over the laneway that my mother had to have walked down to find her bottles. I stared at a great swath of sand at the end of the laneway, sharing the pain, shame and poverty that my mother must have felt.

We eventually fled back to Montreal, where we first lived in one room with my grandparents on the Esplanade and then finally to our own flat in Outremont, where I played in the mud and gravel behind the building.

When I was 5 years old, I told my mother, "I want a daddy" and a year later I was sitting on Gunther Ehrlich's lap.

She asked, "How would you like Gunther to be your father?" Without hesitation, I said, "Yes." When I found out we shared the same birthday, Dec. 6, the deal was spiritually sealed.

Until meeting him I had never fished, seen stars in the sky, walked in the woods or visited a zoo.

Gunther Ehrlich took me everywhere and introduced me to a new and beautiful world that I explored with unbridled joy.

He provided us with a real home, a life defined by cottages, lakes, hiking and fishing.

When we were not at the cottage, he took us on road trips to Vermont, Maine or the Adirondacks.

He taught me that travel is a great form of education and that the road less travelled is the best one, the place where one finds the greatest treasures.

For the first time I saw that men, too, can love and nurture and I was at last in the company of a man who "wanted" to be my father.

When my father said, "Here are the car keys," he gave me wings, allowing me to experience the joy of independence.

My mother died at 49 when I was 17 years old. I still needed him and he was always there for me. Without him I would have fallen through the cracks of society.

I now know the degree of love and commitment it took for this "magic-man" to walk into my life and take on the mantle of father.

Who is a man who "wants" to father someone else's children? He's someone who:
  • Sees past the notion that the only children worth loving are those created by his sperm and that anything else is less sacred.
  • Finds joy in giving to children because the torch he wants to pass on isn't defined by his last name, but rather the quality of love he feels a natural desire to impart.
  • Understands that love is an activity, that there's a reason children dance even when standing still. Children need to be active, have their heads stuck in everything good and beautiful. He makes this happen.
  • Sees life as a process and wouldn't deem a failed marriage a mistake. He gives a single Mom every opportunity to start anew and revels in the glow she radiates as she sheds the parched skin of a painful past.
He's a man who saves lives. He's also my father.

Thank you, Dad. I'll pass it on to your grandson.

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